The pandemic lockdowns have led to millions of people being shut in at home, unable to go about their normal lives and becoming increasingly bored.
But, could that actually be a good thing? Is boredom a creative force?
Many of us consider boredom as a negative force, as if to be bored is to admit that we are not engaged with the world around us.
As a result, we fight it. There is an enormous amount of social pressure to be in a state of constant fulfillment with exciting, busy lives, jobs and social media feeds.
Please don’t wish away your boredom. Despite its bad reputation, boredom is secretly powerful and quite wonderful.
Boredom is not in itself creative — it’s what it leads to that is important. Boredom is your brain telling you to get creative.
Parents will tell you that kids with “nothing to do” will eventually invent some weird, fun game to play with a cardboard box, a marker, a ball or whatever they find lying around. Boredom actually motivates kids. Kids need to learn this skill. Let boredom motivate them to create.
The key to creativity is to let your mind wander, to daydream. This period of lockdown isn't smothering your good ideas, it's actually incubating them. In fact, the more bored you get, the more your creativity is likely to be activated. It’s all about embracing boredom rather than trying to swipe and scroll it away.
In our flight from boredom, we’re often fleeing from uncomfortable feelings, which are raw, messy and not always easy to contain.
Every time we try and shake off boredom, we stop our minds from wandering. That boredom, that stillness of mind when you aren't focused on a specific external task, is what makes your brain hungry for stimulation and, as such, is often a precursor to creativity.
This mind-wandering or daydreaming is similar to when we are actually dreaming. We are able to access our subconscious and make connections between random things. It’s that stillness of mind that lets you create and connect. It’s the “a-ha” moment in the shower.
Cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists explain that when boredom strikes and our minds begin to wander, we ignite the default mode of our brain: a neural network where our most original ideas and problem solving happens.
Of course, some very smart people were bored, so they did some cool research about it.
Researchers asked a group of subjects to do something boring, like copying out numbers from a phone book, and then take creative thinking tests, such as devising uses for a pair of cups. The result? Bored subjects came up with more ideas than a non-bored control group, and their ideas were much more creative.
By engaging in uninteresting activities before problem solving, we may be able to elicit the type of thinking we need to find creative solutions.
Although some tend to think of creativity as some nebulous gift bestowed on only the lucky few, that is not the case. We’re all wired for it.
During the pandemic, it’s not surprising that so many people have been swept up in the urge to push their creative boundaries: cocktail masterclasses, creative writing workshops, online language lessons and bread making abound.
I would like to challenge all of us to embrace these incredibly uncomfortable, quiet times. Let’s see what it awakens within us. That spark of an idea, that excitement about a new venture, that renewed clarity of purpose could propel us on to greater things.
Don’t worry if you feel like you’re not doing it right. It can take time to pass through the uncomfortable side of boredom and into the empowering part. Quarantine grants us the gift of time. We need to use this time wisely to embrace and reset our relationship with our own creativity.
After all, now more than ever we need brilliant ideas, reinvigorated minds and a thriving, diverse, creative world.
Check out this awesome TED Talk for more amazing information about boredom and brilliant ideas.
Barefoot's 12-year-old golden retriever, Cooper, sums up the headline.
A leader in business for over 30 years and three-time nominee of Rotman’s Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Marilyn Barefoot is one of the most sought-after innovators and creative problem solvers. As a speaker, coach and ideator, Barefoot’s unique ability to reinvigorate, revitalize and problem solve creatively has helped a broad spectrum of companies jump over their biggest hurdles.
Barefoot’s previous experience as CEO of Square Peg Inc., and in senior leadership positions at some of the world’s largest global agencies (BBDO, Cossette, Vickers & Benson, Bozell Palmer Bonner), led her to create countless award-winning campaigns for tier-one companies including: Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, General Mills, Nike and Microsoft. Her firsthand knowledge of business leadership cultivated her ability to lead other leaders, galvanizing the strengths of CEOS and associates alike. Barefoot brings a dynamic mix of extensive experience, training and passion for creative problem solving to her high-energy sessions — all of which have a proven track record for producing powerful results.
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