Union City, Oklahoma
November 8, 2022
When I read Susan David's blog posts, I am often times uncomfortably surprise by how she is describing a feeling, emotion or thought that I'm embarrassed to admit I have felt. It is like she's discovered the part of my iceberg that's below the water and said "Bring it out of the water and let's shine a light on it."
Boredom at work. My reaction? I shouldn't feel bored (the shoulds). It's my fault (the guiltys). If only I were (the I'm not good enoughs). Was I born that way? How did I develop such an unhelpful way of responding?
My dirty laundry. It took a toll on me when I worked at the Department of Energy. We all mastered appearing to be busy. I didn't realize at the time how it was eating me up inside. I felt guilty for being bored but the reality was it wasn't my fault. I guess for too long my job became my identity. And when my job wasn't something I was proud of .....
Ms. David's blog post:
It’s happened to many of us. Every task you're assigned at the office is one that you’ve done a thousand times before. You’ve become so adept at your job that it only requires half your brain, and the other half occupies itself by ruminating on how bored it is.
The hours crawl by as you check your watch every five minutes. When it’s finally time to be done for the day, you feel more resentful than relieved. After all, you know you’ll be back at it bright and early the next morning, and the one after that, and the one after that, too. How, you wonder, did the greater part of your waking life become such a slog?
Feelings of boredom at work are exceedingly common, but constructive strategies for dealing with them are less so. Sometimes we suppress these emotions. We ask ourselves if we have the right to complain about a gig that pays our bills. Who ever said that work was supposed to be thrilling, anyway?
Other times, we lash out. We snap at the bosses who pile the work on our desks, the colleagues we’ve grown weary of, and the loved ones we return to after another deadening day.
Neither path is particularly effective because neither deals with the issue head on. Thankfully, there is a more direct path.
The first step toward addressing your boredom is to admit to feeling that way. This sounds easy, but often we’re inclined to judge our negative emotions. Rather than pontificate on whether you should feel bored, it’s more productive to accept that you do. Emotions aren’t the result of some abstract moral calculus. They’re morally neutral reactions to events and circumstances.
Next, don’t stop at naming your boredom. Recognizing a difficult feeling but doing nothing about it is a recipe for negativity, and resentment is likely to make things worse. Rather, try thinking of your boredom as a signpost to your underlying values.
Boredom is a symptom; what unmet need is the cause? Perhaps you value learning and intellectual growth, and your assignments no longer require you to expand your skills. Maybe you value novelty and variety, and your job as currently conceived entails only a handful of tasks performed over and over again. Or you could be a person who’s stimulated by social interaction, but you spend most of your time working from home. The key is to get specific about what part of your job is boring you.
From there, you can plot a course to bring your work life closer to your values. If you love learning or crave new experiences, then put your hand up for a project outside of your area of expertise. If you’re a freelancer who needs to be around people, consider investing in a co-working space or organizing a weekly lunch where you can talk shop with others in your field.
It’s possible, however, that you won’t be able to make the necessary adjustments in your current job. But once you’re clear on what you value, you can begin taking steps toward finding a career that truly fits your needs.
In kindness and compassion,