greg dahlen

Alumnus, academy of achievement


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When we're bored, or find something boring, why is that?

An example of this came up in another conversation, where a fellow was saying that watching a farmer farm would be boring. And it made me wonder why in general we might find something boring, or be bored. I think I'm blessed in that I'm rarely bored, if I'm bored I ask myself what I might enjoy doing, and then do it. Do others find they are frequently bored, seldomly bored, or in the middle?

Closing Statement from greg dahlen

I think I should have done this question differently. I should have asked if other people ever find themselves bored, and if they know why. I think I'm blessed, I really am never bored. I have the perception other people are, but I should have checked that.

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    Mar 29 2013: There are (possibly three) levels of boredom:-

    (1) Not really boredom. Waiting for a bus without any conscious regret. Vacancy.

    (2) Conscious mental disengagement. For example "I've heard this joke before and it wasn't funny the first time." or "I don't understand a word on the blackboard." We might call this a bit of tedium.

    (3) Ennui, lethargy and depression. The world is full of people for whom this is a way of life. They don't jump up with joyful cries of 'Jolly Hockey-sticks' and get their fret-saw set out.

    Our attitudes to what we're doing are always changing. In (3) neutrally-bored might become angrily bored. In (2) making an effort might become 'what's the point'.

    Enough! I'm bored with this subject.
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    Mar 28 2013: Boredom is just the universe way of letting us know we need to get going...
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    Apr 26 2013: Things are boring when they are predictable. So basically when we are bored by something, that something /is/ OR /we think is (this is most likely to be haha)/ very predictable.
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      Apr 26 2013: ...which is one of the predictable reasons why my reply is: a violet, antioxidant-free wallpaper, only 6,99 per micrometer. Peace, Farah! :)
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        Apr 27 2013: ...and not important, you mean? lol okay X)
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          Apr 27 2013: Everything's important in a way. Every single micrometer. An invisible bacterion can kill. Although some think that bacterias are boring.
          With a nerdy salute,
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      Apr 28 2013: .
      When we are hungry, the "predicable food" will not make us "boring"!

      Hence, more general, "boring" is finding nothing makes us feel a-step-better
      for keeping our DNA alive.
      So “boring” is one can not "be happy validly" !?
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    Mar 28 2013: I like Edward and Frtzie approach. As usual I am going to step outside of the box ... washing dishes, cleaning house, doing laundry, ironing, etc ... are all boring and changing diapers, cleaning the kittly litter box and picking up dog poo are discusting as well as boring ... all of these need to be done. Is it possiable that the lack of discipline has contributed to these turn off tasks and also a contribution by the media. In movies when the "Mr Mom" changes a diaper it makes a big deal of it and how he is inept in a "womans" world ... the mental seeds are planted. Movies make these things boring and tasks to be put off until you are out of underware or even you are offended with the smell.

    Under disclipine ... perhaps we should start with Dr Spock ... kids are good leave them alone they will do the right thing. We see how that turned out. How about classroom disclipine ... don't do the homework, disruptive in class, administrators will look for a way to still pass them to the next level because we do not want to offend, hurt the ego or mark them as a failure. This continues into the work place. Screw up a high cost project the union steps in and says yep he cost you over a million bucks in damages and another million in late fees, etc .. and was well over the legally drunk line but he is one of ours and we will shut this place down if you fire him.

    So I say that if we have personal pride, disclipine, and integrity we approach these tasks differently and with a different mind set ... when that occurs they are no longer boring ... for me they are a step in going camping, dancing, hosting a party, enjoying the big game, etc ...

    If you display and state how much you hate doing XXXX you have taught your kids / spouse / etc to also hate or view the task as boring and to be avoided. Want to play .. clean your room ... do your chores .. etc .... disclipine!!!!
    Teach responsibilities. Be a example.

    I wish you well. Bob
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      Mar 29 2013: Funny, Robert, I find that's it's possible to do the most mundane tasks creatively, and I also enjoy doing them skillfully, it becomes a mental challenge to do them as creatively, skillfully, efficiently, effectively as possible.

      I don't see the connection between the ideas in the "Under discipline" paragraph to my question or to the rest of the ideas in your answer.
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        Mar 30 2013: Wow ... I re-read my reply and thought I was on target ... so did at least two others with thumbs up. Sorry you and I did not find a connection .. such is life.
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    Mar 28 2013: Hey Greg.
    Nice topic!

    Perhaps there are many reasons, but here are two I believe hold strong; Curiosity and aesthetics.

    Briefly, perhaps we're bored when our curiosity is devoured by understanding, and/or, our "me" is not satisfied aesthetically. (Check out Kant)

    Recently, I read a good paper on how society should allow its children to be bored, more often!... something you maybe interested in? It mentioned how being bored is healthy. Boredom is the catalyst for creativity. People will try to invent a way out of boredom thus propelling the brain into a creative response.

    Lastly, when we find something interesting, why is that? Another angle.
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      Mar 29 2013: You're saying, Thomas, that occasionally we may reach a point where all our questions are answered for the moment, and instead of that being a happy and serene moment, it's a boring one? That's kind of sad.

      What actually does Kant say?

      Why do you think we find something interesting?
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      Mar 29 2013: But you wouldn't want to people-watch for hours straight, right? At what point would it become boring?
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    Apr 25 2013: someone once told me only boring people get bored. kind of a harsh comment but....?

    I must share that I do enjoy my own company and I'm with "me" all the time so no, never bored!
  • Steve C

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    Mar 30 2013: I think boredom hits hardest when I am aware of important things in life that aren't being met. I can watch several movies, read books out loud in various accents, draw, do a science experiment, but if I see no friends for a week, I begin to feel useless & bored.
    Here are a few quotes I found in my favorites list: (A couple of them come to mind often.)
    "Children, taught either years beneath their intelligence or miles wide of relevance to it, or both: their intelligence becomes hopelessly bewildered, drawn off its centers, bored, or atrophied." ~James Agee
    "The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity." ~Dorothy Parker or Ellen Parr - I'm not sure which.
    "When children are bored, it reflects on us all." ~Mignon McLaughlin The Neurotic's Notebook
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      Apr 27 2013: I had something to say which is why I clicked the reply button and then I suddenly realised that I may in fact have clicked:
      (a) out of boredom
      (b) out of curiosity for what may happen if I reply, and curiosity is, as you quote, the cure for boredom

      It's probably both (a) and (b) at the same time. A sickness (boredom) trying to cure itself by means of curiosity, never satiated until it finds the answer, not content with simple answers that other people keep on providing, or wrongful simplifications of more complex answers (so called lies).

      This may seem unnecessarily philosophical, but it's still about boredom and that's the topic of this conversation...

      Best wishes, Steve, thanks for quotes, the second one is my favourite, but all of them are good.
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    W. Ying

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    Mar 29 2013: .

    Boring is an instinct ---- valid suffering.
    It drives us to find a-step-better for keeping our DNA alive.
    It makes us survive.
    (For details, see the 1st article, point 2(4) at
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      Mar 29 2013: Dear W. Ying,
      I do not believe for a minute that boring is an instinct. In my 60+ years experience, it appears to be a choice. I am still alive and well, and have never been bored, so I cannot agree that it "makes us survive".
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        Mar 29 2013: Colleen, I actually love Mr. Ying's answer here. I think he would say that someone could have lived their entire life without being bored, but if one is bored, it's not a trivial thing, it's telling you to do something that makes you more attractive so that you have a better chance of mating and procreating. For instance, if you're bored with your look, your feeling is telling you to change it, make it more attractive so that, as I said, you have a better chance of mating.

        If you've never been bored, perhaps that shows you were very smart, you headed it off at the pass. How have you done on the mating/procreation tip?
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          Mar 30 2013: OK....we all have different perceptions and preferences. If you think feeling bored is telling you to do something to be more attractive so there is a better chance to mate and be it. I've never felt bored, nor have I ever felt that I needed to change something about myself in order to mate and procreate.

          I think my lack of bordom demonstrates curiosity rather than "smart". I don't think I'm particularly smart, and I KNOW for sure that I am very curious:>)

          I am content with the mating/procreation I've experienced:>)
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    Mar 28 2013: Hello again Greg:>)
    I have never been bored even one moment in my entire life:>)

    Bore/bored: "One that causes bordeom; a tiresome person; something that is devoid of interest"

    I don't see any reason to do that to myself! There are SO many things to experience in our world, and boredom is not one of my choices. I LOVE so many activities and LOVE totally engaging in anything I am doing with curiosity and genuine interest. In my perception, there is something interesting about everyone and everything. Some of the very most simple and interesting things are books, and walking in the woods....observing nature, learning and growing in each moment:>)
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      Mar 29 2013: How do you account for people who are bored? Are they not taking enough risks in their life? How are you on the risk-taking tip?

      What books do you like to read? Do you walk in the woods alone or with someone? What do you observe about nature?
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        Mar 30 2013: Greg,
        My observation of people who say they are bored, is that they are often expecting something or someone outside themselves to create interest, entertainment, happiness, contentment, etc.

        You write...."I think I'm blessed in that I'm rarely bored, if I'm bored I ask myself what I might enjoy doing, and then do it"

        We all have the ability to do that, don't you think?

        In general, I've been a risk taker, and more than that, I think, is that I am very curious, and I LOVE to explore everythig about the life adventure..

        I like lots of different kinds of books....depends on what mood I'm in. I sometimes walk by myself, sometimes with friends, sometimes more serious hiking, and I always do that with someone.

        I love observing everything about nature and how it is all interconnected. I love noticing details....critters (including humans), and how they act/react, growing things, etc.
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    Mar 28 2013: I find it helpful to define the opposite of something in an effort to understand that something. Most would agree the opposite of the infinitive "to bore" is: to stimulate; to excite; to motivate; to energize; to interest; to entertain; to relate; to teach; to enlighten; to inform; to provoke; to challenge; to inspire; etc. Many folks will bypass commenting on this post because they find the subject of boredom to be boring. Frequent boredom is a sign of poor thought discipline, as Ms. Kooser points-out below, boredom is avoidable. Why do we get bored? Because we are not experiencing any of the opposites of boredom.
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      Mar 29 2013: Well, ed, do you think boring is relative, that what is boring to most could authentically excite some? Or do you think we could agree on something being boring in an absolute sense, that it will bore everyone who has lived, is living, will live? The fellow below mentions waiting for a bus that's late.
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        Mar 30 2013: They say Man is the only animal that can be bored. [--Erich Fromme]. From that I think boredom is caused by being expected to pay attention to something, or someone, in which one has no honest interest or desire to know more about. One antidote to boredom is to create in one's own mind some interest or desire to know more. The only other alternative to boredom is to move-on and do something different, as many others here have suggested. Any given subject can be boring to someone. Why I have known people who are quickly and thoroughly bored with the exhaustive study of the number of alternative forms of the same gene occupying a given locus (position) on a chromosome, if you can believe it! No subject, or person, is absolutely, necessarily, consistently boring. Some folks find farming interesting!!
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          Mar 30 2013: My veterinarian says dogs can actually get bored. It is more of an issue for the smarter dogs, like, say, a border collie, than for the least intelligent breeds. My dog is the second least intelligent breed of the eighty most popular breeds of dogs (I don't know how this is measured, but it is believable to me, given my dog), so we don't have much problem with boredom here.
  • Mar 28 2013: I am very rarely bored and when I do get that way, I get up & do something different. Anything to get my mind/body active.
    Doing dishes, after a meal, can get boring unless you have a cat that likes to sit near & supervise your every move.
  • Mar 28 2013: I think when I feel myself bored,it means it is time for me to think of something I need to adjust myself to do,think them.Meanwhile I don't like to spread boring air around.Because I know it is contagious.
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      Mar 29 2013: So what happened that you failed to think until you got bored?
  • Apr 25 2013: If you want to contact people who are frequently bored just visit
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    Apr 20 2013: I think we become bored when we need to relax. Our bodies send us some signals when we are tired and we receive them like a boredom or weariness. It's my own opinion. Because I'm borned only when I'm tired.
  • Mar 28 2013: I assume that it varies from person to person. Maybe the issue is we do find things boring more than why.
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      Mar 29 2013: this sounds interesting, george. Can you say more?
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    Mar 28 2013: People can get bored if their lives don't have the amount of novelty they prefer, if they don't have quite the imagination to extract lots of interesting observations from everyday experiences, or if their lives don't offer them enough challenge or opportunity to learn. I am never even close to bored, because I am always investigating lots of things, including studying, experiments, and projects underway.

    I have just been doing a necessary task that is itself boring, but routine tasks allow the mind to wander to all sorts of intriguing places, so many people have their best creative ideas while doing routine tasks.
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      Mar 29 2013: How could people get more novelty in their lives, if they can? How could they come to a place where they get more interesting observations, if they can?
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        Mar 30 2013: There are so many options depending on how much time one has. Taking a different route to work, sitting in a different place than one usually does, making a practice of a weekly short outing to a place one has not been (Julia Cameron calls these "artist dates), changing what one eats to try new foods, listening to TED talks, of course, picking up magazines or books one would ordinarily not read, picking a new area to research each month and using the internet for that month to explore it, picking a new skill to learn each month or every six months, depending on the skill...
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      Mar 30 2013: RE: "My veterinarian. . . " Hmmm. A connection between tendency to boredom and intelligence is provocative indeed. I however choose to not touch it with a ten-foot pole. :-D
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        Mar 30 2013: I think the story in dogs is that a dog like the border collie needs things to do and will makes work for himself (like pulling all the books out of bookcases) if he is not kept stimulated and busy. A bulldog is okay with sitting around snoring.
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          Mar 30 2013: I like your avatar. So, perhaps whether I get bored or not is a genetic issue? Bummer, because most people find genetics to be a boring subject, and. as Mr. Fox points-out above, some people are bored by the subject of boredom.
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        Mar 30 2013: I would not think it is mostly a genetic issue, but I have not investigated the subject. More likely, as someone suggested elsewhere in the thread, it is related to whether one has gotten accustomed to being entertained or to take initiative. Attention span too may be partly genetic, but longer attention span can be cultivated.

        David Foster Wallace, the acclaimed genius and author of Infinite Jest, wrote a novel about boredom called The Pale King.