Instant gratification diminishes power of boredom

By Samantha Bradsky | Reporter

I grew up believing that if you’re bored, it’s because you’re boring. You’re asking the world to entertain you rather than you entertaining the world. While it is true to an extent, this belief fails to acknowledge the utility of boredom.

Boredom is often seen as the antithesis of productivity: a glassy-eyed stare into the distance or a restless itch in the back of your mind. What if boredom was actually a key to mastery? What if having access to constant entertainment and instant gratification damages the part of our brains that can appreciate the boredom it takes to obtain mastery?

Boredom can be defined as “the state of feeling disinterested in one’s surroundings, having nothing to do or feeling that life is dull.” However, studies have shown that if done right, boredom can help creativity, productivity, problem-solving and mental health.

Present culture has forced people to believe that faster is better; it has forced people to succumb to the world of “overnight hacks” and “instant results.” Food gets to you faster, packages arrive overnight and providers profit from the consumer’s desire to be instantly gratified. Glowing Apple logos light up classrooms, and screens light up faces. Now, people experience phantom phone vibrations and shorter attention spans. When was the last time you sat in a waiting room and saw people not looking down at their phones? Maybe you were too busy looking down at your phone to notice.

According to Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer and renowned researcher on boredom, the cultural attachment to our phones both destroys our ability to be bored and keeps us from ever being truly entertained.

Technology targets the natural human proclivity toward instant gratification and constant entertainment, which makes it easy to forget the repeated effort required to accomplish long-term goals and achieve success. Becoming skilled at a task requires tons of practice with incredible consistency; it requires becoming adept at practicing through the boredom of the task.

There’s nothing overly exciting about the act of writing 1,000 articles one by one to become an established author. The same goes for spending hours working on the same series of chords on the piano to master a particular song or for performing the same series of workouts week after week. Yet, that repetition is often what it takes to obtain the results we desire.

J.K. Rowling rewrote the opening chapter of the first Harry Potter book 15 times. Mozart had to work for 10 years before producing a popular piece. When Kobe Bryant was preparing for the Olympics, part of his morning routine included making 800 jump shots between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m.

“Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty — his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure,” English writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley said.