Bored teens often cause all sorts of societal problems by getting into bad company. Bored office workers spend most of their time making up forwards and memes. Bored couples have affairs and mid-life crises. And, bored elders become negative, cynical and turn their energy on their family members. I call these ‘mental adventures’ as they speak to our need to infuse some drama into an otherwise boring life.
The first principle of boredom is that – if you are bored, it is really not anyone else’s problem. However, it often becomes someone else’s problem if you don’t do something about it.
We’re all built to handle a bit of boredom. But, not too much of it. We care most about feeling engaged. This is why Amazon purchased Twitch for nearly 1 billion dollars. What is Twitch? A website that records other people playing games. 1 billion dollars for a website that just records other’s playing games? Yes. Twitch is, of course, a small part of a video gaming industry worth nearly 100 billion dollars.
In short, engagement matters. And, we need to gift ourselves that feeling of engagement. There are many ways to do it – we can choose to read more, get involved in more activities that stimulate our mind, and do more for society. However, they’re all much harder than switching on a video game and settling down for hours on our couch. That’s what makes finding engagement hard. To find real engagement, we need to overcome the resistance.
The other massive challenge here is that it is not an easy concept for teens and the elderly to grasp. That’s why a teenage child often turns out to be a parent’s most difficult challenge. If parents pass the engagement test and keep their teen engaged (largely) on stuff that is productive, that’s a massive victory.
It gets much harder with the elderly and that results in a vast disparity between how the elderly behave. On one side, you have the the Warren Buffetts and Jiro Onos of the world who are still taking the world on in their 80s. And, on the other side, we’ve got many older folk who can barely walk straight at 75.
Engagement is critical for a happy and productive life. And, it is entirely up to us to keep our mind engaged.