“Sounds like your homework for the week is to allow yourself to be bored and note what comes up for you,” my therapist told me last week. “That’s gonna be a tough one,” I respond back. “I don’t know how to be bored,” I continued as if there is a playbook on how to be bored! My old self would have Googled “how to be bored,” searching for the “right” way to be bored. Yet I am not my old self anymore, so that is not something I did after my appointment.
I sat with that homework assignment for a bit before “doing” anything about it. I thought about what my good friend Heather said to me a few years ago,
“What if it was always supposed to be that way?”
Her poignant question bothered me at the time she asked. It bothered me because I was complaining how I was bored at work. I had just stepped down from being a leader of people that had been my identity for about 10 years. I was now “only” leading projects and improvements for the company instead. My identity was wrapped around being constantly busy, never having a moment to gather my own thoughts, and yet having tons of time to listen to everyone else’s problems and figure out how to solve them. I didn’t want my good friend trying to tell me that the slower pace was acceptable. It was a sign of a lazy person I thought at the time.
Since that conversation with Heather, I’ve done a bunch of internal work with my therapist and life coach. Over time, I learned that my identity was not my title. I learned that my identity was also not my mom or wife role. I learned that it was so much more than that. Yet, despite learning that my identity was not tied to a role I played in the office or the ones at home, I am still working on overcoming my identity of an overachiever. I’m still a work in progress when it comes to sitting still and being okay with boredom.
Back to the assignment from my therapist. After sitting and sulking a bit (I know, I know, not healthy, yet I am human after all and a work in progress), about how I was destined to be an overachiever forever (that all or nothing thinking still gets me sometimes), I caught myself in the middle of another homework assignment that aligned to what my therapist had just assigned. Earlier in the month, I started a class for coaches around Positive Intelligence. Our instructor, Shirzad Chamine, introduced us to understanding our top Saboteurs (a few of my top ones were Pleaser and Hyper-Achiever, go figure!) and an alternative response to them called PQ reps. Each time we recognize that we are taken over by one of our Saboteurs (to keep working or keep pleasing others, for example), we are to stop, call out the Saboteur, and try a few PQ reps. My favorite PQ rep has become rubbing my thumb and index finger together until I can feel the ridges of both fingers and am in tune to only that for 2 minutes. This past week, we were to focus on our top Saboteur, so I chose my Hyper-Achiever. Gosh, did I learn how often I want to keep going at the sake of my own health during this past week. I learned how I really did feel about boredom.
Before this assignment, I thought there were so many benefits to my daily 20 minutes of morning meditation, that I didn’t think this “extra” stuff was important. That is, until I realized that my Hyper-Achiever is not exactly coming out very loud at 5:30 am when I am doing my 20 minutes of meditation because no one is disturbing me or I don’t have a looming deadline to meet on a task I was just assigned by my boss 10 minutes ago. What I learned is that my Hyper-Achiever comes out at all hours of the day, especially when I am in the middle of something and think I need to keep going to finish instead of taking a break to get up and stretch or to simply understand where my stress level is for just a minute. I am learning how my Hyper-Achiever is leading me to higher levels of stress and how my friend was really on to something those few years ago – how a slower pace and tuning in to what’s going on is good food for the soul.
Now, Heather’s question is something I am asking my clients when they talk about not liking the slower pace of what Covid has brought to their life and yet saying that they were burned out before. “What if it was always supposed to be like this?” really makes people think. What if you slowed down enough to be bored for a few minutes and took an assessment of your stress level? What magic can you bring to your life by slowing dow? Let’s hear about what you found in your journey to boredom.