Lost Your Creative Edge? Try Boredom
I heard this concept recently at a retreat I was attending for corporate women presidents. As a group, I think it’s safe to say the typical entrepreneur could be labeled as achievement-oriented, creative, hardworking and good at multi-tasking among other traits. And that may be why this concept practically stopped me in my tracks. The concept was — wait for it — that we are (all) losing our ability to have the “big” ideas, to be creative, when we’re constantly plugged into our electronics. That’s right. And the continuing idea is that boredom can make you more creative. Being the kind of person who will pretty much do ANYTHING to avoid being bored, this came as a real epiphany.
Somehow, like Drake Baer, of the Business and Leadership Development Magazine Fast Company, wrote in “Why Your iPhone Addiction is Snuffing Your Creativity,” “Your iPhone acts like an endless supply of Cheetos.” That is to say, it provides instant gratification and feels oh-so-good although it may not be the best thing for you.
I can’t really say that I didn’t know this already. Growing up in the 70’s there wasn’t a lot of TV, and electronics were what you carefully plugged in to make the house light up. We were bored and desperate not to be, so we made up a lot of games, played musical instruments, read books meant for older audiences, rode horses and invented exotic sounding places to explore in the nearby woods.
Which is why I resonated with this old concept of unplugging. Somehow today despite us being so “connected” with what is happening, we’ve perhaps diminished a quality that is uniquely ours: our creativity. Add to that recent data from Stanford University on the ineffectiveness of multi-tasking reminding us that the Snapchatting, emailing, texting, Tweeting, Instagraming, Facebook-frenzied lives that many lead may also not be good for our attention span and memory.
Put another way, meaningless sensory input could mean the unknowing sacrifice of something you actually care about. A new idea to pitch to your boss. A business idea that comes to you in a moment. The solution to the math problem you’ve been stumped on. A chance to notice something about the world.
The beauty in boredom, in a quiet moment in line without text messaging, in a peaceful drive without Bluetooth, in a day at the park without email, is that it asks you to do something remarkable: just be. Be still. Be bored even. And let the little thoughts – and the big ones – come busting out.
–Marleen Eitzen Shanks, CEO and Founder, Team Red Dog
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