First, you join all the Facebook groups and absorb the crumbs of information being handed out by the experts. You’re a googling, blog-reading, YouTube watching sponge! Then, you buy all the books and actually read them! Next, you sign up for a class or attend a seminar (or seven). Finally, you find a mentor and listen intently as they give you all of their pearls of wisdom based on their years of experience.
Slowly, over time, you start to gain some confidence in this new hobby, job, project, etc. You are gaining skills or getting results. The workout plan is working and you are rocking that new body. You actually know the answers to some of the questions in that Facebook group now! Or, you feel confident in your capabilities in your new job.
You are there - living the dream that you had only imagined a few weeks, months, or years ago.
Until one day, you realize that you are bored. It feels so mundane. So routine. So uninspiring.
Now, at this stage, you might be annoyed that ANOTHER person has asked the SAME question YET again in the Facebook group (Use the search bar, please!).
Or, you order that newly released book on your favorite topic and let it sit on your bookshelf for weeks without even reading the first page (I will get to it one day).
You skip a few meetings or workouts or events. You decide not to renew your membership or attend that seminar. It all feels - blah.
People like to label this as burn-out, or in the helping professions, compassion fatigue. Burnout occurs when you are working overtime for weeks on end on a required work project. This happens when the clients that you are working with have demanding and high needs. It happens when you feel a lack of agency, or control, over your environment. But, it can also happen when you charge full speed ahead at a passion project for a long period of time (and, gasp) have some success in doing it.
What I’m talking about isn’t exactly burn-out in the traditional sense.
I’m talking about the thing that happens when something that you could’ve have spent hours doing without even blinking or eating becomes so commonplace and routine that it now sparks no excitement.
And it is a real problem.
One, it makes time pass incredibly slow.
Two, it makes you prone to careless mistakes or injuries.
Three, it can lead to depression, apathy and hopelessness.
Four, it can be really hard to change.
Side note: boredom is not a bad thing. In fact, for both children and adults, periods of boredom are necessary for our brains. During periods of boredom, our bodies rest, recharge and replenish. We become more creative. We become more imaginative. We come up with new ideas or solutions. (AHA!)
But, being perpetually bored throughout your day/life is not the same as intentionally having periods of unplanned, unstructured, quiet time.
*Also, I have never seen a recommendation to do this on a frequent basis (like daily or weekly). It is often a catalyst for a change in perspective, but if done too often, it becomes unproductive and chaotic. And, also stick to only moving your own stuff.
*Note, this works well for hobbies, not as well for relationships. Unless previously part of your relationship agreement, this is not the time to try out a new partner.
*Use common sense when applying this method. It is always best to say no to things that could get you arrested, barred from your professional organization, fired, or otherwise in big trouble. But do not let anxiety (I could die skydiving) from keeping you from saying yes when logic can prevail (statistically, skydiving is safer than driving).
“When the student is ready, the teacher appears”
but I believe the converse is true as well:
“When the teacher is ready, the student appears”
You would be surprised how many people want to learn what YOU know. You don’t have to be the knower of ALL things to be able to help a complete novice. In fact, you are often the best person to help a true novice, because you remember what it was like to be in that position recently.
And there is nothing like preparing to teach someone else that helps to re-invigorate your interest in a topic. And create some of the nervous “what if this goes wrong?” energy to get you unstuck.
Instead of the anxiety about chasing a passion that you’re not even feeling, do something much simpler, just follow your curiosity.
She explains it so well in this video here.
There are times in your life when the goals are very clear (graduation, certificates, marriages, etc), but there are other times when they are incredibly fuzzy. During those periods of boredom and passion-less periods, just follow your curiosity.
*This method may inspire you to do things that others find out of character for you or that makes them ask a lot of “WHY?” questions. Like, when I took off earlier this year to attend a writing workshop with Elizabeth Gilbert herself (in Canada!).
These questions have not always been easy for me to answer. The need to justify the decision with a good reason like “for work” has always been something that stopped me from doing things.
But, thanks to Liz Gilbert, I now have a perfectly simple, go-to response,
“I’m just following my curiosity.”
Try it. It’s perfectly liberating.
And, by the way, curious people are rarely bored.
Try one of all of these methods and let me know how you’ve succeeded at getting unstuck.
Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org
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