“Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” – Jim Rohn
As one stage in life ends and another begins, it is difficult to avoid thinking about time and what it means. Many people seem to be fascinated with the idea that time is relative, some are fascinated with how the concept of time developed, and who invented it, others want to know more about how we can manipulate time itself. While these are all topics worth going into at length, my personal fascination has always been the subjective experience of time.
Time does indeed seem to slow down when you want it to pass and speeds up when you need it to slow down. It’s a reality vs expectation predicament. When you expect the clock to wind down quickly so you can finally open your microwave door, or when you are waiting for a traffic light to turn green, or when you stare intently at the status of your flight, or when you impatiently wait for a boring lecture to end or a boring conversation to halt.
“We see the world not as it is, but as we are” Stephen Covey
When we are frustrated, and our state of mind is out of flow, things seem to move slower, less naturally. It’s as if your state of mind has a quirky relationship with time. When things are going well, and you’re engaged and immersed in an activity, thoughts about time remain dormant. When things go badly, and you feel disengaged, time is all you can think about. The reason why I find this relationship so interesting is that it serves a peculiarly useful function.
It ensures that any experience of boredom or anxiety is coupled with a seemingly spontaneous awareness of time. There are two ways of dealing with this truth if it is indeed a truth. Either we embrace boredom as a state of mind and learn to be okay with being bored, or we use our feelings of boredom to spur us on to do something worthwhile.
Option 1: Embracing Boredom
Embracing boredom, and learning how to be disengaged yet satisfied would be a powerful way to protect yourself from the inevitable bouts of boredom you are likely to experience. Having control over boredom would mean having control over your impulses. Thrilling but harmful activities that would all but eliminate boredom would no longer take precedence over what’s important for you to do.
Favorite weapons to combat boredom include but are not limited to gaming, drinking, reading the news, or using social media. The ‘escape’ for me represents the desire to remove oneself from an environment where self-consciousness takes center stage. Self-consciousness is the voice in your head that echoes the feelings, characterizations, and insecurities that you try restlessly to avoid. To embrace boredom, it is imperative then to be at peace with oneself. This surely is a worthwhile and important undertaking, especially in the long run, but it runs counter to how we function. We are more prone to find the short solution and stick to it for as long as possible. Option 2 is a more likely alternative.
Option 2: Boredom as a Cue
If you use boredom as a cue to recognize that what you are doing is unengaging, and to then make an effort to make sure that you fill your time with activities that better engage you, it is likely that no matter what you are doing, you will see better results and feel better about how you’re spending your time. In other words, if instead of treating boredom as an inescapable psychological reality that one should learn to control, you treat boredom the same way you would treat pain, by finding remedies, then you are giving precedence to the external rather than the internal. In option 1, you are favoring the internal battle, and trusting yourself to be able to overcome any form of internal anxiety, time awareness, disengagement by learning to better manage your subjective experience either by adjusting your expectations or being more comfortable with the spontaneity of anxiety-inducing thoughts you regularly encounter when in a state of boredom.
Imagine living somewhere very close to an airport, where an airplane flies over your house at seemingly random times during the way. Every time the airplane flies over, your anxiety levels automatically go up, and you become agitated. Similar to dealing with boredom, and the anxiety or guilt induces, there are two ways of dealing with this situation. The first option would be to get used to it or train yourself to tolerate it better. After say, 100 times, maybe you don’t notice it anymore. The other solution, obviously, is to move. Which one is better?