Ep 130: Addressing Boredom as a Leader
In this modern age that we live in, where stimulation is akin to a drug, boredom now becomes a problem. This is true even with leaders. In this episode, Adam Quiney defines boredom and explains why this becomes challenging to leaders. He discusses how a leader can relate to and address boredom both in themselves and other people. If boredom is becoming a problem for you or for those you lead, this episode is for you.
Listen to the Episode Here:
Addressing Boredom As A Leader
What we are going to talk about is addressing boredom as a leader. How do you address boredom as a leader? Let’s start with, what are we even talking about? What is boredom and what would it even mean to address it like a leader? Before we go into any of that, we’re going to start by talking about what do I mean, in all of these conversations, when we talk about being a leader, the quality of a leader, what is that?
What most people believe we mean by that is leadership has a place in a hierarchy, as a position, a role that denotes some degree of authority or connotes some degree of authority, some experience, maybe the number of years that you’ve had as a leader. None of this is what we’re talking about. When we talk about being a leader, we’re talking about leadership like a quality of being. It’s a way of showing up in the world that gives you access to more power and allows you to create greater impact. You can put that impact on whatever you want. The greater the leader you are, the greater the range of ways of being and things to do you have access to.
Leadership And Boredom
Being a leader with regards to boredom, what would that mean? First of all, let’s acknowledge boredom’s a pretty common problem, especially in the modern world. The modern world where we’re almost addicted to stimulation. It’s fairly common, in a nutshell, that’s the problem with porn addiction. Even though porn addiction is the salient, we’re like, “I get that.” In a large part, most of us are addicted to stimulation. We constantly flip through Tinder. We constantly flip through Twitter. We constantly check the news. We have struggles staying focused.
We need more and more stimulation. We’re addicted to stimulation. Boredom is an especially common problem in the modern era. Most of us are very familiar with the experience of being bored, being with people who are bored, and how to resolve it. Now what we’re going to be talking about is how does a leader relate to and address boredom, both in themselves and other people. As always, I’d like to start by talking about what about this makes it challenging? Why are we even bringing this as a topic here and why is this challenging?
One of the things that’s interesting about boredom is that the problem seems so obvious that we don’t need to think about much as far as what do you do about it. We just address it. Take a moment to consider when you imagine yourself as bored, what is there for you to take on? What do you need to do? What is the thing to do to resolve your boredom? With boredom, what would there be for me to do to resolve that? It’s interesting to note that may have driven up some stuff for you like, “Don’t just sit in silence. That’s the worst thing you can do.” Yet that’s part of being a leader.
If I’m committed to having you distinguish your relationship to boredom, it might require that I let you sit in silence, might require that I sit for an eternity of awkwardness on my part in service of you getting what I want you to get from this thing. It’s a funny place, a neat place to point to how leadership can at times mean we’re willing to be awkward. We’re willing to drive up some reaction to someone in service of something beyond that. You came up with some particular approach that I would imagine might’ve involved seeking out more stimulation. You may have worded it any number of ways like, “I need to turn what I’m doing into a game,” “I’m bored washing windows, maybe I could gamify it. I need to take a break and then come back to this refreshed. I need to go do something fun instead then, maybe come back to this,” or any number of other options. All of these approaches are rooted in the idea that boredom is a function of a lack of stimulation. This is our typical intuitive relationship we have to boredom. We understand boredom this way. When we get bored, we do the thing we know to do to not be at the effect of our boredom. Boredom is showing up therefore, I do whatever I need to do to remove the boredom. I need to get more stimulation, so I’ll do that. I’m not a victim. I’ve achieved a lack of boredom.
Let’s talk about what’s sneaky about this. The challenge here is that we believe our boredom to be a function of our circumstances that which is external to us. When we’re doing the work that leaves us feeling bored, we endeavor to change those circumstances or take a break from them or sex them up, make them more fun, more exciting, gamify them, or whatever. Our solutions are all about changing the surroundings. They’re all about modifying our circumstances either by making them cooler, removing them or changing what they are, etc. To be clear, this is how we relate to and try to solve all of the stuff, all of the experiences of our life that are unpleasant. “I feel drained around these people so what I need to do is not be around those people, remove those people from my life, so and so. I’m living in my zone of genius.” No, you’re not. That’s another example where we’re relating to the problem of feeling drained is a function of our circumstances.
Our solutions are about addressing those circumstances and this is a function of our belief that our boredom is about what is around us. What is out there rather than what is in here inside of me. In this way, we act at solutions that leave us feeling empowered while simultaneously and unexpectedly keeping us at the effect of our circumstances. We’d be like, “I’m not a victim to my circumstances. I’m changing them.” “I’m not a victim to being bored washing windows. I’m going to take a break. I’m going to make a fun game out of this.” Our boredom or inability or ability to have a particular experience of life then becomes perpetually at the effect of our circumstances.
Washing windows is boring, that’s never going to change. The best I can do is try to find a way to reward myself for a break. I have to do a boring job. How can I minimize my time in the boredom? How can I make myself okay with the boredom? What we’re creating ourselves at the effect of, or a victim to is this idea, this truth that we hold that washing windows is a boring thing for me. You can see there’s like an is-ness to that. That is the way washing windows are and that can change. If I’m around or doing those things that leave me bored, the best I can do is manage the amount of time I spend doing them. I can take breaks. I can try to create something extra that’s fun, but either way, I’m still perpetuating the effect of the experience of boredom that seems to continue to show up whenever I’m around these particular conversations or circumstances.
Shifting The Context Of Boredom
Here’s the shift in context for boredom. This was originally given to me by a woman named Jodi Jan Larson, you may have heard me mention her name in the past, made a tremendous difference in my life. she provided me this because I was complaining about my boredom. I was complaining about being bored. The context shift is to consider that boredom is a lack of generation, rather than a lack of stimulation. A lack of generation, meaning there is something you are not generating rather than there is some lack of external stimulation coming in for me. We relate to boredom as though what is missing is stimulation. There’s something wrong or missing with this conversation, this person in front of me, the sports game I’m at, this TV show I’m watching. While that presents us with the option to change the channel literally or figuratively, it means that whenever we’re around those circumstances, our choices then become either change the channel or stay bored or some nuanced version of that.
This means that our only options become either to accept boredom because you need to where you’re committed to something that requires going through this or avoid the parts of your life that you create an experience of boredom with. That’s where you are left when boredom is a lack of stimulation. However, if boredom is the result of a lack of generation, then we get a whole new set of questions that we could be asking ourselves. We could start asking questions like, “What if there’s something about the way I show up around these particular circumstances that leads to my experience of boredom? What if there’s a way that I’m showing up that has made me bored?” We could ask ourselves, “How am I listening at this moment that’s creating boredom? What’s my story about what’s showing up that might be leading to my experience of boredom? What is it that I’m suppressing in me that is leading to this experience of boredom?”
You could keep asking questions. The point is not to give you the right questions. It’s to help you see that context for boredom. That is a lack of generation on your part, rather than a lack of stimulation. That context shift opens up the possibility of a whole new world of exploration. It brings the conversation from one about your outside surroundings into an internal inquiry. By asking about how you might be creating boredom, the experience of boredom, you get the opportunity to go deeper and see how your experience is continually and always a function of yourself, your mindset, your beliefs, your context for whatever’s showing up in your life.
Dealing With Boredom As A Leader
Now, this is the work of a leader. Remember that the leader is looking to own more and more of the world around them and their experience in that world. If you can start to own that boredom is something you are creating, now you’ve got the power to do something about it. Instead of it just being like washing windows is inherently boring for me, it’s just the way I am. I can either structure my life to minimize the time spent washing windows, or I can take frequent breaks so I don’t get overboard or I can try to enlist a friend so I can be with the boring so and so. Instead, you can start to ask yourself the question like, “There are going to be times when I have to wash windows, what is it about that particular task that has me creating it as boring?” It’s going to give you way more access to your range as a leader.
Why does this matter in the context of leadership? Why does this matter on your teams? With your teams, have you ever noticed members of your team’s being bored during presentations or conversations you were leading? Seeming like they were checked out, not showing up? The answer is yes. You have noticed this. If you haven’t, you should get curious about that. A lot of leaders like to think, “No, it’s because I’m super entertaining.” Nope, you’re resisting being with the abundance of life. If you are allowing all of life to show up, then there’s going to be some points where people are bored. Not because boredom is a lack of stimulation on your part as the leader, but a lack of generation on their part. There are going to be times when they do not generate.
When you notice members of your teams being bored during presentations or conversations you’re leading, what do you feel inclined to do in these situations? If you’re like most people you’ll feel inclined to make it personal because that’s what this relationship of boredom leads to. We feel like their boredom means that something is missing in what we’re providing because of our story that boredom is a lack of stimulation. If the problem is a lack of something that I’m providing, then what I do is try to amp things up to compensate for what is missing. I’m going to turn the volume up. I’m going to get more animated. I’m going to get cooler or wackier or make inappropriate jokes or do whatever. I want to be clear here that this is not an excuse for you to put all of the responsibility for boredom on your people. You don’t get to say like, “It’s not my fault. I get to show up however I want and their job is to generate some way of being excited by this while I read the dictionary from start to finish.”
Remember the job is always on your side of the fence, always and forever. You need to get supported to see how you’re being that might be creating these experiences for people. On the other side of this, when we can take responsibility for here. We can start to ask people questions like, “I noticed the energy feels a bit low in here, what’s going on?” Instead of trying to operate over the top of the energy and the space or even worse, fix it without speaking to whatever. I can just go there. We can address the very thing in the room. This is what makes leadership so potent and also so edgy is because while the rest of the world is walking around the elephant in the room, we lift up the rug and go, “What is this? Why is this here?”
When your team members started to express boredom, we can offer them support. They can start to take this on in their own lives and their roles rather than colluding with it. The way you collude with someone else’s boredom is when they’re bored, you try to provide more stimulation to them, which then keeps this thing going. It reinforces for them that boredom is not on them. It’s not some experience that they could take ownership of. It’s on the rest of the world. The rest of the world needs to show up for me to have a different experience. That’s the height of being at the effect. Your experience of life is that the effect of the world around you. There’s not a lot of power in that. The only power you have is to arrange your life so that some aspects of life can’t show up. That’s not leadership, that is minimized in your leadership. It is reducing the range in which you can be a leader.
Dealing With Boredom On A Personal Level
On a personal level, why would you do this? If you were to take this on in your own life, the opportunity is to create a life free of boredom. In the early days, when I was being trained as a coach, boredom was a constant thing for me, it’s a constant thing for a lot of brilliant people. As we have fast-twitch muscle fiber in our brains, we think a lot. We like stimulation. We like holding a lot of different concepts in our minds and wrestling with them. I was complaining a lot about boredom and Jodi challenged me to create a life free of boredom. That was her invitation to me. She said, “That might be an inspiring practice for you to take on.” I was like, “Great. I’ll take that mantle on. That’d be great. I hate boredom.”
For a few years, I thought what that meant was that I was going to create a life where I was always doing exciting stuff, white river water rafting. I’m going to go bungee jumping. I had to lean into my fear. There was some of that. Often part of what has brilliant people so bored in their life is that it’s so controlled and managed that there’s no unknown. It’s safe and predictable. There’s a little bit of unknown, people always point to the exception in their lives but by and large, it’s a structured, safe life. It wasn’t until a while later that I realized, “The opportunity is not just to arrange the circumstances of my life.” Not just to open myself up to the unknown, but to notice where am I not generating in these situations where I find myself bored? What might there be for me to open up, to take on, how might there be a different way for me to listen what someone is sharing with me? What do you do about this? How do you work with this?
The first thing to do is to consider that whatever people experienced boredom around, they’re going to avoid. Whatever we avoid represents a blind spot and a constriction in our range and capacity as a leader. That works in two ways. First of all, if you as a leader is like washing windows is boring, you’re going to try to avoid washing windows and that’s going to mean one of two things. First of all, it might mean that you always delegate washing windows to other people. You become the leader that’s unwilling to do something themselves and passes it off to someone else, which works until the thing that’s called for in your leadership is washing windows. You can do it, but you show up from boredom and you show up clumsy with it because you’ve been avoiding it for so long. The other way it works is that you’re like, “I wouldn’t do that and I refuse to make someone else do that.” You’re showing up as a leader, who’s unwilling and unable to cause someone else to do this thing that you’ve decided is not ever worth doing.
The leader is someone who’s working down their edges so they can be with that thing, can wash those dishes. They can wash those windows, allow that to sit and find a way to empower that. To be like, “Yeah, I can find a way to create this as something other than boring.” From that place, they can turn around to someone else who’s resistant to it and say, “Look, it’s possible for you to find a way to create this as not boring and I’m willing to support you with that if you want. I’m also willing for you to just be bored and complain about it, but I don’t think that’s going to serve your leadership.” By taking this on, we can start to see new places, new ways to expand our range as a leader.
As a starting point, what you might do is simply begin to notice where and when you show up as bored in your life and start to ask those questions that might bring the inquiry inwards. What does it I’m not willing to express at this moment that’s causing me boredom? How am I listening to whatever’s happening that’s leading to me being bored? If I’m listening to someone I conclude, this person is so predictable. There’s nothing about them that would shock me. I’m going to hear a lot of what they have to say through boredom. That particular way of listening is going to lead to boredom. Instead, I might start trying on a different way of relating to them. I might get curious like, “I’m feeling bored. I wonder what about this person would shock me?” I could ask questions like that, “What about you would shock me? What about you would be surprising? Tell me something about you that most people don’t know.”
Now I’m asking questions that allow me to create a different experience because I’ve shifted the internal conversation I made about this person. Start to notice that, start to take this inwards rather than make it about the rest of the world. I promise, it will give you and the people you lead to access to far more power. What we’ve got coming up next, it’s going to be a fundamental piece of leadership and coaching conversation. Before we do, let’s talk right at the end. I think we’re going to start doing this at the start. The Creating Client Course is the course for you if you want to create an abundance of prosperity and whatever your service-based business happens to be. If you’re a leader, a coach, some entrepreneur, a consultant, what we do is we help you see simply how to create clients as a natural, simple expression of who you are in the world.
This is not an algorithm. It’s not a script. It’s not a do this and tell people you’re connecting with them while you’re secretly building up a list and then you get to email them and then you put them in your funnel. It’s none of that stuff because I hate that stuff. I suspect you do too even if you’re good at it. Where this will leave you is in such a place that Creating Clients isn’t something that drains you. It fills you up exactly and if not more so than the way the rest of your business does and the way the rest of your life does. From there, the whole conversation about work-life balance or any of that becomes meaningless because all you do is show up to your life and be you. It’s transformational. It’s a very low commitment, simply a $1,000 in ten weeks.
If you want to learn more about that, you can go to AdamQuiney.com/ClientCreation. It’s an amazing course. You will love it. Next, we’re going to be talking about content versus context. This is originally a distinction used in a landmark. I was taught this in Accomplishment Coaching and it’s something I used with a lot of the people I support. This is the fundamental thing in the way when we talk about, you’re listening for someone, your story about them, the lens through which you relate to them, all of that falls into this next conversation. We’ll see you soon.
About Adam Quiney
I’m an obsessive perfectionist, high-performer, former lawyer, and now an Executive Mentor. I know what it’s like to succeed easily and quickly. To blindly put my happiness in the hands of achievement.
All the success, money and possessions in the world couldn’t cure my boredom. Couldn’t produce a loving, intimate relationship with my wife…and definitely couldn’t fulfill me.