In Case Topics on Global Mobility Have Started to Bore You already…

boredomRecently IESE Business School had the pleasure of hosting its first independent TED event. Among many inspiring speakers was also one of our MBA students, Mariano Torrente, who spoke about our capacity to be surprised and wonder. Although a magician himself, Mariano argued that magic can be found all around us, not just in the magic tricks performed by a magician. The problem is, though, that we fail to see these magical and amazing things in our everyday life, as we have lost the capability of being awed by little things.

I guess we would still be surprised, excited and fascinated when going to a new travel destination, performing a bungee-jump or seeing a movie with amazing special effects. Yet, even when there is no extra stimulation in our daily lives, can we still feel that sense of wonder, curiosity and excitement? During an ordinary day at work? In the evening at home, when your spouse describes his or her day? When commuting to work? When routinely walking your dog in the park? When being by yourself over the weekend? I suspect the majority of us would find it difficult to characterize such situations amazing, magical or fascinating… we might rather view this as ‘ordinary’ or ‘boring’, which is probably why mobile phones come in so ‘handy’ in such moments. Mariano’s talk made me think exactly about ‘why we are bored so often’?

Mariano suggested that being constantly bombarded with incredible amounts of information and distractions makes us less sensitive towards the daily small wonders. On a similar note, a recent article in The Guardian posits that the large amount of constantly available entertainment and stimulation, which comes from the Internet, social media, and an endless customer service market, is to blame for our boredom. Ironically, the more options for entertainment we seem to have, the more bored we become?! According to Dr. Sandi Mann we are overstimulated, which makes us less tolerant of lower level stimulations. In other words, our need for novelty, and our threshold of what is considered novel constantly increase so that we remain with constant hunger for stimulation. Another reason for boredom proposed by Dr. Mann is that although we might engage in many different activities within a given day, they are all of the same kind, namely ‘screentime’ activities. We might work, read news, watch movies, chat with friends, shop and study from the very same position of being in front of a screen and ‘tapping away at our keyboard’… even doing sports can be a similar experience, just check out the treadmills equipped with TV screens ☺

As per a recent Nature article, boredom is such a wide-spread phenomenon that it has become an extremely interesting research topic. According to scientists, boredom is not another name for depression or apathy, but a separate state of mind: ‘it seems to be a specific mental state that people find unpleasant—a lack of stimulation that leaves them craving for relief, with a host of behavioral, medical and social consequences’. For example, boredom is found to trigger several unhealthy and risky behaviors, such as binge eating, drinking or taking drugs. Indeed, studies show that people strive to become un-bored so much, that they would actually prefer to give themselves electric shocks rather than just stay put with no activity and alone with their thoughts.

Dr. Mann argues that a radical solution to the ‘boredom problem’ is to harness it rather than try to avoid it. We need less stimulation and more slower-paced activities in order to rewire our stimulation-sensitivity. As if supporting this notion another prominent researcher on boredom, James Danckert, speaks of boredom as ‘a deficiency in self-regulation’ and argues that “the more self-control you have, the less likely you are to be bored.” Well, the next time you are stuck in traffic not reaching out for your smartphone could be a great effort for tackling both, the decrease of stimulation and increase of self-control. In a similar vein, we can also consider Mariano’s notion of cultivating awe and wonder by paying closer attention to and capturing what is in front of us.

We are bored when we are unengaged… sure, some environmental stimuli are automatically engaging, but becoming engaged with what is ‘here and now’ is also a matter of our choice. We can choose to pay closer attention, explore, be curious, and as a result, wonder and feel amazed…and that is fascinating in itself!

P.S. My next blog entry will be again on global mobility… to avoid anybody is getting bored 😉

4 thoughts on “In Case Topics on Global Mobility Have Started to Bore You already…

  1. Thank you for sharing this beautiful TED talk – even if in a bit roundabout way to get to the subject through social media squared.
    And no, it was absolutely not boring…

  2. My first thought as I read this post: “A prominent researcher on boredom” – wow, now there is an interesting career decision… to spend your time around bored people in boring situations to understand how to achieve a boredom state… 😉

    Now that is a career decision that makes me Wonder!

  3. I found this article by chance. It is a very interesting concept, in fact one of our pillars in the treatment of addictions is based on the creation of stimuli to move individuals from boredom, but the concept of excess inputs that lead to boredom is very interesting.

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