The Cause
We are a society accustomed to stimulation. We grow bored quickly. We surf from channel to channel, web site to web site, job to job and career to career. Hardly anyone still lives in the home of their youth. Most have moved multiple times since their first home. Routine bores us and we seek stimulation.

But we seek it in all the wrong places. When we grow bored we must ask ourselves why. Is the job boring or are we boring? If the job is boring, we need to seek more exciting work, but before we do that, we must ask, was the job always boring? If it was, why did we take it in the first place?

Some of us accept boring jobs because we need the money, but most of us seek out work in our areas of interest. And most of us grow bored with the work several years into it. So what changed? If the job was exciting when we first took it, it likely still is. Why are we no longer stimulated? Are we really built to grow bored with repetition?

The answer to that is a resounding no. Our ancestors tended the same farms, lived in the same homes and were content with the same villages for most of their lives. Were they less sophisticated? Maybe, but if it is human nature to grow bored with routine, why weren’t they bored? Some will say they were bored, but had no choice, but most of our grandparents appeared happy, rather than bored.

Purpose
Allow me to suggest that we grow bored when we lose our purpose. In my book, Mission Possible: Living with Higher Purpose, I explain that we derive satisfaction from knowing that our lives and work have meaning. When we lose sight of our purpose, we grow bored with life, stop deriving satisfaction from our work and feel rudderless. We blame it on the job. We tell ourselves that the job is boring and that when we find a better job we will be interested again, but the problem is really inside us.

We might find another job and the pattern might repeat itself. We will be interested in the beginning and lose interest with time. When the job is new to us, it is easy to see the need that it serves, but with constant repetition we stop dwelling on the meaning and dwell instead on the work and the work holds no meaning for us. No meaning equals no stimulation and no stimulation equals no interest.

The Solution
The solution is not necessarily to find a new job, but to reacquaint ourselves with the purpose of our job. Suppose you manage a grocery store. You don’t find meaning in the mountain of paper work, the nagging calls from suppliers and the constant complaints from customers. But when you first took the job, you found it meaningful. What was the meaning in it then?

In the beginning you were focused on providing food for mothers of hungry children then you got bogged down in the minutia of your work and you lost sight of your purpose. Suddenly the job was bereft of meaning.

You might find another job and the same pattern might emerge. Every job has an exciting purpose and the drudgery of routine. It matters not so much whether you are doing something different, but whether you are seeing it in new terms. Change your attitude and you will find meaning. Find meaning and you will find happiness.

You choose your attitude by reframing your purpose. Every morning when you get to work tell yourself that you are here to provide delicious healthy meals to hungry children. Take pride in ensuring that your product is fresh and is delivered with a smile. Not only because it is good business practice, but because it provides a purposeful outlet for you.

At the end of the day write down three events that made someone happy or that provided a critical service at a critical time for a fellow human in need. Do this for three weeks and see if it makes a difference. If you still feel bored, start looking for new work, but I doubt that will be necessary.

Of course this is only true if you actually liked your work in the first place. If you only took the job for the money, it is not surprising that it grew old fast. Money is not meaningful.

Abraham
Our forefather Abraham moved to Israel, but shortly thereafter was forced to move to Egypt because of a famine. When the famine lifted, Abraham returned to Israel, but he returned to the very place he lived before. He didn’t try a new location, he was content with his old residence. He had no need to seek out new horizons, life was meaningful as it was.

When you see someone living or working in the same place for many years, you know he or she is content. They derive satisfaction from their lives because they see it as purposeful. They know how to tune in to life’s meaning. They are people to emulate. Get to know them and learn from them.

Does the sun ever grow bored with its routine? It makes an exciting journey every day and sees every part of the globe, but it always returns to the same place and never deviates from its routine. Is it bored? Never. Not in a thousand years. Why? Because it’s focused on the purpose it serves. It doesn’t think of its repetitive journey. It thinks of the people whose day it brightens and whose bones it warms. It thinks of the plants and crops that it helps to grow. It thinks in terms of purpose.

Are You Bored?
Human beings have a collective purpose. The purpose of serving G-d. He placed us here so that we could live ethical, just and holy lives thereby making the world a holier place. On the surface we seem to toggle back and forth between serving G-d and serving ourselves. One moment we pray, the next we eat. One moment we study, the next we sleep. One moment we serve others, the next we are at work. Are we constantly changing because we are bored with routine or are we always serving G-d?

That depends on our attitude. If we translate everything we do as a service to G-d then we are constantly in G-d’s employ. Just like your mountain of paperwork is not just paperwork, it delivers food to hungry children, so is our time at work, at rest and at mealtime, all part of serving G-d. If we observe King Solomon’s dictum, “Know Him in all your ways,” then we are not toggling. We are always with Him.

This way we are never bored. Everything we do has meaning. Everything we do has purpose.[1]

Become mindful of your purpose and you will never be bored again.[2]



[1] It does anyway, but purpose is most beneficial to us when we are mindful of it.

[2] Based on a teaching by Rabbi Yechzkel Landau cited by his grandson in the introduction to Yad Hamelech.

 
 

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