At our gym, the adults train five times a week. Three hard sessions and two recovery sessions. An example of a recovery session that elicits the above response:
Row or ski for an hour. Do one hundred Turkish get ups.
Why is that considered “torture”?
It’s monotonous. Repetitive. Boring.
I have a love-hate relationship with the feeling of boredom.
On one hand, being bored means you can’t find anything to fix your attention on. It means you can’t penetrate the activity enough to find something of value. Sometimes, it strikes me as evidence of a weak mind.
Take the example of doing one hundred get ups. One hundred of anything is usually enough to obliterate our attention. But isn’t this the point of repetition? To train our powers of focus and to help us notice the subtleties.
Take a foundational move in a martial art, say, a standard kick. If the martial artist kicks one hundred times, none of those kicks will be the same. Yes, the beginner will claim that a kick is just a kick, that it feels no different from the next. But the master, who has launched thousands of kicks, recognises that no two kicks are ever the same.
This pattern is visible in human interaction too. No two conversations are ever identical. Something will differ. The topic may be the same, but the views may change, the way they are expressed may be more or less effective, the dominance of one over another in the talk:listen ratio changes.
Repetition trains focus and it helps us detect small differences. But only if that repetition is mindful.
If you cannot generate enough focus, if you cannot be fully immersed in the activity, fully present, you won’t notice the richness of the activity. You’ll get bored.
A kick is just a kick right?
On the other hand, being bored is a sign of mental health. As Nassim Taleb puts it: “If you get easily bored, it means that your BS detector is functioning properly”.
If I start a new novel and it’s full of grey characters, cliches and an old and tired plot, two things will happen. One, I’ll get bored. Two, I’ll stop reading it.
But then is that my bullshit detector working? Maybe I wasn’t paying it full attention? Maybe I was only half present?
Boredom is good and bad.
As I try and wrap up this tour through my mind, I’m trying to decide which side of the fence to fall upon. My intuition is declaring to me, “boredom is for those with weak minds.”
And I’m tempted to agree, but with one caveat.
Frequent bouts of boredom are evidence of a weak mind. A mind that is not fully engaged.
There’s so much in our world to do, to see, to learn about, to talk about, to think about, that boredom is almost inexcusable.
Infrequent bouts of boredom mean that you haven’t lost the ability to prioritise, to say, “this isn’t worth my time”.
If boredom strikes irregularly, you’re okay.
But if you’re bored every single day, you need to pay closer attention to your life.