German psychologist Theodor Lipps suggested one of the earliest definitions of boredom in 1903, saying, "Boredom is a feeling of unpleasure arising out of a conflict between a need for intense mental activity and lack of incitement to it".
I just attended to my son's writers camp event. He and his fellows campers presented to their parents and friends a piece of a story each one of them wrote during their three weeks of creative learning. It was very impressive to hear the stories going from fiction to poetry presented by their own little writers. Once they finished their displays, they rushed to get some refreshments while feeling relieved they successfully stood up in front of the podium's library and read their artistic work.
Some of the parents approached the instructors of this UC Berkeley program to thank for their work and to learn more about them and their activities outside of this camp. One of the noticeable well prepared instructors came up with a thought that became my aha moment. She said that kids are overbooked nowadays and this doesn't help to develop their creativity. Kids need time to get bored, she emphasized. Their brains develop when they feel the need of looking and deciding what to do to overcome boredom.
I figured this need does not apply to kids exclusively but also to grown-ups lifestyle, including my family's experience trying to balance professional and personal life. We are constantly in a race from one activity, project or task to the other. There is no time in between, even better if we can multitask. In the old days to be bored was seen as a dangerous stage because it could lead to problematic behaviors.
However if we think deeply about this, we've also seen innovation coming out from folks with time to do things differently and better. This is even more evident in the tech industry where young engineers and scientist develop products and services disrupting traditional overbooked corporations.
The proposal is not to engage to a boring life, but to ensure we have a pause or downtime to trigger the need for intense mental activity that Lipps talked about and end up promoting creativity and innovation
I am looking forward to my family's downtime this summer. We have planned a very flexible journey to three different countries including a road-trip around Iceland in a camper van with no itinerary other than getting bored together.