Once when Barbara Walters interviewed Truman Capote she asked him if he were ever bored. He answered,
No because I’m terribly curious. It’s very hard for me to get bored….
Does that quote resonate with you at all? It sure does with me… it strikes a chord deep in my being. I wouldn’t say I never get bored, but I actively avoid getting in situations where that happens (unless it’s for a good cause). I was seriously depressed when I was a child because I was bored out of my mind, and I never want to go there again. That means being proactive, understanding the optimal amount of challenge I need in my life and providing it for myself.
How do I do that? My challenges are mostly mental and spiritual:
- I love to solve problems,
- I love trying to understand how the human mind works,
- And I’ve known since I was a late teen that my mission in life was to understand what makes people happy and to make my small corner of the world a happier and friendlier place.
That’s a modest enough goal… no dreaming big for me… but it’s been enough to keep me challenged and fully engaged in life. It works for me, and I’m grateful.
I majored in physics at Stanford University, and in upper level classes there were always one or two problems in the weekly homework that couldn’t be solved logically. Just knowing the material wasn’t enough. Your mind had to make a creative leap before the answer came. It was a frustrating way of operating, to be stumbling in the dark, with no control over the results. All I could do was play around with the problem… to give my subconscious mind a chance to work on it… and hope for the best. The answer invariably did come… usually in the middle of the night before the homework was due… but, oh, Lord, was it a crazy way to live. I would drop off to sleep, then wake up with an idea, get up and check the math to see if the idea worked, see that it didn’t, go back to sleep until the next idea woke me up, and repeat the process until the answer finally came.
On the plus side,
- I’ve been grateful ever since that I never have to go through that again.
- I’ve never had trouble getting an interesting job, my main motivation for choosing that major.
- And I became fascinated by how the human mind works, especially how it makes creative leaps.
Living Deeply and Creatively
I was much more interested in creative problem solving than in physics, so professionally I used my training to design software for scientific research. Whenever I could I took projects that other people didn’t know how to do, ones that required insight, a different way of looking at things. There was pressure, of course, because I didn’t know how to solve the problems either, and there were deadlines. But part of the challenge was to learn how to handle that pressure well, to learn to calm my body while my subconscious mind was working on the answer. I’ll talk more about this in a future post. The important thing is I was integrating my professional skills with my true love… how to create a happy, fulfilling life.
When I talk about happiness I don’t mean never having problems to deal with with, never having setbacks and losses to mourn. For me it’s more a matter of being fully engaged in life, of following my basic philosophy:
Stay curious and open to life. No matter what happens keep learning and growing. Find what you love to do and find a way to share it with others.
My Favorite Toy
Those of us interested in personal development are living in a great time… we have a multitude of techniques at our disposal. I’ve already written about some of my favorites. But more important than individual tools and skills is the attitude of curiosity and playfulness…of being open to new ways of seeing and doing things. For me that means not identifying with everything I think and feel, but being able to stand back at times to notice how my brain works. By standing back and paying attention, I’m free to make changes if that would work better for me. And to make those changes I have to be in tune with my subconscious mind…that’s the powerhouse for me. I’ve spent years feeding it information relevant to my questions and trusting it to find answers for me. And when I’m successful in making changes, that’s the part of my mind that does the work of changing my automatic habits.
So, thanks to my brain, I’m seldom bored in life. And because I work best in a spirit of playfulness, it’s not too much to say my brain is my favorite toy.
What about you? What makes you feel fully alive? What keeps you from being bored?