The idea of life being short is commonly pushed as a reason to embrace the now, to embrace whatever it is that one must do to find their happiness in the present moment.
"One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now." ~ Paulo Coelho
But is life truly short? It is true that life can be cut short due to tragedy, illness, or unexpected circumstances that hit you out of nowhere, but life isn’t going to be short for a lot of people.
It’s going to be decades long.
If you follow the traditional path of life, you’ll go to school for most of the first 20 years of your life, maybe more.
Then, you’ll hop into the job market where you will work to maybe buy a house, raise a family, and save for retirement for 30 or 40 years.
And then hopefully, you retire, and get to live out your silver and golden years in peace and comfort thanks to the work you put in over the course of your life.
At least, that’s supposed to be the plan – life doesn’t always work out the way we plan it.
But still, that’s a long time whether or not everything does go according to plan. Doing the same thing over and over, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year gets monotonous.
People need variety in their life, even those who are comfortable with a predictable, structured existence. A lack of variety leaves people feeling bored and may eventually cause a breakdown in many or all aspects of their life
What does it feel like to be bored with life?
Boredom with life is not like your run-of-the-mill boredom.
When life feels boring, you wake up in the morning to a world that is devoid of color, beauty, or stimulation.
You feel directionless. You stumble through the day, doing the things that society requires you to do, and then you go to bed and fall into a troubled, restless sleep.
Even the weekend – often a place of rest bite from the monotony of the working week – holds no joy for you.
Every part of you wants your life to change, but you can’t figure out how you want it to change, and you can’t bring yourself to change it. You just know it has to… somehow.
Until then, you’re driftwood, floating on the sea of life, just bobbing along on the currents.
You may even have a life that others envy – a solid relationship, good job, happy kids, nice house, fancy possessions – but you’re still left wanting.
You may be loved by many and have others who depend on you, yet you feel there’s got to be more to life than this.
And this feeling isn’t constrained solely to the mind. Boredom with life seeps into your body too. This can result in headaches, tightness of the muscles, digestion problems, and a general lack of energy among other things.
This what true, soul-crushing boredom feel like.
Is this boredom the same as depression?
The short answer is: not always.
You can experience this deep boredom without necessarily being depressed in the clinical sense.
And you can suffer from depression and not be completely and utterly bored with your day-to-day existence.
There is an overlap between the two groups and there can be an interaction between boredom and depression. But depression can have more serious consequences, so if you are unsure whether you might be depressed, it is worth speaking to your doctor or other healthcare professional.
What role does technology play in making us bored?
It’s interesting that, despite the plethora of options available to us for entertainment, we still find ourselves bored and disengaged.
We carry a device in our pocket that gives us access to immediate entertainment and the collective knowledge of humanity. How is it that we are so bored with that at our fingertips?
Overstimulation is a contributor. An unending number of choices for entertainment can make them all seem lackluster and boring.
After a while, we find ourselves sitting on our couch, aimlessly scrolling through social media or trying to find the next thing to binge watch instead of getting out and engaging with life.
Much of the internet experience is based around instant gratification. As a result, the average attention span is shortening. This makes it harder to engage in more difficult activities that may provide meaning, excitement, or real entertainment. It takes time to master any endeavour.
We have to be patient enough to build and pursue the things we want, whether that’s a career, a family, or a more meaningful life.
Why is it so important to have a meaningful life?
The idea behind chronic dissatisfaction is that a person is regularly unhappy with the way their life is going or their current trajectory.
The ugly truth is, no one is ever going to be happy all the time. That’s an unreasonable expectation that will lead to more misery and dissatisfaction.
Chronic dissatisfaction occurs when a person is discontented with their overall life experience.
Perhaps the person has lived a quiet life, bouncing from meaningless job to other meaningless job, shallow friendship to other shallow friendship, hollow relationship to other hollow relationship. They have a hard time finding joy in anything because it all feels so shallow and pointless.
That hollowness can fuel many unhealthy behaviours and illnesses – including drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and anxiety. Sometimes it’s the other way around, where depression is actually the cause of not feeling any joy or happiness in one’s life.
Those empty feelings can cause a person to engage in self-destructive behaviour just to try to break up the tediousness of their life. Maybe they tear a relationship to the ground because they’re unhappy or sabotage other areas of their life to create some drama.
That does not mean that all downtime or being bored is a bad thing. It’s not. One must take time to rest and recuperate before they plunge into another hobby, venture, or adventure. If you don’t, you risk burning yourself out and finding yourself back at the start. Pacing oneself is important
What does having a meaningful life mean to you?
The idea of a meaningful life is one that provides personal satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, and some degree of happiness.
People find meaning in different ways. For some, it will be working a career they are happy and excited with having. Others may find their meaning in cultivating and growing a loving family.
There is no set, singular path to happiness, meaning, and feeling content with life. Your path is going to be unique to you. It may share similarities with other people, but it’s going to be your mission to figure out what path makes the most sense to you and pursue it.
That does not mean you have to go it alone or that no one can assist you on your path, just that you shouldn’t expect anyone else to be able to simply hand it to you in a neat package with a bow on top. That’s unlikely to happen.
How do I figure out what will provide meaning and happiness in my life?
It’s as simple as that.
It sounds contrived, but the only way for you to truly figure out what provides happiness, contentment, and meaning in your life is to actively engage in life and do things.
“But what if I don’t like it?”
Then you don’t. And you move on to another thing.
Even when you do things you don’t necessarily like or enjoy, you’re broadening your knowledge and perspective of the world, which gives you the ability to connect with more people and facilitate a better understanding of what you do and do not like.
Chances are pretty good you’ll do quite a few things you don’t like before you find meaningful things that you do.
Or maybe you won’t! Maybe you’ll try something new and find it provides contentment and fulfillment.
“But I can’t afford it!”
It doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t have to be jetting off on some $5,000 trip to some tropical paradise to find yourself.
Get a library card, read or listen to some books. Do some volunteer work with the disadvantaged or animals. Be a mentor to someone who is looking to find their way. Take an art course at a local community center.
These things are all relatively inexpensive ways to grow as a person and experience new things without taking selfies at Machu Picchu or being mobbed by con artists and street vendors in Cairo.
The most important thing is to do stuff. Anything is better than nothing. If it’s not working for you, change the stuff that you’re doing and try something new.