According to Social Security Administration, once we get to age 65, we can expect, on average, to live to age 85 (Average life expectancy). That’s a lot of years. Naturally as humans, we live our lives day to day. We go to work, we play, we go on vacations and do special things. We do a lot of different things to fill up the time.
Ernest Myers was an author who said “Don’t just count your years, make your years count.” (Famous quotations). Every now and then we take stock of our lives and decide whether we’re living life to the fullest or just wasting time.
“Boredom” means a state of tedium and is synonymous with “monotony” and “dullness” (Definition of "boredome"). There are many ways to alleviate boredom, but is that what life is all about? When we finally reach the end of our lives, what will we regret? How could we have filled up that time with more meaning?
Many of us may fear that our lives will pass too quickly and at the end, we’ll have many regrets. In his book, Catch 22, Joseph Heller creates a character named Dunbar who only does things that are boring (Dunbar character in Catch 22). When asked, he says that this makes his life seem a lot longer.
Boredom is an interesting topic. The word was coined by Charles Dickens in 1852 from his book Bleak House. It wasn’t until the 1930’s, however, that psychologists started studying it (The History of Boredom). This was when Joseph Barmack studied the tedium of factory workers performing monotonous tasks. Many of them used stimulants, like caffeine, to keep their excitement up.
Recent scientific research shows that boredom may lead to depression, anxiety disorders, gambling, eating disorders and aggressive behavior. Certainly many of us have what we would call “meaningful lives”, but we also tend to have periods that we feel we’ve wasted, that frustrate us that this is time we will never get back.
Bronnie Ware is Australian nurse who worked in what we would call a hospice, caring for dying people (5 top regrets people have at the end of their lives). Many of her conversations with these people focused on what they would differently. She would later record them in a blog (Inspiration and Chai) and later a book.
She found that there were common themes. The most common regret was that they had wished they had been true to themselves and not tried to live up to others’ expectations. The second and third were not having worked so hard and the courage to express their feelings. Rounding out the five are having stayed in touch with friends and been happier.
These regrets are fascinating and perhaps a big lesson to us as to how to make our lives more meaningful and avoid boredom. In fact, that’s probably a very important question: does a more meaningful life prevent boredom?
Consider that with boredom, we feel like we are wasting precious time. When we are involved and are doing activities, we are happy and feel like our time is well spent. When there is meaning in our lives, then we feel a more spiritual satisfaction, that our life has a purpose.
So consider that there are two different ways—classifications, perhaps—of avoiding boredom or doing something. The first is to be entertained. There has been some speculation that movies today have a lot more, shorter scenes and a lot more action than 20 years ago. This is to keep people’s attention more and get them to watch the movie over and over again.
Video games have been on the rise. According to the Entertainment Software Association (Games: Improving the Economy), quoting statistics by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the video game industry is one of the faster growing sectors in the US economy. As computers have become more sophisticated, so have the games. Such is the nature of our society to avoid boredom. These, of course, are activities, things that stimulate the pleasure receptors in our brains and keep us interested.
Yet returning back to the five main regrets of people at the end of their lives, this did not make the top five. No one said that they wished they had played more video or any other type of games. No one wished they had seen more movies. So it wasn’t about doing things to make their live more fun.
Rather the key to having an interesting life is doing meaningful things. It seems like at the end, it’s all about being true to yourself.