Busy and bored? How to solve for both with a brand new approach.
I’m not good at looking forward to things. I am great at planning and rolling with changes but often find myself just being busy and bored. Checking things off lists, being productive, putting out fires.
Busy, but incredibly bored.
“Live in the moment” people say. “Enjoy the journey.”
I think I have mistaken building the moment and conquering the journey with being present. I have worked hard to let go of worry about a future that is uncertain and while I feel this is a good thing, I unfortunately got rid of looking forward to things as well. It’s almost self-protective, if you don’t look forward to things you won’t be disappointed. Now, with vacation plans cancelled and graduations gone virtual, I know there are a lot of people wondering “what’s there even to look forward to?”
We're going through life busy but bored. You may think these are mutually exclusive but I know better. I am an expert at being busy and bored.
Here’s the problem. I don’t want to be busy and bored. It’s not really a great way to go through life. If you struggle with the same thing you know exactly what I mean. It’s like cruising with the status quo because we let ourselves believe it is better.
Good news, there is a simple strategy that combats this like a charm:
You’ve never heard of it?
Ok, full disclosure, I made it up. But it works for busyness and boredom, for living in the moment and, brace yourself, for not living in the moment (which is sometimes even better). We all know that conventional wisdom recommends "living in the moment" as a pillar of happiness, as a solution for negative thoughts. But the converse is also true, living in the future can be life changing.
Let me explain.
Every morning I write down 10 things I am grateful for, little every day things like heated seats in my car, a breezy day, or of course my gel pens. Then I write down things that went right the day before, things that I can be proud of.
But in all this I miss out on a huge opportunity for happiness. What about looking FORWARD to things?
So as I was writing down the good things but feeling blah about today (and tomorrow, and next week) the idea of anticipatory gratitude was born. What if I trained myself to look forward to things? This seemed impossible initially (I'm just not wired that way) but I know in the past I have been wrong about what can be learned. If you had told me 5 years ago I would be writing down gratitude lists every day I would have done a mental status exam on you.
Brains can change.
So I decided to try it.
It’s pretty straightforward. Just as I look for things to be grateful for that I already have or have experienced, I can pick things to anticipate being grateful for and be grateful ahead of time. Still leave the worry about the future behind but borrow some joy from the future.
It’s like deciding to live in the moment AHEAD OF TIME.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure if this would work. I’m not talking about planning amazing things, I’m talking about bringing attention to the mundane things before they happen in an effort to have joy now AND enjoy the mundane things when they are actually happening (rather than just in retrospect).
If you think I'm talking in circles, perhaps an example will help.
Here is my list of anticipatory gratitude items from this morning:
Meeting a friend for a run (ironically she ended up not coming but I still had the joy of anticipating it- and it got me out of bed AND I “ran” anyway which made me feel badass)
Asking the aforementioned (wonderful) friend to pick up stuff for me at Costco so I have time to write my Friday newsletter
My 3pm coffee. I think it will be iced french vanilla- yum.
Grilling dinner so I won’t have to clean up the kitchen.
The little hand held vacuum my son brought home from school that I can use to quickly clean without the hassle of my somewhat broken big vacuum.
Listening to the podcast that I have been trying to find time for while I do the laundry.
So how does this anticipatory gratitude help “busy and bored?” Read the list again, this time as a TO DO list:
Costco for salad stuff
Mid afternoon coffee to get through the rest of the day
I don’t know that I could make the point any more clearly. I am doing all the boring things that keep me busy throughout the day but now I have mentally shifted them into little moments of joy both in the moment and ahead of time. I am learning to look forward to things by practicing with little steps, little wins. Once I am really good at it I am going to up my game for things that seem really tough; anticipatory gratitude as an antidote for dread (stay posted).
You may be skeptical. I hope you’re skeptical- try it and prove me wrong. As a student of Anticipatory Gratitude I dare you.
Let me know something that you tried anticipatory gratitude for :)