Removing boredom from your daily existence requires living a counter-phobic life, which means working against your fears rather than giving in to them. Fears close us in. What do all fears have in common? They represent loss, such as loss of control, power, esteem, and even love. While some fears are protective, like the fear of poisonous snakes, most fears hold us back and are limiting.
If you were raised by cautious, fearful parents who warned you against every possible accident or injury, you may have grown into a cautious, fearful adult. By middle age, you may be leading an unnecessarily restricted life, protecting yourself from every imagined hurt. Is it possible to experience ‘Wow!’ inside that cocoon? Not likely.
Five Steps for Limiting Boredom
1. Acknowledge your fears. List your fears in escalating order of importance, from fears that are slight to those that hold more power over you.
2. What is the worst outcome? Beside each fear on your list ask yourself: What is the worst thing that can happen to me if my fear is realized? Face that scenario. Imagine yourself dealing with it. If you are afraid of driving alone at night, picture yourself stranded in a car with a sudden mechanical problem. You have a cell phone in the car; calmly you’re dialing for help with the doors locked and the flashers on. You will survive. How reasonable is it to assume that the worst will happen anyway?
3. Come out. Share your fears with a trusted friend or your partner, who undoubtedly knows what some are, but may be surprised at others. For example, a man may be avoiding sex because he fears performance failure, something his wife doesn’t suspect because she thinks she no longer excites him. When he shares his vulnerability with her, he gives her more than the gift of trust. He tells her she’s desirable and faces his fear.
4. Eliminate guilt. How does guilt interfere with the ability to lead a counter-phobic life? Guilt can stop you from taking a risk. The guilt-ridden have a multitude of reasons for not taking the chance they suspect will improve their lives. A man stays in the family business rather than pursuing a career of his own because his parents need him. A woman sacrifices her educational plans to support a husband’s goals and later to carpool the children to every activity that interests them. For the guilty, self-denial has become a habit, one they’ve elevated to a virtue in their minds.
5. Push back your personal boundaries. We all have limits and rules that constitute our personal boundaries. We draw a set of imaginary lines around our possibilities and don’t let ourselves dream, plan, reach, or hope beyond them. By midlife, it is too easy to become rigid; we end up run by tight rules that are unnecessarily limiting.
All of us are capable of pushing back our behavioral boundaries in small ways. A man who isn’t comfortable with public displays of affection might hold hands with his wife while walking down the street. A woman who hasn’t put on a sexy dress in years can buy one, wear it to a party, and flirt with her mate. Hug a friend, express a painful feeling, admit a mistake to your son or daughter. Ignore the initial discomfort and push the boundaries back so the people you care about can come a little closer. Extending yourself outside the imaginary lines takes a little more effort, like asking for the raise, applying for the promotion, or changing jobs.
The high-stakes risks are often emotional ones. Admitting fear, expressing anger, and daring to be vulnerable can be huge leaps of faith across a scary chasm. Taking these risks leads to change; the move is fearful because there’s no guarantee that the ensuing change will be for the better. In risking, we let go of something: a sense of security, a false belief, a protective habit, a tenuous investment or relationship. What will we get in exchange? Maybe something wonderful.