52 | Are You Suffering From Boreout?

Adam Grant explores how our practice can lead to boreout in Hidden Potential. In this episode of The Gentle Rebel Podcast, I dive into this idea and reflect on the role of playfulness in maintaining our motivation with the things that matter most.

We consider the distinctions between burnout and boreout and delve into the contrast between obsession and passion. I ask how the demands and pace of hustle culture might lead to chronic boredom. We look at why we need not stress about discovering our purpose and passion despite the societal messages we are bombarded with.

“It is neither work nor play, purpose nor purposelessness that satisfies us. It is the dance between.”

– Bernard de Koven
Boreout - playing piano with a drill sergeant next to me

Boreout is the emotional deadening you feel when you’re under-stimulated to the point of disconnection. But it might also occur when we are chronically overstimulated and unable to pause between life’s ceaseless bombardment of noise.

Practice and Boreout

Boreout is a phenomenon that often arises when we lose our sense of purposeful connection and intrinsic joy with the task at hand. When it comes to practice, it can turn into an obsessive slog rather than a meaningful journey towards progress and growth.

Deliberate play isn’t about avoiding work. It’s about shifting our mentality and seeing how potential can be reached sustainably by finding ways to playfully engage in practice, learning, and growth.

“You’re not supposed to enjoy it; it’s piano practice!”

We fall into a trap with certain endeavours. We believe that practice ought to feel like a slog. This leads us to stories of forbidden fun. Some things are meant to feel like punishment.

However, Adam Grant refers to a study conducted on renowned concert pianists, which revealed most of them practised the piano for just an hour a day during their early years, and they weren’t raised by controlling and dominating drill sergeants. Their passion ignited, and their parents and teachers gave them the conditions to maintain their motivation and enthusiasm.

They practised, not because they had to, but because they were interested. They enjoyed working with teachers to explore the craft more; excited, engaged and wanted to learn, improve, and practice.

When we treat it as something we’ve just got to repeat and repeat, practice can lead to boreout. It can also extinguish passion and cause us to resent things that used to be exciting and joyful.

In the episode, I also explore:

  • Harmonious passion vs obsessive passion and which is more useful
  • How my drum teachers used deliberate play to keep me on track with my exams
  • Why a lack of creative coaching led me to quit a football team
  • Similarities between burnout and boreout
  • How it can be more relaxing to create than to do nothing
  • Why overstimulation can leave us bored and disconnected
  • The way algorithms overstimulate our senses with sameness – and how variety and difference are sources of energy and inspiration
  • Collective boreout through cultural drift
  • How uncertainty gives rise to creativity, passion, and play (and the danger of trying to avoid it)
  • And more…

Over to You

So, what resonated for you in this episode? Leave a comment below or get in touch via social media or through my contact page.

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