REGARDING BOREDOM: Yesterday versus Today. We all need a “GO-TO.”


“I’m bored.”

“Then go be bored.” my mom would reply.

“I’m bored.”

“Well hello, Bored. I’m Edward. Nice to meet you,” my dad would say, before turning around to continue whatever he was doing.

My wife recalls her mom giving her a list of chores when she would whine about being bored.

“I’m bored.”

“Great! I need the laundry folded, the dish rack cleared, the baseboards wiped, the toilets cleaned, potatoes peeled, and the floors mopped.”

She said it was incredible how quickly she learned to never utter those two words!

Knowing we’d receive NO empathy and NO instant gratification from our parents, both my wife and I learned to handle boredom similarly.

We both had a “GO-TO.”

A GO-TO is an easily accessible, enjoyable activity to help counter boredom and boost creativity. It’s a magical remedy used to build your story, move beyond the virtual and live in real time. 

Now don’t get me wrong. I realize recent studies suggest boredom is necessary. It enables creativity and problem-solving by allowing the mind to wander and daydream. However, it is my belief, that rather than daydreaming, a GO-TO can offer the same benefits of problem-solving and creativity. A GO-TO is usually a reliable, easy activity, requiring little concentration, and allowing the mind to wander.

Growing up, I relied on three GO-TOs when I was bored.

  1. Backyard Basketball – When I was 10-years old, I remember my dad giving me and my brother an option. “Would you rather go to the circus in New York or have a basketball goal in the driveway?” I know it’s an apple to oranges choice, but that is honestly what it was. With little consultation with my brother, we decided on the basketball goal. For me, the goal became my primary GO-TO! When none of my friends were around, I’d head out to the driveway and shoot some hoops.
  2. Oh, how I loved my bike – Growing up in a small town in upstate New York, there was nothing like taking off on my bike and exploring the backroads. First on my 1981 Mongoose Chromoly BMX bike, then later in the 1980s, a white Mongoose Switchback mountain bike. When I rode my bike, my mind would wander. I’d reflect on my relationships, my goals, my aspirations. This is very similar to the creative ideas people often report while they run. I have a colleague who says his best ideas are the ones he thinks of when he runs.
  3. Wiffle Ball – My third GO-TO required only a Wiffle ball and bat. Being a HUGE Yankees fan growing up, I spent countless hours in my backyard tossing the
    ball up and whacking it repeatedly. Prior to each hit, I would set up a scenario for added drama. “Two outs. Bottom of the ninth with Yankees trailing 5-2. Don Mattingly steps into the box with the bases jammed.” All this, of course, was said in my best Phil Rizzuto impression.

My wife would often take long road trips with her family. There were no iPads or DVD players with drop-down video screens in her late 70’s station wagon. Instead, to pass the time, she and her sisters were left to create their own amusement, their own GO-TO games. Here are her top three:

  1. Sing-a-longs­­- her oldest sister was a Girl Scout, so all the songs she learned she taught the family and they sang them over and over. Now our kids know them.
  2. Find it – Everyone was challenged to be the first to spot a deer OR windmill. The winner received an ice cream cone. Actually, everyone did, but it was a good incentive and back then, it didn’t take much to motivate a child.
  3. The Alphabet Game – Starting with the letter A, the girls would call out a category such as fruits and vegetables, TV shows, or cities and they would take turns naming an item from that category. Imagine the difficulty when they would get to letter X.

What our parents seemed to understand back then, is that boredom is necessary. Boredom is a tool to stimulate growth and creativity. It forces us to sit and ponder, to self-regulate, to focus, to think constructively.

Somewhere in time, boredom became taboo. It is falsely assumed if a child is bored, then parents or teachers “aren’t doing their jobs.” They feel the need to scramble and find some form of instant gratification for the child, eschewing the chance to problem solve for themselves.

Nowadays, in many situations, video games and other forms of screen time have become the default GO-TO. In a sense, they are the ONLY GO-TOs.

In my opinion, the primary way to find a GO-TO should involve a break from the blue screen. Not long ago kids would have “screen time” a designated amount of time to play a game or watch a video.

Now screens have become educator, babysitter, parent, sibling, friend, and dominator of time. It is as if every moment has to be filled with something. This is why we all (adults included) need our GO-TO.

A GO-TO should:

  • involve movement, hands-on experiences, or even getting lost in a novel
  • be organically developed by the individual who is experiencing boredom, something they truly enjoy
  • be a time to sit quietly, unplug and find solace

There is a difference between boredom and solace. Solace is what we strive for, it’s the feeling of being okay with the quiet and inactivity. Being able to sit in the silence, listen to our breathing and reflect. Sound impossible? Maybe, but if you can knock on solace’s door and walk in, it’s a game changer.

So challenge yourself by limiting your children’s device time and encouraging them to find their Go-To.

Tell them everything works better if you unplug it for a while, especially us.

Teach them it’s okay to be bored, to look up and count the cars on a passing train, or pick up a pencil and sketch, or just sit and embrace the solace. Like my mom said, just “Go be bored.”

Your screens won’t miss you. They aren’t going anywhere.


Ducharme, Jamie. “Being Bored Can Be Good for You-If You Do It Right. Here’s How.” Time, Time, 4 Jan. 2019,

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One Comment on “REGARDING BOREDOM: Yesterday versus Today. We all need a “GO-TO.”

  1. Pingback: The PE Playbook – April 2019 Edition – drowningintheshallow

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