There is a quote by Maggie Smith in Downtown Abbey which, heard in its definitive English, sounds like a bolt of lightning: “stop whining and find something to do.” She addresses her granddaughter, who cannot find a job, nor a way to contribute something to others, and shares the suffering caused by inactivity.
[Por qué no digo lo que pienso: la teoría de ‘la espiral del silencio’ que debes conocer]
Etymologically, being bored is something horrible: the word boredom comes from Latinspecifically from the prefix “ab” and the word “horrere”, that is, it would mean something like losing the ability to relate to what imposes or scares us.
Sometimes the ability to be bored is praised, confusing it with the ability to do nothing or with that of carrying out tasks that have another, deeper utility (Nuccio Ordine masterfully explains this difference in The usefulness of the useless) and, in parallel, other authors exaggerate the situation, making it impossible to avoid (as with the new Boreout syndrome): that combination of worry and boredom (stress and boredom) may already be a characteristic of our time.
The theory of Flow
The Hungarian-American theorist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi formulated the ‘Flow Theory’ in 1975 in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology. This state of flowwhich he describes in his publication, is an “optimal experience” in which a person is “completely absorbed” in carrying out an activity that he enjoys and during which, thoughts and actions flow naturally.
Does this happen to you often? So it’s a sign that you’re doing something right, no matter how stressful the circumstances: this theory comes from hundreds of psychologist interviews with his patients, in which it was often used water as a metaphor for easy and joyful movement, like the flow of a river.
Achieving this, for the author, is more related to factors specific to the activity than to external factors, fundamentally two, and opposite ones: the feasibility (according to the skills that one has developed in one’s life, among which are concentration and attentional processes) and, in parallel, that the activity is sufficiently challenger (a goal that is too easy would cause apathy, and a very complicated one would cause anxiety).
The personal vision model
How to land that idea of the connection with an activity up to the point of ‘flow’? The Dutchman Salem Samhoud developed (in a 2010 publication with Ilse Nelemans, titled You are who you become) a “personal vision” model that can be very useful, when it comes to establishing priorities, or when there is a time that allows for reflection.
According to this model, just as successful companies have a vision, with “values”, “skills”, “mission” and “ambition”, each human being can individually complete these sections of their personal vision. Ideally, the projects would then be the sum of those “personal visions.” Not having a personal vision would in fact be a way of having one, so one cannot escape the model.
How is this exercise completed? Some people, its creators explain, will be more attracted to the more philosophical part (values and mission) and others to the most part practice (skills and ambition or goals)but with this activity the aim would be to compensate both parties, which we all have more or less developed.
After this first reflection, we normally start with the qualities (these are choose only threethe main three), in response to the question ‘what are you good at?’, answering the question of ‘‘What do others always tell you that you’re best at?’ either ‘What activities have you always excelled in?‘ and even using the concept of flow, ‘What do you lose track of time doing?‘. Below, the values that you defend and without which you cannot tolerate continuing anywhere, ‘What values do I defend?’.
Afterwards, it is about filling in a mission statement, in the pure philosophical sense, a initially phrase that gives us energy and portrays uswhether more related to personal development or contributing to others (the two main vectors).
And finally, to reach a series of objectives (personal ambition). These objectives must be measurable, achievable and, as the authors Collins and Porras point out (the authors of the well-known Built to last), they have to be “hairy” (scary as a bison, literally). The maximum that is programmed here is two years of work and the most important period is the first six months and one year, in which the KPIs, typical in the company, are defined: the “small achievements”.
If the model is completed correctly, must be consistent: we cannot demand achievements that are not in accordance with our current abilities (in some cases, we will have to prepare more) or go against our values or way of seeing the world: in that case, they will have to be reviewed and rewritten according to our belief system.
In short, the possibility of doing nothing is completely open, provided it is chosen, but for people who want to set goalsthe best is that do it according to the skills that they have developed, within the framework of their values, and connecting with those activities that, in a VUCA environment (in English, Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous), allow us to connect with our best version of coping.