rebelling against low expectations

Bored? Read this!


Fellow rebelutionary, Spunky Junior, shares the following quotation by G.K. Chesterton: “There are no boring subjects, only disinterested minds.”

Chesterton is right. When you think about it, there really aren’t any intrinsically boring topics. After all, some people really are interested in studying a dripping glob of congealed black tar for decades on end. In fact, someone won an Ig Nobel Prize for doing just that.

However, although there isn’t such a thing as a boring topic, there is such a thing as a bored person. Each of us experiences the feelings of boredom on a daily basis. Unfortunately, many of the things that seem boring (or disinteresting) are the very things that develop godly character and competence — things like school, reading our Bible, studying theology, or spending time with our family.

Here’s the question: What is boredom and how can we change our interests so that we enjoy doing hard things?

So what is boredom? Our father has always taught us that boredom is the mind’s equivalent to hunger. Just like hunger signals your body’s desire for food, so boredom signals your mind’s desire for mental stimulation. To put it simply, when you’re bored, your mind is hungry and it wants to eat.

When a person gets hungry enough, they’ll eat almost anything. It’s the same with boredom. If you get bored enough, you’ll start reading through the dictionary. I know, because I’ve done it before… And actually, I learned a lot of neat words.

So being bored, like being hungry, is not a bad thing. What is bad is when we satisfy that hunger with worthless clutter. Just like you can appease physical hunger by eating physical junk food, you can appease mental hunger by filling your mind with mental junk food. We eliminate the feelings of hunger, without delivering the nutrition our body needs. We eliminate our feelings of boredom, without allowing it to accomplish its intended purpose, which is to drive us to seek knowledge and gain character through study, contemplation, and hard work.

To make matters worse, we live in a world that seems intent on eliminating all feelings of boredom, without really feeding anyone’s mind. The Internet, 24-hour cable television, TiVo, cell phones, pagers, instant-messaging, text-messaging, email, and iPods, are just some of the ways our culture allows us to be constantly connected to, interacting with, and entertained by people and media.

It’s kind of like living in a world with big bowls of cheese puffs everywhere. Everyone is constantly munching. Hungry even a little bit? Pop a handful of cheese puffs! There’s always a bowl right next to you. In fact, you never even get hungry enough for a real meal, because you’re always eating cheese puffs.

We can laugh at how ridiculous that sounds. After all, our parents would never let us continually snack on cheese puffs, and we wouldn’t do it anyway. We know that ruining our appetite for what is substantial, healthy, and nutritious is foolish. And yet we are constantly ruining our mind’s appetite for what is substantial and intellectually nourishing, by filling it with mental junk food. One of the reasons we often procrastinate about important projects is because we never allow our brain to get hungry enough to enjoy tackling it. We just satisfy it with cheese puffs.

Our appetites are very much shaped by what we satisfy them with. If we always drink a Coke when we’re thirsty, what we will start longing for when we’re thirsty? Coke. If we always eat cheese puffs when we’re hungry, what we will start longing for when we’re hungry? Cheese puffs. In the same way, if we always surf the Internet when we’re bored, what will we start longing for when we’re bored? Surfing the Internet.

You see, we don’t get nourished, we just satisfy the feelings of boredom. But that just makes our minds more hungry, so we surf the internet a little bit longer next time (maybe a little bit deeper too). We’re constantly ruining our appetite for activities that grow godly character and competence, and then we wonder why they seem “boring” or “uninteresting” to us.

This is a call for action. It’s a crisis and an opportunity. A crisis, because we cannot afford to continue appeasing our mind with junk food. An opportunity, because by guarding what we feed our mind when we are bored, we can shape its appetite to long for what strengthens and nourishes it. The more we do that, the more we will enjoy completing our God-given responsibilities and the more great things we will accomplish.

So what do you use to appease your boredom? First, recognize it. Once you’ve done that, make a focused effort to stop using it to appease your boredom. Instead, try this: Let yourself be bored for a while, then tackle something hard. It could be finishing a project, reading a great book, organizing an activity with your siblings, or any number of things. Just make sure it’s not something that comes easy. Once you’ve done it, come back here and tell us about it.

Further Reading: “Do Hard Things” Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Have Fun

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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • hmmmmm…your boredom analogies are kind of like the saying ” I don’t want to be pacified, I want to be satisfied.”

    I prevented myself from being bored tonight. I spent the last um…..many hours, making Valentimes Day cards with a lady from church and my sister! 🙂 I have no one to give the cards to but I have them. Maybe one day I’ll find them useful……. 🙂

  • How about sending those valentines cards to abandoned children?

    “All you NEED is LOVE” Penny Lane Valentine’s Day Outreach 2006
    Every Child deserves to be loved.Penny Lane serves children of all ages who have been abused abandoned and neglected, families in crisis and young adults building lives that break the cycle of abuse.
    THIS YEAR, Penny Lane is reaching out to you and to the community with our Valentine’s Day OUTREACH!
    Share the love you have to a Penny Lane child who needs it!
    OUR GOAL: Gather 1,656 Valentine’s Day Cards – one card for each child, teen, young adult, and family served by Penny Lane. Each card represents a moment of love
    That can brighten a day and build a positive future.
    HOW? Simply send a Valentine’s Day card to Penny Lane
    DUE DATE: Send all Valentine’s Day cards by February 13th
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  • I really enjoy and appreciate your blog, and I enjoyed this post in particular. I am one of those people who tends to spend a lot of time surfing the web instead of being productive, so I will be sure to keep your advice in mind next time I’m bored.

    Thanks for keeping me thinking. =)

  • Hi! I�ve been hearing a lot about you guys and your blog for a long time, so I decided to check it out. And I’m really impressed! From the little I’ve read on here so far it seems like a really great place for teens. Thanks for being an inspiration! 🙂

  • The article was wonderful!

    On a side note, in Firefox, the recent posts say they have 0 comments, when in fact they have many. I don’t know what’s causing that, just thought I’d point it out.

  • I always heard boredom defined as “Lack of imagination to come up with something useful to do with your time, usually used as an excuse to get somthing or play a game, ect.”

  • I agree with Nick. When most kids say, “I’m bored,” they usualy want something from a parent or grandparent, or to be entertained by someone. I think we as teens and young adults should think before we decide that we’re “bored.”

  • WHEN were you guys so bored that you had time to read a dictionary??? Knowing everything that you guys do, and remembering two novice debaters who made it to nationals…I just don’t get that.

    I really liked what you said about the cheese puffs. Its so true; when you train yourself to want something, that’s all you want.

    Thanx for all you are doing

  • Well, I’ve been “bored” enough to read the dictionary, and it has helped me with my school in the past so I can’t say that I was really “bored”. Alex, Brett, I read about you guys in the World Mag article about homeschooling bloggers. Keep it up you guys!

  • I’ve never thought about boredom like that before …. I’ve been told that it’s wrong to be bored. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I think it’s what you do with those feelings of boredom that’s right or wrong. You can either just turn on the TV, or you can go read your Bible or pray for a while. I think this is a great article, since I get bored sometimes (and don’t always make the right choice!), and I’ve found the article very encouraging. Thanks!

  • A very thought provoking post. I must admit though, that I read the dictionary even when I’m not bored 🙂 (Its actually very interesting!)

  • I was bored this very evening. Because of a busy day full of new information, my mind was on low power before diner. After eating and going with the family to see a display, my mind was refreshed and demanded more stimulation. My brain seemed to say in a disturbing monologue (and I don’t really have voices in my head):
    “I wanna play the piano.
    “Well since someone else has it, I wanna do email, and check out the Rebelution.
    “Someone is on the computer? Bother.
    “I’m bored.”

    So, with no lighter diversion, I went and read Orthodoxy. It is not fun fiction or dramatic news, but an involving, humorous, book about truth. The truth can be complicated, but not from Chesterton’s pen. Connecting ideas in exuberant acrobatics of logic, he reveals the risibility of philosophies in his time. (He also uses better taste in sentence construction and diction than I just did.) I’m currently early in Orthodoxy, having recently finished the prequel Heretics.

    Bored? No, longer, for by doing the hard thing of reading a theology, I fed my brain.

  • Great article, thank you. When we were younger, my Mum banned us children from saying the phrase “I’m bored”. I think it was a great idea as the word “bored” is now almost nonexistent in my vocabulary! There was (and still is) plenty of work to be done. *smile*

  • ^
    My mother used to say “Boredom is a sin” every time I would say “I’m bored.” I never really thought of it as mental hunger before! I think next time I’m bored I will say, “I’m hungry” and then fill my brain with nurishing food.

    Thank you for the insightful post!

  • O my gosh it works! ive been putting of studying for finals for a long time so i sat my self in a chair and stared at the floor for an hour and then went and studied im surprised how much i learned and how unboring i was!!!! =)

  • I love this article. It has changed how I look at a lot of things. I think more now, rather than just filling my mind with distractions.

  • Wow! I never thought about it that way! Great job in bringing that to the light! I will definitely remember that. I have been doing that alot lately- filling my mind with mental junk food. So now I think I’ll go have my meal by reading the book I keep putting off!

  • […] barrage of blog posts Jump to Comments Yes, daily blog posts, sometimes a few a day. I think i’m going to be subjected to this forthe next three months, thanks to having only one half day of class a week. Contemplating finding work or starting to sell stuff again. Selling is abit sporadic though. I’m just dying to get out of the house most of the time. Feeling like the dog again. Not that feeling bored is bad, just a natural hunger for some mental stimulation. […]

  • Wow! I have never thought of bordom that way before! It really makes tons of sense and I can’t wait to erase the most popular word from my vocabulary. Thanks for shedding some light on the subject. Keep it up you guys, God’s doing awesome things through you two!

  • After the first Paragraph I felt guilty for even opening this page. I was very interested in the web site, just tired and ready to go to bed. I didn’t finish the article, for now at least because I am going to bed. I want to read through some more of this site when I can focus.
    I am sure there was more to thee article than saying, if you opened this page then you are “disinterested in whatever you are seing.”
    Which at this time is anything but true.
    Gosh I am tired.

  • PS
    watching a blob of black tar sounds like something a person with no purpose in life would do….and for decades?!!! That is very sad. Think of all that time that could have been used making a difference in our world. UNless the difference that person would make is negative. This is a very long Post Script and I really do have to go to bed…
    Going now for real..

  • Today, in four of my classes we did close to nothing because they’re going easy because it’s the first day after spring break. So in document processing, I went to your guy’s site (right here) and read stuff, that might just have already changed the way I think about life and doing hard things. In my math class I finished my late work, and told a friend about your book. In English I practiced my people skills with people who hate me, made a few friends, conqured a few fears. And in Study hall I let out all my stress by finishing my homework, and then drawing for extra credit in art. Thanks for posting this, guys, it’s great. Also, I can’t stand being bored because it makes me feel like I’m wasting my life. So, I’m glad I know what I have to do now to become un-bored and do hard things at the same time.

  • I think boredom is WAY too common in todays society!
    We have so much to do now, so much to see yet everyone is still always bored, what’s with that?!
    I bet if we spent every minute we spent being bored each day, reading the Bible, we’d proubably have the ENTIRE Bible read THREE times a week!
    Just imagine how much closer we’d be to God and how uch more knowledge we’d have!
    We could have the entire Bible read a dozen times a month!
    Seriously, that’s how often people are bored today and I think it’s crazy.
    God has given us so much in our life, beautiful wildlife, nature, pets, family and much more, yet we find ourselves bored WAY WAY too often!
    I should almost challange myself an anyone else who wants, each time you get bored, read one chapter from the Bible, then see how fast you get the whole Bible read.
    You’ll proubably be suprised how fast you get through it!

  • hey, I got saved last week at Falls Creek, it was my first time and when I got back my grandma gave me Do Hard Things book and I read it and it was really good, and I just thought I’d tell everyone here…

  • I’m homeschooled also…so boredom comes pretty easily for me. I’ll always have time for a book though, and a few that have really impacted me are Do Hard Things (of course), Defending Your Faith (R.C. Sproul), Hard To Believe (MacArthur), Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis) and Battle For the Beginning (also by MacArthur). I would recommend those to any Christian, especially teens, since they touch on subjects that might come up at school, like evolution, and why you believe what you believe. good books like that are an awesome cure for boredom for any teen looking to benefit from those times you think you’re bored.

  • HEY!!! I used to read the dictionary for fun when I was younger (4-10), and I still do, sometimes, but not as often. I read Mere Christianity four years ago, and I really want to read “The Screwtape Letters” and “The Three Loves”, both by C.S. Lewis. Has anyone here read any of John Eldrdge’s books? Speaking of evolution, have you seen the article “Why I am not an evolutionist” at

  • hey
    i just finished “do hard things” and ive been talking about it to evreybody! i checked out this sit and was very impressed. Just wanted to say thanks!

    P.S. the article was a good wake up call!

  • You guys r GENIUSES!!!!! I never thought about it that way.
    PS I read the dictionary when i’m bored 🙂

  • Wow. This is a challenge. I mean a BIG challenge. I work a part-time job from home at the computer. I usually finish my work in the evening after schoolwork and all my other responsibilities, so it is very easy to just start reading the news in the evening when I’m done, and it’s so easy to spend an hour or more on the news. I’m going to try doing something profitable in that time instead, maybe go to bed earlier and start getting up early. Thank you so much!

  • So true!!! It drives me crazy when my friends say they are bored! It usually seems to be when there is a lull in the conversation. How come we can’t seem to have moment of ponderous silence without someone feeling ackward? Must there always be noise? What has this world come to?!

  • Great article. It’s poking at me right this second, so now I’m going to finish “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne. I’ve been putting it off forever, but now’s the perfect time to eat away at it!

  • That was a GREAT article!! It makes you think about what your doing in your spare time. I had a friend that said he was bored every time he was not playing on the computer.
    P.S. We are not friends any more.

    I FOUND THIS BLOG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  • I find myself bored even when I’m doing something, but until I read this article I realized that that someting was eating. Thank You Alex, Brett and Jace!!!!!!

  • I found myself bored today because my church is having all of the teens do a fast of all media that is not christian so I am struggling on things to do. I am glad that this article was here so i could find something to do. My english teacher has a quote every time someone is bored: “Only boring people should get bored”

  • I read the book Do Hard Things & it seems like I do all that stuff you listed already. Yet I don’t know how deal with teachers that are evil & want to annihilate & then obliterate me! In those classes I’m anything but bored.

  • This is a great article!
    Years ago my mum said to me: ‘If you’re being bored, you’re being selfish.’ I’d never thought about it like that before, and I’ve never forgotten it. I realized that an instant (but not necessarily fun) cure for boredom is doing something for someone else – a younger sibling or your mum or dad. Now, every time I open my mouth to say ‘I’m bored!’ this sentence pops into my head and helps me do the right thing.
    I read Do Hard Things six months ago and it totally changed the way I think about my life.
    Thank you Alex and Brett! May God continue to use you for his glory.

  • hey. this is for all christians, but especially for christians that come from a more “modern backround of worship.

    try looking up shai linne. he is a christian rapper from philadelphia pennsylvania, and he is my absolute favorite! other rappers are: trip lee, lecrae, and tedashii. i seriously recommend you look it up!!

  • This article was great! I get bored very easily. And most of the time, I go browse through the kitchen to find a snack and never find one, or go on facebook.
    I love your analogies, and how you said to do something a bit difficult! I’ll try that.
    After recently reading your book, I’ve wanted to do something hard. But what? Well, it could just be doing something simple like not going onto facebook when I’m bored! 🙂

  • I was instantly convicted of sin when I began reading the article. I have not termed my boredom as such for a very long time but realized that I do still feel it. Never have I dealt with it in the right way. There are plenty of diversions-reading a book or texting a friend. My hard thing, however, I am still looking for. I have no idea what could be special and hard enough for me. Maybe my hard thing will be doing something mediocre.

  • wow! this was unexpected 🙂 I never thought about boredom this way before. THANKS GUYS!

    Rebecca- yes, I can relate to that. I do the same thing……

  • I think this was just what I needed to hear! I get bored easily, as I like being around people, and since I’m homeschooled I don’t have much of a social life. I know I probably drive my mom nutty when I say “Mom, I’m bored!” yet again.
    But I see that I should be using those times when I’m bored to do something more productive. My problem is that I need to find something hard and productive to do instead of having the excuse that there’s “nothing to do”.

    But thanks Alex and Brett for the encouragement! this post is really helpful and your book “Do Hard Things” helped change my mindset about what teens are capable of doing. Thanks!

  • thaanks alex and brett for writing this! i alwats say im bored when im shopping. im trying to challenge myself t only SING country music. HARD!!!! i come from a family of rednecks and all we listen to is country. i have also found that christian music dosent have as well as a beat. now i do say that i like lecrae the rapper. hawk nelson is good to but im to young to have a car so i cant play it on the radion. any other coooooool christian artists with GREAT beats?zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz sorry i hate black friday shoppind AND the plastic factory

  • nomnomnomnom, food-for-thought-snack!

    Thanks for posting this. After reading the one on how you can do hard things and still have fun, I was hoping you’d have a post like this, too. I get bored a lot and usually try to get un-bored by watching TV. It’s an astronomically bad habit that I still hope to break. It like, one of my harder small-hard-things. These days I’ve been attempting to dethrone that particular type of so-called-satisfaction with extra school work, violin practice, baking, or exercise. So far it’s not going as swimmingly as I’d like, but now that I’ve started the practice, I don’t really want to stop 🙂 Thanks again for posting!

    In Christ,

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →