What Dinner and Boredom Have in Common

“Not meatloaf again?!”

If you have kids, or were a kid, you’ve heard this cry. It might even bring back a few memories. Perhaps even memories from last night!

Why have we all heard this complaint, or something similar? Because of habituation. People become accustomed to what’s around them. This is why we’re thrilled with our iPad one minute, and bored the next. Why we have to have new paint colors every year. Or a new wardrobe every few months. It’s why we get used to the technological marvels that surround us. Habituation makes what was once wonderful, new, and exciting seem like, well, meatloaf.

The Same Old Same Old

Humans have always fought against habituation. I’m sure after the first caveman invented fire, someone came along and said, “Yeah I saw that last week.”

This can creep into our work, whether we find ourselves becoming bored with our work, or thinking there’s nothing “new” we can learn. We simply get used to what we already know.

The internet intensifies this a thousand fold. We’re constantly on the prowl for new rumors, news, or ideas. Whether it’s from Facebook, Google, news sites, and yes, Upmarket. We’re like addicts desperate for our next fix of something that doesn’t feel like it’s old.

This is a battle that creeps into the training design I do. There can be temptation to change the system, just because we (as instructors) become tired of the same old same old. Even as an author, I’m always trying to find a new way to say something. There’s always the thought of, “Maybe if I re-write this sentence, people will think it’s ‘fresh.’”

Habituation is all around us.

The Old Becomes New

So how do we get around habituation and the need for constant stimulation? I think the answer was well said by Erica Holthausen (a columnist here at Upmarket) when she said, “Those moments of rest allow us to get perspective before we get back to work.”

You see, it’s rest that gets us away from habituation. And we know this to be intuitively true. Because when we go on vacation, don’t we come back to work and say things like, “I’m rested now”? Or “I have a new perspective”? We’re excited to work because it feels new. Why? It’s certainly not because it’s new. It’s not because we have less work upon returning (we usually have more). The reality is, it’s the rest that brings us a new perspective.

What’s old simply feels new.

Rest isn’t important just because our bodies need to recover. It’s important so that our minds and creativity have a chance to recover. It’s important to reclaim the old, not as something new, but as something even better-useful.

Photo Credit: My Hobo Soul

About Eric Barrett

Eric Barrett is an organizational psychologist who specializes in connecting the dots of work, life, and meaning. He has worked as an organizational psychologist for over a decade, and is most recently working on developing social media guidelines for a real estate company. He also teaches psychology at Xavier University. In his spare time he… wait, who are we kidding… he has no spare time. You can follow him on Twitter @MeaningToWork or his blog at Meaning to Work.

Speak Your Mind