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Beautifully Boring.

Dec 01, 2023


Thirty short days remain in 2023 as I sit down to write today. Thirty days to make the most of this year, finish strong, crush your goals, we’re told by the social media gurus filling our feeds with one-liners.

These same feeds also tell us to spend time with family and friends, revel in the joy of the season, buy things we don’t need, attend parties for which we’re way too tired, travel long distances, eat, drink, and enjoy life with reckless abandon. At the same time, be sure you don’t forget to let gratitude, hope, and love fill your heart and spirit around the clock.

How is anyone supposed to keep up?

It's easy to see why we feel anxious, overwhelmed, and stressed this time of year. The usual bombardment of conflicting messages we’re fed daily is amplified during this short window. I’m not here to add to the noise, or to offer a critique on the value or potential harm of social media. Instead, I feel called to share what the previous 11 months of 2023 have taught me.

There is beauty in the boring. Yes, I said it. Boring is beautiful.

This statement can be jarring. It’s contradictory to the deep-seeded programming our brains have undergone since toddlerhood. We’ve consciously and intentionally been wired to fill every available moment with activity, capturing every minute with a joyous snap for our followers, celebrating busyness. Fortunately, “becoming unbusy” has proved to be an increasingly popular viewpoint in our post-pandemic world. Yet, it’s still difficult to avoid the overload in these precious last remaining moments of the year.

Possibly because being busy has been celebrated while boredom has been vilified. The conversation we need to be having, however, isn’t about busy versus boredom. It’s not about living a full, invigorating, and stimulating life versus laying on the couch all day mindlessly staring at the television because you don’t have anything better to do (the assumed definition of boredom).

Instead, we need to be exploring the beauty in the intentional creation of a life that prioritizes the boring.

This may not come as a complete surprise to my readers, given that simplicity is a topic I’ve routinely discussed on our collective journey to discovering and investing in our best selves. Launching a path to simplicity this year and learning through each of the phases has truly changed my life. You might recall my description in an earlier blog of an “elimination diet for the soul” and finding freedom in simplicity. I’ve learned though, that pursuing simplicity tends to lead to one of two paths which are typically described as minimalism or boring. I’m here to share that they aren’t necessarily the same thing, and you don’t have to choose between them.

Once I started moving beyond the tactics of embracing simplicity, the unintentional byproduct has proven to be the design of a beautifully boring life.

The word “boring” comes with many negative connotations, which I’m choosing not to perpetuate here as I don’t subscribe to them. I don’t believe I embody them. And others don’t have to do so either. The truth about the boring is that it’s freeing. It’s authentic. It’s peaceful.

My definition of the boring, and my version of a life designed around the boring would look different than yours or anyone else’s. What’s clear though, is that the boring isn’t necessarily about lack of activity, as much as it is about lack of disruption, chaos, and preventable stress. The beauty in the boring comes from intentionally designing a life that values your time, your priorities, embraces the simple, and preserves your harmony.

For me, that includes what may be seen as mundane for some – rotating the same meals each week; conducting the same household chores at the same day or time; wearing one brand of clothing; adhering to a daily routine such as a cup of tea at the same time; gifting the same thing to my loved ones; doing the same exercise routine; simplifying my appearance; declining invitations that will irreparably disrupt what I’ve designed.

This doesn’t mean I don’t eat at a new restaurant or attend a crowded summer concert. It doesn’t mean I don’t travel or go to parties. It doesn’t mean I don’t have interruptions to my routine and must fulfill obligations that require time I don’t want to give. It doesn’t mean I am incapable of embracing the spontaneous or being flexible.

What it does mean, though, is that when I’m faced with those inevitable circumstances, I have a higher tolerance for them. Much more so than when every other aspect of my life required an “all gas and no brake” approach. When we’ve given control over our own life to someone or something else, with little room for our own free agency, tolerating the bombardment of the chaos that is hurled at us at every turn is intolerable.

Instead, when every other aspect of my life preserves the boring I’ve designed on a consistent basis, life’s interruptions seem minor in nature, and ones through which I can persevere, rather than an insurmountable obstacle adding the final straw to the proverbial camel’s back.  

Soon, our feeds will be filled with messages of how we need to transform ourselves in the new year because we clearly aren’t enough the way we are. We’ve been in this cycle for generations now, whether it’s about a resolution to lose weight, earn more, achieve better. In some cases, we’re participating in the negative narrative without even realizing it. This year, if you’re feeling the need to transform, consider a transformation that explores what the boring means to you.

We’re not alone in this endeavor. Many thought leaders, social scientists, and accomplished researchers are concerned about our toxic obsession with achievement and “enough-ness.” I’m making my way through Jennifer Breheny Wallace’s recent best seller “Never Enough” (2023) to learn more about the effect of this toxic cultural message on my children’s generation, as they are coming into their own.

Maybe, just maybe, if more of us begin to celebrate and live in the beautiful boring, today’s young people will move into adulthood with a new perspective. It starts with us.  

Michael Macrae can help you easily navigate the steps to simplicity.

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