Boredom: The First Sign of Career Transition


Jason came in to see me describing himself as bored with his job. His goal for our work together was to find his purpose in life without risking any financial loss. After fifteen years in middle management in a large pharmaceutical firm that provided great benefits, he had lost interest in his work. He noticed he was mostly “phoning it in” and spending a lot of time watching You tube videos.

What made Jason unique in my practice is that he chose to seek a career transition coach before creating a crisis like substance abuse or illness as a way out of his job. Although the number one fear in America is the fear of change, (not the fear of public speaking) in the current economic crisis, people are turning to addiction as a way of dealing with boredom in their lives more than ever.

President Obama was elected as the guy who was going to bring change to the world but ironically, we are terrified to make any changes that could put ourselves at risk financially. The conundrum here is that if we don’t address boredom at its root by looking at its opposite, what we are interested in, we turn to ways to artificially create excitement which eventually leads to crisis and big financial loss.

Two different clients I have been working with are having affairs on their spouses. One is a male and upper class financially and the other is a female, and middle class and yet both will not leave their spouses whom they do not love any longer because they don’t want to lose 50% of their assets in a down economy. Now, of course eventually their spouses will find out and they stand to lose it anyway. If you were to look back at your life, way before you had a major crisis hit, how many times did it start with boredom?

There is much talk in the addiction field about gateway drugs – marijuana, alcohol, even cigarettes are now being seen as a gateway drug to deeper addictions. What if we looked at boredom as a gateway emotion? On the emotional tone scale it is often placed right in the middle with ecstasy at the top of the scale and despair at the bottom. If we begin to address our boredom head on and by the way, I am not talking about chronic boredom. Boredom as a transition emotion to change is boredom with a capital B. It has a definite onset where there once was enthusiasm. If you don’t resist this acute form of boredom and instead approach it directly with curiosity, it will move up the emotional tone scale. The key is to notice the opposite state – where is interest or passion showing up? Jot down all the times you feel an emotion that is higher than boredom and then look at your list.

Do any of these things constitute a possible hobby or avocation like charity work? For example, did you notice you were not bored when you were giving back to others or when you made your own little home movies and put them on You tube? Hobbies and and charity work can go from being an avocation to a vocation while you are still keeping your day job. Allow boredom to be the gift that shows you a cycle is coming to a close and you can now prepare for a change before it reaches sudden catastrophic levels. Your body will thank you for it, believe me!

Dr. Toni Galardi is a psychotherapist, career transition coach, and the author of her new book, The LifeQuake Phenomenon: How to Thrive ( not just survive) in Times of Personal and Economic Upheaval.

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