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 When Did I Become Boring?

Quick – answer the following questions: What’s your favorite restaurant?  Type of food to cook?  Favorite sport to watch or to play?  Favorite thing to do if you were told you had a whole day free with no commitments?  Favorite place to travel to?  Dream vacation destination?  Celebrity you admire or person from history you wish you could meet?

All of these are pretty standard questions that you’ll probably find yourself being asked at a dinner party, family gathering or work event.  When, then, did it become hard to answer some of them?  I don’t mean about things you actually dislike doing. If you hate sports, then of course you don’t have to have a favorite sport.  But some of these questions are about things we love to do, and yet we still stand there, staring blankly, wishing we had an answer but unable to come up with one.

I found myself at a loss once when someone asked me what my favorite restaurant in NYC was.  I love to go out to eat, but I realized I didn’t have a favorite restaurant.  I hadn’t realized it until this question was posed, but I think I was so preoccupied with work and my routine that even in my free time I wasn’t making conscious choices about how I wanted to spend my days.  Which amounted to not exploring my city like I should have.

Instead of being excited about finding new places to eat at or new neighborhoods to venture to, I was being complacent even about the fun aspects of my life.  Suddenly I couldn’t even come up with my favorite restaurant!  How could I not have an opinion on the most basic of topics?  I did not like that I was turning into what I felt was a boring person.

When We Used to Be Unique

When I was in kindergarten, we learned a “big” word.  The word was drilled into us by our teacher and I remember thinking it was so cool that I had learned a word with so many letters, that sounded funny and that started with a “u”.  I also loved the meaning of the word.  We were each, she told us, over and over again, unique.  “Unique” she explained, meant that nobody else in the world was like us. We were special. And we believed it, and we embraced it.

Whatever our interests were, we were told to pursue them.  But somewhere along the way, this stops.  We grow up. We get more structure in our lives. Schedules are filled with school and activities, but not necessarily the ones we want to do.  By the time we have jobs, especially if they are demanding ones like Biglaw, if we aren’t careful, the little free time we have is sucked up by things that are easy to do, like watching a couple of hours of TV that we don’t even particularly like.

Did My Job Make Me Boring? Are All Adults Boring?

The answer to the first question is, maybe. The answer to the second question is, no, absolutely not! (If you ever need inspiration for the second point, just look at Richard Branson. Aside from giving the best advice (like writing it all down), the man is literally living the best life ever, every day, on jet skis, hot air balloons, hanging out with his family, playing tennis, oh and running billion-dollar businesses.)

Even if you’ve lost some of the uniqueness that made you so special as a little kid, it’s still in there. You just need to dig it out.

Pursuing interests and hobbies takes effort, so if you’re all tapped out, it’s often times easier to forego doing something that would bring you joy in favor of watching TV or mindlessly browsing the internet.  Sometimes it’s just easier not to make a decision about what to do.

I bet I’m not alone in having once wondered whether I’d become boring.  I blame it partly on my job and how much time and effort I put into it, both at the office itself and outside of the office thinking about work.  Being defined by your job is one thing; being able to define yourself only by that job is another.  The first issue I dealt with in my post about the dangers of defining yourself solely by your job.

The second issue I’m going to address here.  Whether you are a Biglaw associate, in another demanding field, or have left the traditional work force entirely, a lot of us struggle with whether we’ve grown up and become boring.

Do we all have to grow up and lose everything that was interesting about ourselves?  No way! It might take some time to work out the interesting parts of you and bring them back to the surface, or to make space to explore new interests, but it is totally possible!

You’re Not Boring! Here’s What to Do to Revive Your Unique and Fascinating Self

I’m going to outline a strategy for you to tap into your creative, unique, fun, playful, interesting and totally un-boring self.  It will take a little bit of work on your part, both to identify what you are actually interested in, and then to make the space and time to pursue those things. So get out your notebook (I personally prefer Lisa Frank ones – long-live the crazy colors and patterns of the early 90s) and get ready to brainstorm.

1. What Did You Used to Love to Do?

Think about what you used to love to do as a little kid.   This is such an important thing to know about yourself that I plan to come back to the topic in future posts, but for now, just pick a time period in your life where you had the most fun and think back to what used to light you up.

Brainstorm as many things as possible, even if they seem silly or useless.  Write them all down in a list and we’ll come back to it later.

Here are a few ideas, categories/prompts and examples from my own life that might remind you of some things from your childhood, too. Did you love:

  • Gym class / recess? What in particular? Was it the mile race or pull-ups test? Obstacle courses? Team games like soccer or kickball?  Playing on the monkey bars?
  • Taking care of pets? Going to the zoo?  Being outside in the woods?
  • Watching TV shows? Which ones in particular? Watching movies?
  • Reading? Writing your own stories?
  • Crafts? Making things and giving them as gifts? Drawing cards?
  • Taking photos, printing them out, putting them into collages? Scrapbooks?
  • Collecting things; whether it was bookmarks, stickers, erasers, bugs, baseball cards, etc.?

2. What Would You Like to Do Now?

Similar to identifying what you used to love to do, think about what you love to do now and that you wish you could do more of. Or maybe there’s something that sounds cool to you but you haven’t tried it yet, because you’re too scared to or because you don’t think you have enough time.

Below are some categories to help prompt you with ideas.  Explore the categories below, and any additional ones you can think of, and list out everything that you would love to spend more time doing (again, even if it sounds silly or useless).  Do you love:

  • To cook or bake? What kinds of food?
  • Taking photos?
  • Watching TV series or movies?
  • Reading books? What kind? Fiction, non-fiction, humor, etc.?
  • Writing? About what?
  • Studying and learning about a topic in-depth?
  • Crossword puzzles? Card games? Board games? Other games?
  • Sports? Watching, playing, coaching, learning new ones?
  • Trying foods from around the world? Cooking those foods? Vegetarian cooking?
  • Crafting? Selling your crafts? Giving them as gifts?
  • Hanging out with dogs?
  • Drinking? Making craft cocktails? Becoming a wine expert? A tequila expert?
  • Learning languages?
  • Watching the news? Talking about it? Can you write about it? Do you have one friend in particular you can talk to about it?
  • Taking car rides to small towns outside of your city?
  • Going to national parks?
  • Going to church? Volunteering?
  • Teaching? Tutoring?
  • Animals? Music? Concerts? Museums? The list is endless!

3. Go Through Your Two Lists, Identify Your Key, Current Interests and Put Something (Or Many Things) On the Calendar.

Now that you have compiled what is hopefully a long and probably eclectic (or rather, unique!) list, it’s time to go through every item and think about them and whether you’d like to pursue those interests more.

It can be as small as reviving your love of school field trips by planning a trip to a local museum and packing a lunch and snacks for the day.  Or planning a weekend trip to a local park to stargaze, reviving your love of the planets and all things about space.  Or it can be as big as finally deciding to master the French you sort of learned in high school, or coming up with a savings plan and dedicating yourself to making your dream trip to the South of France come true within a year.

Whatever interest it is you decide on, put it on the calendar! If it’s cooking a French meal, then write out all of the things you need to do to accomplish this – such as, finding a recipe, buying the ingredients and picking the date you want to make the meal.

Put all of these steps into your calendar. It might seem silly, but it really, really helps! It not, all of the sudden it will be Saturday, the day you were supposed to make your French meal, and you won’t have even found a recipe. If you put “find recipe” into your calendar on Wednesday, shopping on Friday, and cooking on Saturday, then the chances of it happening will be much greater!

All of the sudden, you’re not boring anymore!  Now you’re a museum-goer, amateur astronomer, Francophile, world traveler to-be and budding French-chef!

Interests & Hobbies

When I was still at my Biglaw job, we used to interview students for summer associate positions, which would eventually lead to full-time offers of employment at the firm after law school graduation.  Candidates we were interviewing usually included a line at the bottom of their resumes reserved for “Interests” or “Hobbies”.

After reading through resumes together, we would often remark that the candidates seemed so much more interesting that we were!  It was said in a sort of joking way, but I think it was actually true.

At first glance, this sounds a bit sad, but I prefer to look at it as encouraging.  It wasn’t that long ago that law firm associates were the “interesting” and “unique” summer associate candidates, so it can’t be that hard to get back to being your interesting and unique self, full of your own interests and hobbies. And totally un-boring!

Have you ever feared you were becoming a more boring person than you were as a child?  Do you think your demanding job contributes to this?  Did you do anything about it or just accept that this was the case? What hobbies and interests do you make the time to pursue, even with other commitments? What’s your favorite restaurant?

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