In a culture that has taught us being productive is the key to our success, we've ignored what can happen when we power down our screens, slow down and allow stillness into our day to day lives. Today, most of us are focused on squeezing out every minute of the day into the building blocks of a promised future, and we assume that doing less – or GASP! even being bored – is a sign of weakness, discomfort, or something to be fearful of. With devices that distract just an arms length away at all times, we don't have a quiet moment to ourselves. Fear lies in even entertaining the idea.
And we're passing these expectations and behaviours onto future generations.
Do you remember growing up before every waking moment was organised, streamlined, accounted for? There was time to read for pleasure, imaginative play in the backyard, hours for lego, play-doh, drawing, dress-ups, and cycling up the street. My busy parents expected me to entertain myself, and if I cried boredom, they'd cleverly quip, "Well then, we'll give you something to do!" The threat of doing household chores quickly snapped me out of my complaining. I'd sulk off to my room and made absolutely sure I found something to do.
There was no emphasis on 'at-home' education, far less homework, and fewer after-school activities that these days equate to a goal-oriented existence. Have we taken the fun out of childhood with the pressure we place on ourselves and parents, to always be switched on, working on bettering ourselves and our kids? One has to wonder. What effect is this having on our children's creativity, their mental health and the relationship they're building with themselves?
Maybe it's unrealistic to run away from our productivity-obsessed culture and our natural desire to see ourselves and our kids succeed, but we can seek out refuge.
Swimming can help us switch off, gifting us with a short safe haven from those pings, rings, and brightly disruptive red things. I'm often thinking about the lifetime value in learning to swim, and while the survival skills and physical fitness benefits are obvious, I believe the mental aspects are just as valuable and can be hugely impactful to kids growing up as digital natives today.
It's in the boredom that comes with swimming – whether it's the repetition in learning a new and difficult skill, or the incessant black line we follow to get faster and maintain our fitness – that this skill reveals how we can reach break-throughs – in finding success, in creativity, in problem-solving.
"I'm BORED!" We've all said it or endured it. Let's face it, swimming can easily feel monotonous. When you're learning, it's challenging and that frustrated expression can be the only thing that gets the point across that we're not enjoying ourselves. However, if kids stick through the boredom, through the tediousness of learning a new skill, it shows them that eventually they'll have a break-through. It reveals that all that necessary practicing is the key to improving. It shows kids that sitting in the uncomfortableness of repetition can bring reward in getting really good at something.
And with buoyancy and movement mastered, laps of the pool follow. More repetition in following a never-ending black line. Once we're at ease at moving through the water though, it's a gift giving us the ability to relax. We don't have to focus so much on the physicality of where we are in the water and so we're free to let our minds wander. And when they wander, we tend to daydream. Have you noticed it's always in these moments when you're distracted, creativity arrives?
There's much to be said for being bored. For empty moments where you're left free to wander, to ponder, to worry, to wonder. It's in the mundane activities and quiet moments of my own life where break-throughs are sparked. For me, it's when I'm in the shower, staring out at the world from my balcony, or, in swimming down at Bondi's Icebergs or Bronte's Baths – these are the moments when I come up with my best ideas. This almost never happens when my day is preoccupied with work, my to-do list, digital devices and the constant interruptions they bring. I'm guessing it's the same for you?
I may be biased... but I think swimming can be a powerful antidote to our always switched-on, productivity-obsessed lives. It's said that getting out into nature is one of the best things you can do to digitally detox and reset, but I find there's still the temptation to take your phone with you in your back pocket, 'just in case'. I know I'm guilty! When it's just your goggles with you though, you're forced into being free from all distractions as you simply follow that black line.
So, until goggles with built-in screens arrive, or our pools become underwater entertainment systems, I say we appreciate the time we have to ourselves in the water! Let's encourage our families to get comfortable with boredom, to seek it out rather than be fearful of it. It may just be in those slow, bored moments that you'll unintentionally be your very best self. Where creative genius may strike! Swimming may just be the priceless tuning-out tool we need to arm ourselves with, in an ever distracting, noisy world.
See you in the water! x Sasha