I love boredom. I don’t mean that I sit around watching the same informercial more than once. “Here comes the best part! Three easy payments!” Not that kind of boredom.
The kind of boredom I love is when I try something that’s difficult, scary, or risky. Then I add systems, routines, and habits to make that activity as boring as possible.
That’s the kind of boredom I love. Systems, checklists, and repeating something the same way over and over and over. That kind of boredom allows me to do something I wouldn’t be able to accomplish otherwise.
Skydiving can be boring
Skydiving is a good example of what I mean. Let’s face it, the entire concept of skydiving is somewhere between mildly stressful to the I-think-I might-die kind of stress.
To cope with the stress, I add a bunch of boring routines and habits to the process. The stress doesn’t go all the way to zero but it’s reduced enough so I can focus on the important parts of skydiving. Less stress then allows me to relax so I can enjoy myself and not just be frozen in fear.
Stress is both good and bad
After all, some stress is okay because it makes me pay attention but too much stress is not good for performance. Stress can make me freeze up, choke, panic, or otherwise make a mess of what I’m doing.
Too much stress also can make an experience so painful and unpleasant that we never try it again. Just think of all the life experiences people have missed out on because they were scared and didn’t even try. Or maybe they tried something a few times but never gave themselves the chance to even get past the stressful part of the learning curve.
So my goal is to make skydiving automatic, routine, and even boring as possible so my stress level is reduced. That makes it easier to function so my heart’s not racing and I’m not all bug-eyed and fumble-fingered. Really, who wants to be like that.
Habits and routines
Each time I jump I follow the same routine. When I get to the airport, I schedule my time based on when a plane is available. After that I check my skydiving gear by looking at the belts, handles, and fasteners to see they’re all in good working order.
Then it’s time to relax until my plane is called. I repeat the same gear check over again when they announce that it’s 10 minutes before takeoff.
When I inspect my gear, I touch whatever I’m checking and even say out loud what I’m doing. Not so loud that you could hear me 50 yards away but just under my breath. Because I don’t want people to stare.
Anyway, that routine makes me aware of each step. I’m no psychologist but I think combining the different senses of vision, touch, and speaking makes everything sink in. Then I feel more confident I didn’t miss anything.
After getting in the plane we start the climb to the usual jump altitude of 13,000 feet. When we reach 6,000 feet, I make one more gear check. Some of that repeats the two gear checks I did on the ground but I just want to verify nothing got jostled loose boarding the plane or bumping up against other jumpers.
At 10,000 feet I put on my helmet and goggles. At 13,000 feet, just before I step out of the plane, I do one final check. I reach back to make sure the deployment handle is in the proper position and look at my chest strap to see that it’s properly threaded and not too snug or too loose.
The boring part
Heres’ the boring part. I do the same procedures and in the same way each jump, every single time. If I do 5 jumps in one day I repeat the same sequence over and over the same way. In fact, it makes me more relaxed because I feel in control and know I haven’t forgotten any critical steps.
I mentioned that I do certain reviews at 10 minutes, 6,000 feet and 10,000 feet. Is there anything magic about those numbers? No. I could easily do an 8 minute check or at 7,000 feet or any other number within reason. But I keep using them because the habit prevents me from having to expend too much mental energy wondering what to do when.
One final item that I always do. I have a logbook where I write down the details of each jump including the type of airplane, jump altitude, free fall time, and whether I jumped solo or in a group. The logbook gives me a chance to think about what went well and where I can improve. Also, I have a record if I need it for more advanced training or licenses.
Okay, but I don’t go skydiving
So you’re probably thinking, “I don’t go skydiving so what does this have to do with me?”
We should treat our lives with as much respect as skydiving. Sure skydiving is a very focused and concentrated activity and the risks are high.
But isn’t your life just as important? If you would be willing to set up habits to make sure you cover the essential parts of skydiving why not do that for your relationships, health, fitness, finances or intellectual and spiritual growth?
Because the consequences of neglect in those areas can be just as important as a parachute strap that’s not buckled.