Here’s Why You Need a Hobby. Seriously.

You don’t have time for a hobby. I know. Here are three important reasons you should have one anyway, and how to get it done.

Photo by Chris Spiegel @_brmd for Indie Street Film Festival

Purpose

A sense of purpose is indispensable to a good life. In the best cases, we draw purpose from a wide variety of sources: work, relationships, service, community, and more. 

But we’re all very busy these days, aren’t we? Modern society rewards us for borderline-pathological busyness, and that can leave us with fewer sources of purpose than we might like. We end up trying too hard to find purpose in our careers, our children, or our partners — and that can put unhealthy pressure on those aspects of life.  

Finding meaning and purpose from a hobby acts like a pressure-release valve. It lets work be work, kids be kids, partners be partners.

(By the way, I’m also down with this approach to friendships and marriage. If you’ve got deep friendships to nourish you emotionally, you don’t have to rely on your partner for absolutely everything. It helps give your primary relationship room to breathe and grow alongside you. And that’s a very good thing.)

Parenting

If you have kids, carving out time for your own hobbies accomplishes three important goals at once:

It shows them that you value your time. And if you value your time, they’re more likely to value your time, too.

Given that hobbies take time, it tips the balance in favor of kids being responsible for more of their own care. Done gently and age-appropriately, handing kids the tools to their own success builds them up to be capable people. As my father-in-law liked to say, we’re not raising kids here. We’re raising adults.

Maybe most importantly, it shows kids that when they’re grown, it’s okay for them to carve out time for themselves. (And it shows them how to do it.) This is a good behavior to model for everyone, and it may be especially important if you have young girls in your household. 2019 or no, girls are still more likely to end up putting others’ needs ahead of their own. It can only be a good thing to show them what it looks like to advocate for your own happiness.

Productivity

If you need a productivity-related justification for your hobby time (and dudes, I totally get that, too), consider this: Having a hobby can make you better at work.

Hobbies are a lower-stakes place to build skills. Whether it’s honing your interpersonal skills through team sports, exercising your ability to think about the present and future at the same time through performing music, or simply building confidence through mastery, you’ll take what you learn with you into the earning world.

And if you work in a creative field, having a secondary creative outlet actually helps grease the wheels for work-related insights and growth. It’s kinda magic.

How to find a hobby

Maybe you’re reading this because you’ve already got a potential hobby in mind. But if not, how do you find one? 

I’ve got two favorite sources of inspiration to help find a hobby.

First, ask yourself what you loved doing when you were younger. Maybe it’s something you only dabbled in and regret not having committed to. Maybe it’s something you pursued extensively in childhood or young adulthood and eventually crowded out of your life. Either way, I promise you this: although you’ve grown and changed over time, you haven’t changed so much that you won’t connect with the passions you held honestly and simply as a child. You might need a more grown-up version of what you loved back then, but you don’t need to start from scratch.

Second, ask yourself what makes you envious. I don’t get jealous very often, but when I do feel that twinge, I know it signals something I’d truly like to accomplish in my life. It’s such a primal feeling that it’s clear you’re not messing with yourself. Addressing that feeling by pursuing a hobby isn’t as high-stakes as it would be to tackle it in the professional realm. (And hey, you won’t have to quit your day job to start that band or write your memoir.)

How to make room for a hobby in your life

Okay. Here’s the thing. The only way to make room for a hobby in your life is just to do it. Sorry, kiddo. But it’s true.

Like they say about having kids, there’s never a good time. You’ll never be 100% ready. And the fact is, you’ll only ever get anywhere by starting. You don’t have to have every detail ironed out before you start, and — in my opinion — you shouldn’t try to. You won’t even know the right questions to ask until you’re in the weeds. And that will be part of the fun.

Logistically speaking, it depends on your other responsibilities, of course. But one tip that applies universally is this: Make a commitment to find the time, and a commitment to show up for yourself on a schedule. Eventually you’ll be propelled by habit and by the joy of the endeavor. But at the beginning, honor your commitment to yourself the way you’d honor a commitment to a colleague, friend, or family member.

Group activities on a schedule can make it easier to show up reliably. But even if you’re learning guitar from free YouTube videos, decide to treat it like a nonnegotiable appointment, and don’t waste willpower renegotiating. 

What to do with your kids while you pursue your hobby

If you’re able, sometimes it’s simplest to pay a babysitter for a few hours of their time.

If that’s not an option, consider bringing a friend on board with this hobby thing. You could each pick an evening for yourself and trade off watching each other’s kids.

You could also rely on your partner, either in the same way you would with a friend, or simply by communicating how important it is for you to have some time. 

Ultimately, as kids get older, I’m a big believer in gently pushing the boundaries of letting them manage themselves.

And whether it’s kids, a partner, or a demanding boss, you may be surprised by how willing they’ll be to accommodate what you need, once you make it known. You’re valuable, and good people will want to keep you happy and thriving.

Okay, let’s do this.

How’s your hobby life coming? What’s working for you, or holding you back? Comment below, and share this post with a friend. Let’s make it happen.

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