I ran into a beautiful and brilliant past colleague of mine this weekend and her wonderful question prompted me to write this blog. What if you are really successful at and enjoy your work yet you realize that you also want to do things outside of work that you love? Your life has been going along pretty well but you come to realize that you don’t know what you enjoy doing in your leisure. My friend asked me, “You’re a life coach, how do I find a hobby?”
That got me to thinking. As children, we were exposed to so many new things. We had math class, arts & crafts, sports, reading, maybe even band. But as adults, we are trained to become specialists. We strive to be deeply knowledgeable in one field so that we can become “successful experts”. Growing up we were generalists, looking for what sparked us. And even if we didn’t like an activity, well, we were usually forced to try it anyway. Maybe you hated gym, but then again, perhaps you found that even though you hated softball, when forced to try it, you loved soccer. (And yes, try those vegetables; you might actually like them too.)
The openness to different activates continues through high school where you joined teams or other afterschool activities. The list is immense: photography, yearbook, student council, drama, math league, ski, band, cheerleader, choir, language clubs, and sports of every kind imaginable. Just pull out an old high school yearbook if you have one and you will be amazed at all the choices. In college we were not only allowed but also encouraged to hunt and peck and try out different fields. I took classes in anthropology, philosophy, linguistics, math, biology, French, chemistry, English and psychology and enjoyed most of it. Then we’re forced to declare a major and get specializing and before you know it, there were no more extraneous classes beyond your major.
I am not saying that becoming an expert in your field is a bad thing. I think it is a wonderful thing that we search and try to find an area that we love and enjoy working in (though many people don’t find that even in college). But why does broad sampling and experimenting with what we love to do have to stop after college? Why can’t we look around for what we want to do throughout our life, not just when we were younger? The answer is, but of course, we can and we should!
I know many adults who have found hobbies later in their life. My husband started the trumpet—an instrument he played briefly as a kid—just a few years ago and he loves it. My mom just took up the harp and she is so beautiful playing her lovely harp. One friend collects military ship first covers (stamps, that is); another does leather working. Several of my friend’s hobbies include animals—two ride horses and one trains and shows her Belgian Tervuren dog at agility trials. I am a sampler, myself. I was one of those high school girls who was always on a sports team, in musicals, sang in choir and even was in the math league, to name a few. Over my adult years I have embroidered, done lots of pottery, taken drawing classes and I even tried knitting this past fall. I also love to ask people what their hobbies are. You might be surprised what you hear. I’ll never forget when I asked a rather quiet colleague of mine at ABC TV what she was doing one weekend and she replied that she skydived every weekend!
So in answer to my friend, here are my suggestions for finding a hobby. Try sampling lots of different activities. Don’t prejudge whether it is cool enough or something enough—you have to actually try it out. Create a long list of things to try. Consider what you want from the hobby. Are you looking for a community? If yes, then look for ways to explore different pursuits that require you be with others. Even if it is a solitary sounding activity like knitting, you will find that there are knitting circles where people get together to chat while knitting away. Do you remember specific interests from childhood? Were you always outside running around or where you more interested in reading and drawing and quiet pursuits? So maybe you want the hobby to be more physical or more mental—or why not try out some of both? If you love yoga, why not get yoga teacher training? Or if hiking sounds intriguing, find an outdoor club. How does bowling grab you, or ice-skating? Ask everyone you know what they like to do and your list of ideas will grow. Play as much as possible!
You will be pleasantly surprised that just about anywhere you live, you can find clubs and associations and groups and places to do so many different pursuits. Most colleges also have adult classes that meet every week or just for weekend workshops. Don’t stop until you find something that tickles your fancy. Then continue to sample new interests throughout your life and you will be rewarded with accomplishment, community and even fun!