Picking up a Hobby or Passion Project Outside of Work has Long-Term Benefits
No matter what stage of your career you’re at today, it’s important to come up with a play plan for yourself, a hobby or two that you can be deeply passionate about. It may seem frivolous to do this, though, when you’re busy prepping for an important meeting, completing a project ahead of deadline, or marching toward a milestone in your life. Some of us may choose to travel more, organize the basement, learn a new language, volunteer, or plant a garden.
While you are in the workforce, busy developing a career, it’s almost a given that you will forget to play (whatever that means to each of us). An adult who used to play a college sport, for example, could regain that excitement in discovering that same sport as an adult or perhaps find a thrill in picking up a new sport. Fedreica Bianco, Ph.D. in astrophysics, who teaches data science, started boxing while doing a post-doc, which then led to her entering amateur fights two years in, and eventually she went pro. The goal is to find that thing or things that ignite the kid in you and slot it into your work/personal life. Find a daily or weekly way to experience running without abandon to kick a soccer ball or sliding into third base in the pouring rain as a thirty-something-year old, which can be exhilarating and counteract a tough work week. Make it a habit that you commit yourself to, as your parents may have done for you, ferrying you to soccer practice, girl scouts, or ballet.
Those of us busy with families and commitments may be challenged to squeeze in yet another scheduled activity, but whether you plan to become a cross-fit enthusiast, knitting diva, or a cross-country ski buff, these activities can ignite a deep passion and provide some surprising benefits:
- Mental toughness
- Sharper focus
- Personal growth when taking on new challenges and risks
- Volunteerism (especially within the niche of your hobby)
- Optimizing your strengths
- Recognizing potential weaknesses
- Increased collaboration (especially if involved in team sports)
- Stress-relief from a busy work week
- Social outlet
- Healthier aging
Because these “passion projects” are chosen by each of us for joyous reasons and not for financial reasons, some characteristics of nurturing a passion or two can even enhance your personal and work life. Did you know that Tina Fey was working the front desk at the YMCA and taking evening classes at Second City in Chicago? Tina also played high school tennis. Developing your passion on the side isn’t just for famous folks. Kayla Buell, author of Corporate Survival Guide for Your Twenties: A Guide to Help You Navigate the Business World and creator of the Gen Y Girl blog, wrote her first book while working a pretty typical Monday-to-Friday desk job. For fans of British television, The Great British Bakeoff (American audiences know it as The Great British Baking Show) features bakers who are home cooks; in other words, it’s their hobby, and they get to display their technique on the global stage.
There’s no pressure to go pro with your new-found hobby. Portland-based rocker-by-night Erin, shares her experience of finding a musical outlet that really connected with her:
“I received a gift of going to Ladies Rock Camp for my fortieth birthday. Along with a couple of friends, in one weekend I joined a band, wrote an original song, learned to play bass guitar (which I had never touched before), and performed in front of a live audience. One weekend of rock ended up not being enough for me, and I went on to take bass guitar lessons which turned into songwriting with the bass. Soon I felt I needed to take my music even further and formed a band, Ruby Calling, with two musician friends. I learned how to be in a band, how to sing and play bass at the same time, and how to write songs I wanted to sing. After two drummers and a few years, the band disintegrated. I tried not being in a band, but that didn’t feel right. I auditioned to join an already existing duo, and after four auditions, we finally decided we were a good fit. During the past year and a half of being in the new band, my skill level has grown tremendously, and I look forward to continued learning. During the past ten years I have attended Ladies Rock Camp ten times! It turns out that for me, Ladies Rock Camp is more fun than should be legal. I highly recommend it!”
In Erin’s case, sometimes the sheer joy of stretching yourself and perhaps realizing a childhood dream or tackling a new project gets your creativity moving into high gear. With the new year sparking thoughts of goals, perhaps now is a great time to consider what you are compelled to try (again), learn, do, or make. Ideally, you should pick a hobby that stays with you for the long haul. Tennis and golf are among the most common hobbies that have long-term potential (and even business applications), but other activities can be rewarding as well.
For me, I discovered tennis (again) just three years ago and have been focused on gaining new skills on the court, growing my tennis community, and volunteering with tennis organizations. What’s your passion?20