Hobbies in adulthood — A must have
Originally published on LinkedIN
When I was a school going child, I used await those long winter and summer holidays. Not because I will be free from studying or our family had an exotic trip planned. But because I could spend every few hours a day on that masterpiece I have been egging to create:
A full chart size of water colour painting, or a Tanjore painting on a treated canvas board, or an oil painting or a madhubani painting!
Somehow after school, when the summer and winter holidays vanished, my hobby painting vanished. But fiction reading tagged along.
Later on as an early professional I joined the intellectually heavy field of behavioural science for social change. Non-fiction books eased their way into my free time. Both fiction reading and painting cast away from me.
A new me evolved afterwards:
I became a stickler for maximising use of human potential. I didn’t see the point of pursuing interests without any goal with it. So one evening five or six years years ago, I decisively committed myself to a few things :
1. That I will attempt at advancing my skills and experience across all my key interests — interior architecture, writing, complex problem solving, urban prototyping with intelligent tech, folk art, doodling, and everyday flexible product and furniture making.
2. And that my every millisecond is of value. And so I will look into crafting a lifestyle where everything I do is monetised.
My first commitment paved my way to becoming a polymath. My second commitment on the other hand was in fact practically possible in my head. Why won’t it!? So in 2018 when I chose solopreneurship over full time working, I plunged in to creating income out of all the six feathers I had collected and preserved.
Only to realise: What have I gotten into!? This is misery!
In this capitalistic world that strives for productivity, the societal signals I had absorbed informed me that:
I am of value. And I took it to mean, every moment of my life is of value. I shouldn’t waste it.
If this is so, I thought, why would or should I do any work for free?
If I am able to make a living by working on everything I like, why not as well earn income from them all!?
This made logical sense. Valuing self and maximising my potential, all while earning money from everything I do and love seemed a splendid approach to a non-industrial creative life full of energy.
There were no more hobbies per say, other than birding, socialising and digital entertainments. With my new virtue that every minute of my life counts, all skill based interests / hobbies I had: be it interior designing, painting or writing, I chose to monetise them all.
This was the worst decision I had made in my life until now. I realised this only last year, when I plunged into burnout.
Hobby gets its word from ‘hobby horse’ — A small stick toy with the horse’s head on the one end. Centuries ago, a job pursued for the sakes of amusement or interest was compared to that of riding a hobbyhorse. which eventually came to be known as hobby.
By definition hobby is an activity pursued for relaxation or pleasure, out of interest. It is NOT the main occupation.
There are many reasons why we need to have hobbies. But to simply put, hobby hours allow us to put a full stop to individual responsibilities. They encourage us to focus our attention on something completely unrelated. This switching in tasks and goals help our brain to rest and rejuvenate.
Advancing in one own hobbies* involves challenging personal comfort and strength in something we do for fun. Not out of responsibility or accountability. This releases the pleasure hormones. And accomplishing the advancement is rewarding and pleasurable. This mood of pleasure and accomplishment often gets carried over into other aspects of our life, such as work and chores.
Imagine for a moment that you share my misguided virtue and choose to monetise your hobbyist skills. In no time they will become stressful as now you are looking at options to market your hobby skills, find new clients or build more followers.
In the process you are expending efforts away from your main income source. You are no more in the mood of pleasure and accomplishment. But constantly stressed about what more you can do to advance your ‘hobby business’. You no more have activities where you let go of yourself and fully immerse in the action that you enjoy. Be in that state of flow.
*Mind it. Only active hobbies such as sports, strategy games, tinkering, travel and socialising provide long lasting positive impact. Passive hobbies such as digital entertainments, although pleasure releasing in the moment, they are found to fooling our brain away from reality. And often we carry forward thoughts and stress from work as we passively consume digital entertainment — a leading cause for burnout.
Culturally, pursuing a hobbies at the peak of adulthood is often uncommon and not encouraged. Financial growth and acting on responsibilities are what is expected out of working age adults. While we are seeing shift in cultural practices in this regard, our mindsets still respond with the conventionally conditioned tendency.
We do not segregate out days and weeks into tasks between work and hobbies. We take pride is declaring we are busy and that we have no boundaries between weekdays and weekends. We over work ourselves, get stressed and burnt out. Our priorities with regards to values of self, family friendships and building a social circle gets thrown out of the window. We pursue short term gains such as scoring high on performance reviews. And miss out on the long term gains of mental and physical wellbeing, more enriching family and social relationships and fulfilling personal growth.
It is empathetically understandable why. We live in a capitalistic economy and financial growth is paramount. Work opportunities are only for the perceivably abled, i.e. adults between 18 to 65. So we fear about our expenses and quality of life during later adulthood. And so we work hard and smart now, to live a quality life later.
This may sound logical and reasonable.
Nevertheless, I end by requesting you to ask yourself, it this rat race worth it?
Are you failing to realise the support that recreations and hobbies provide in achieving your long term goals of financial security and good quality of life?