If you don’t already have a hobby, that needs to change today.  Whenever I have a client who talks about needing a change, confidence, or something to reduce stress, I always recommend starting a new hobby.  Everyone needs a variety of ways to connect to the world around them, and I find that not having many activities out side of you job and your chores leads to a life that is less than fulfilling.


I recently decided to take up Aikido.  I have always been interested in martial arts, and since cycling season was winding down, I figured it would be a good idea for warding off the seasonal blues.  Of course, since time is limited, I made sure that I  really knew what I was investing in.  I couldn’t be more pleased with my decision.  Aikido is a moderately non-violent martial art that focuses more on balancing yourself as an individual than on manipulating another body.  Since I started, I’ve been reflecting on the benefits of the activities that we hold onto just for the fun of it.  Before I really challenge you to find one of your own, I’d like to share what I find should be the benefit of any recreational passion.

I'm on the far left, proudly donning my white belt.  If Aikido interests you, check out BuShinkan Dojo in Nashville.

I'm on the far left, proudly donning my white belt.  If Aikido interests you, check out BuShinkan Dojo in Nashville.

You get to be bad at something.

After growing up in martial arts, I recently found myself as a white belt for the first time in 20 years.  Donning a white belt after identifying myself as a black belt for so long was very humbling but important.  I get to make a statement to my teachers and peers that I don’t know what I’m doing, and any help you had to offer me would be greatly appreciated.  Also, what is great about being a white belt is I am almost guaranteed to learn something new every class.

When I invite my clients to take up a hobby, I prefer it to be a new hobby.  My reasoning for this is I want my clients to develop the boldness to do something that they know are bad at.  However, since they can understand that they are new at these activities and not bad at them, they can practice forgiving themselves for not being perfect.  I find that’s good for everyone.  In the same way, as they continue developing these interests, they will inevitably improve at these new hobbies, and in doing so, their self-confidence grows.  That doesn’t even include the added benefits that may come with that particular skill.

Hobbies make learning fun.

Everyone enjoys obtaining new information.  However not every means of obtaining that information is enjoyable to everybody.  You may love reading but hate school.  To adopt a new hobby is to learn a new skill.  Start by making sure it’s one that you will enjoy acquiring.  Martial arts tends to hurt at times, so I could understand if that process of learning isn’t worth the knowledge that person would obtain.  However, I highly recommend your new hobby have some practical use to justify the time investment.

To give an example:  you might like to develop your proficiency in a language.  You could start tutoring refugees if you enjoy learning socially.  You could take a class if you enjoy that setting, or maybe you even mix hobbies by developing an interest in music or movies in that language.  Another example of how hobbies might be practical is as it may apply to gardening or exercise.  Why not make it fun to make improve your health?

Your life gains balance.

This might seem pretty obvious by now right?  I’ve already mentioned ways that hobbies could make your life more fulfilling, pleasurable, and healthful.  However, I’m going to use a personal story to drive this point home.

My wife is really good at a lot of things, but she has never really had a preoccupation that she really took ownership over.  The way I used to say it is she never really had “her thing” the way some people might.  She likes her job, and she’s good at it, but alone, it didn’t bring her the fulfillment that she craves in life.

Then she discovered roller derby, and a new woman was born (we call her “Cruella”).  Now, she might scoff at me referring to derby as a hobby, but it has been the perfect outlet for her to develop and showcase her beauty, power, grace, intelligence, and attitude.  Having watched her transition into Cruella, her life is night and day different.  Stress was always inevitable, and I won’t begin to claim that derby has done anything to detract from that stress.  But now there is purpose and deep satisfaction behind the stress she feels at derby.  That satisfaction and purpose that she experiences in the derby world spills over in to her work life, and I imagine it makes it a little easier to deal with me as a husband too.  It just goes to show that stress will affect you differently if you can assign purpose to it or gain an outlet for it rather than work to avoid it completely.  

I’m not suggesting that everyone should pick up something as extreme as roller derby.  But I will conclude with this bold statement:  if you are working harder at something you don’t enjoy in life than at anything you actually do enjoy in life, your life is not up to the standards you deserve.  Your life is fleeting, and it is worth seizing.  It may take time, but it’s not too late to start shifting it towards a better balance between work and pleasure.