During childhood, it’s normal for us to have extracurricular activities that we pursue for fun and self-enrichment—outside of our family and school responsibilities. These activities allow us to develop new skills, build friendships, and express our energy and curiosity in different ways. As we get older, hobbies and clubs also can take our minds off of the more stressful parts of growing up and making decisions about our futures.
So why do we often stop pursuing these enriching activities in adulthood?
As adult multipotentialites, we can often integrate many of our diverse passions and interests into our lives. But these pursuits can notoriously take the form of side hustles and part-time jobs, as opposed to activities we do for fun, to enrich our lives.
One of the most significant challenges to making space for non-work hobbies into our lives is overcoming the idea that whatever we spend energy and effort on needs to be earning us money, now or in the future. This pressure often comes from societal expectations and difficult economic realities. But we can also internalize it, making it difficult to enjoy our leisure activities. Sometimes, the pressure is so intense that we either give up our passion projects or seek to transform them into sources of income.
Is it time to bring some hobby energy into your life?
I recently realized that practically everything I was spending my time on was related to either earning money or working towards my future career. As a graduate student in music, my writing and production projects tend to be for classes or for clients. My current part-time work includes teaching music lessons, tutoring, and freelance writing. Even as a creative writer, I’m often working on poetry for a particular project or with a goal of publication in mind.
While I started out reading existentialist philosophy for fun as an undergrad (as one does…) the subject quickly evolved into a research and career interest for me as well. I have noticed that when I read Camus or Kierkegaard as a “break” from my other types of work, I am partly doing it as background research for my future dissertation! Essentially, everything I was pursuing—even the things that didn’t look like “jobs” in the present moment—was in some way related to my career or future goals.
Consider your own life. Do you spend most of your leisure time on activities that could almost be considered work? Even if these are all activities that you enjoy, it can be easy to unintentionally turn your personal time into career time, until you become acclimated to a sense of constant productivity. If you begin to feel an internal sense of obligation to make progress on a project that started out as a hobby, or you make plans to monetize the activity in some way, those are good indications that the activity is likely crossing into work territory. If you are happy with the idea of this existing hobby becoming a work activity, it can be helpful to explore introducing a new hobby as a low pressure change of pace from your busy multipotentialite work life.
I feel like I am on the cusp of having a work balance that integrates all of my primary career interests, which is genuinely exciting and rewarding! But I also recognize how many of my favorite childhood activities have gradually slipped away in the face of more “adult” pursuits and responsibilities. I had a lot of hobbies throughout childhood and my teen years that brought joy to my life. It doesn’t make sense to neglect these hobbies now, just because they aren’t a part of my career goals!
Why hobbies are worthwhile
Logically, it doesn’t make much sense that we tend to feel a need to justify hobbies to ourselves. After all, these are activities that we do for fun, to bring joy and enrichment to our lives and perhaps to the lives of others around us! But the reality is that our work culture, especially in the United States, does not reward us for pursuing fun activities without a “productive” end goal in mind.
Having healthy hobbies outside of work benefits our overall mental health and self-esteem, and can support better physical health as well. Group-oriented hobbies and volunteer projects can also help us to build new friendships as adults and feel a stronger sense of engagement in our communities. On a more basic level, engaging in activities we enjoy makes us feel good, and provides us with a break from the other areas in our lives where we might feel overwhelmed or drained.
Here’s the kicker: Spending time on hobbies that aren’t related to your work can actually enrich your work life as well. Having a variety of hobbies can foster creative thinking and support the generation of new ideas. So, you can enjoy your hobbies with the confidence that they have meaningful benefits for multiple areas of your life!
How to bring hobbies back into your life
If you’re ready to pick up some hobbies again, the first step is choosing what activities to pursue. One of the best sources of inspiration for hobbies to take up can be your own life. Picking up something you used to enjoy can reignite a passion for an activity you may have gotten bored with before, or it can provide you with a sense of familiarity and nostalgia for what might have been a simpler time in your life. By restarting an old hobby, you can also skip part of the introductory period of learning something brand new, especially if you might not have the mental energy or motivation to try something totally different right now.
But, trying something new and even doing it badly can also be rewarding! If you are up for a new experience and want to learn something new, don’t place pressure on yourself to do it really well right away—or ever. When we pick up something for the first time, it’s normal to not be very good at it, and our evolution is part of the joy of learning. Depending on the hobby, you will probably get better at it over time as you spend more time doing it. But if you don’t feel like you’re getting better, should it really matter? If making art enriches your life and brings you joy, but you don’t think you’re very good at it, don’t let perfectionism talk you out of enjoying the process.
Embracing the journey
I recently picked up sketching and drawing, something that I largely gave up in high school when I found that writing and music were more natural creative outlets for me. In returning to drawing without expectations or goals of becoming a great visual artist, I’ve found that the process naturally helps to clear my mind so I can produce better creative work in my primary mediums.
I started doing vinyasa yoga more often, too. I had partly given it up a couple of years ago, after I decided not to pursue yoga teacher training. Reinvigorating my yoga practice has helped me to reclaim why it was meaningful to me in the first place, and it helps me to feel more centered in my other pursuits. I also got back into collecting baseball cards, which was one of my favorite hobbies as a kid alongside playing softball and going to MLB games every chance I got. This hobby is fairly inexpensive, and it helped me to reconnect with how I saw players’ stats as telling a piece of their story as individuals (a subtle precursor to my existentialist bent).
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from reintroducing these hobbies into my life is the necessity of maintaining a focus on why you’re spending time on a hobby in the first place. Hobbies should be activities that bring you joy and fulfillment, not additional obligations to cram onto your calendar. If you find that you’re struggling to keep up with all of your hobbies, try prioritizing one or two or creating a rotation for yourself to alternate hobbies each week. I love skateboarding, but I don’t always have time to go on long rides every week when I’m also doing yoga. I decided that, since I like to skateboard the most in autumn weather, I’ll do yoga over the summer and then prioritize skateboarding more in the fall.
You might also find that some of your new or reintroduced hobbies start sliding in the direction of work or side hustle. If this notorious multipotentialite transition begins to happen for you, that’s okay! Just consider introducing a different casual hobby into your life in place of the one that has evolved into a side hustle or freelance gig. Allow your mutipotentialite curiosity and ingenuity to guide you to pursuits, new and old, that bring you happiness… and preferably no income!
What are some of your favorite hobbies? Have you ever struggled with turning your hobbies into jobs, even if that wasn’t your original intention?