Helpful hints for the hobby hunter.
When you read advice for retirees who need a new hobby the old saying, “Follow your passion” frequently surfaces. First, I would like to complain about the use of the word passion here. If you actually do possess a passion there’s very little doubt that you are not following it on some level. Passion is too ‘in your face’ to ignore, no one needs to be told to follow it. If you’re not following it, there probably is a good and legitimate reason for your choice, like it would leave you bankrupt, divorced, or an amputee, or you simply can’t justify investing your time in it right now. You folks with passions that you either are or aren’t following, you can skip the rest of this piece.
This is for the rest of us without passions. This is for all of us who, instead of passions, have sparks of interest. Most of us are more likely to have some interest or spark towards an activity than a passion, and we can be very comfortable ignoring such things for years, even decades. I have found that by paying attention to how I reacts to what I read, what I hear, what I see, followed with listening to that tiny voice that says, “I could do that” or “I wish I could do that.” You read a book or a blog and you come away wanting to do some writing. You go into a coffee shop and hear a folk singer and you want to go home and get your guitar out. Someone tells you about the hiking they did, and all you can think about is how much you miss being in the woods, take note. Keep a list of the times you feel drawn to try something. What I have found is that a lot of us are really bad at paying attention to ourselves, noticing our own reactions. When we are fully employed and spread thin with assorted commitments we become very good and letting these tiny nudges go undetected.
Our manager brain overrides the sparks we feel when something interests us. We may briefly notice that it sounds appealing and promptly file it for later (much later). Or we undermine the prompt with reality checks, like the equipment for that sport doesn’t fit my budget now and without investigating any practical options, like purchasing used equipment or renting, we’ve effectively squelched the interest.
Sometimes a lack of confidence shuts down the interest, we focus on our lack of talent or ability rather than taking the opportunity to increase our skills. This negative thinking happens so quickly, so stealthily, that before our interest has registered it’s already dead in the water. Does any of this sound familiar? When exploring hobbies I have started focusing on the spark that I feel when I’m exposed to something I like or when I hear about someone’s experience that peaks my interest. I have begun paying closer attention to these things. Yes, practical considerations will surface, but don’t let them dampen the initial connection you feel to an activity.
The words of the 70’s ring true still, ‘get in touch with yourself.’ It can be a bit embarrassing to admit, but for many of us we don’t know ourselves too well. We don’t know what we would enjoy, partly because a well-managed practical life hasn’t allowed us to consider the question too often. I have seen all sorts of inventories for helping a person identify interests, values, talents, and they have their place in clarifying one’s sense of self. But nothing beats careful listening. Listen to your heart, when do you feel a spark, or a pull towards an activity? When you hear about other people’s activities do you wish you could do that as well? Even if there’s a good reason why you won’t have that particular experience, make a note of the way it clicked for you. The connection could indicate that a change of scenery and travel makes you feel alive and engaged, or perhaps that you like a physical challenge or the satisfaction of physical activities, or it may be that nature’s beauty brings you contentment and happiness. Pay attention to what grabs your attention and pulls you in and you will find the interests that are well suited for you.