When you think of your favorite pastimes, you probably see them as simply that: a fun way to pass the time in between work and other obligations. Unfortunately, we’re made to feel as if our hobbies and interests are really just a waste, and should always take a backseat to doing real work that forces us to grow. Of course, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In actuality, our hobbies facilitate growth and learning in a variety of ways, whether we realize it or not. While it’s definitely necessary to spend time intentionally learning and pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, it may be just as beneficial to engage your mind and body in an activity you enjoy at a recreational level.
Obviously, this one popped into my idea before anything else. Writing is incredibly beneficial to a person’s intellectual, emotional, and mental well-being for a variety of reasons. It allows you to put your abstract thoughts into concrete words, making them tangible and understandable to you as well as others. When writing, you have the time to think of exactly what you want to say, and exactly how you want to say it rather than finding yourself tongue-tied or at a loss for the right words.
Writing also gives you the ability to see yourself grow over time, from your first blog entry or published article to your latest hard-hitting publication. Making your writing public also forces you to deal with constructive (and not-so-constructive) criticism from your audience. In almost anything you set out to do, you’ll certainly find those who disagree with you or have something negative to say; writing for a wide audience allows you to get used to it, and helps you learn how to use your audience’s response to grow.
Some of us are born to be givers. Although volunteering your time and energy obviously doesn’t result in being paid, there is definitely a lot to gain by doing so. Helping to plan, organize, and facilitate events builds the leadership and teamwork skills that are essential for those in managerial positions. Furthermore, volunteer experience looks amazing on resumes: it shows you are intrinsically motivated, and will give your all to a cause you believe in, regardless of whether or not you get reimbursed for your time.
3. Working Out
Exercising isn’t just about strengthening your body. It requires discipline, dedication, and hard work—all of which stem from a person’s mindset and willpower. Those who keep in shape generally eat well, avoid unhealthy habits, and put their all into everything they set out to do. They don’t go about anything absentmindedly; they always have a purpose when trying to accomplish a task. Not only do they set purposes, but they also have the self-confidence to know they can achieve anything if they work hard for it. This mindset makes them appear stronger than others, both mentally and physically.
Avid readers never stop learning about the world around them. Whether they enjoy keeping up with the news, reading memoirs or biographies, or diving into a classic novel, readers enjoy learning from a variety of perspectives. Most readers develop high-level critical thinking skills, always digging deeper to find out the truth behind a statement or story. This constant craving for the truth helps them understand not just what to do during work-related tasks, but also why what they’re doing is important.
Like reading, traveling allows people to see the world from a different perspective than they would have seen it from their hometwon or country. Traveling abroad also requires you to step out of your comfort zone, which is something a lot of us have trouble doing nowadays. Being in an unfamiliar town or country forces you to explore, try new things, and take certain risks. It’s pretty easy to understand the benefits this can have on your personality and career: Once you’ve been able to successfully navigate the streets of Tokyo on your own, giving a presentation to a bunch of C-level employees won’t seem like such a big deal.
I discussed the benefits of exercising earlier, so first of all, understand that everything I said there applies to yoga, as well. But practicing yoga has many calming effects on the mind, also. Obviously, yoga has a definite meditative aspect to it, requiring those who practice it to let go of all their earthly worries for the time being. To do so, you must be able to focus on the present, and train your mind not to wander. If you’re able to do this while completing major work-related tasks, your productivity will certainly improve.
7. Playing a Musical Instrument
Playing a musical instrument certainly requires a large amount of talent, but it also requires an incredible amount of dedication, as well. Musicians tend to be meticulous at times, playing the same lines over and over again until they know them by heart and can play them perfectly. Being able to repeat a task ad nauseum until it’s completed to the best of your ability is a skill that certainly has benefits outside of playing music. Furthermore, musicians usually play with other band members, so they must have great listening and collaboration skills in order to successfully perform in front of a large crowd.
8. Improv Acting
Improvisational acting requires you to be on your toes at all times, ready to come up with the next step in the (usually comedic) on-stage progression. You have to be creative while expressing ideas; you’ll never satisfy your audience by making the obvious joke or observation. Like playing in a band, doing improv requires you to pay attention to your partners and build off of their previous lines or actions. Being able to bounce off one another is a great skill to bring into the office, as you’ll certainly make a better impression during a presentation if you can show that everyone on the team is on the same page.
9. Playing Team Sports
Playing team sports requires you to fill a specific role in order to see the entire team succeed. Think of football (American football, sorry): most players on a team go entire seasons, and possibly their entire careers, without ever once touching the ball. With the exception of fumble recoveries and sacks, linemen rarely steal the spotlight. But they’re an absolute necessity if their team is to succeed. You might not be the star of the show in your office, but you can be sure that you fill a specific niche that is vital to the success of your company. While you definitely want to make sure you get ahead in your career, the best way to do so is to show you’re a team player who’s willing to do his part, regardless of whether or not he gets showered with praise for a job well done.
10. Playing Video Games
Gamers, rejoice. When your mom gets on your case about the cans of Mountain Dew gathering in the corner of the den, let her know you’re honing your career skills (unless you’re playing Grand Theft Auto; she might get the wrong idea). Seriously, though: video games force you to solve problems in creative ways, trying different solutions if a previous attempt has failed. Not only that, but any dedicated gamer will also tell you that it’s impossible to tear yourself away from the screen after failing a quest or mission; you just have to figure out how to get past it. This perseverance can benefit other aspects of your life, such as setbacks in your career. Working hard to overcome adversity will show your employer you have the dedication to do whatever it takes to find success for your company, as well as yourself.
Clearly, hobbies have the potential to improve your career-related skills in many more ways than you may have realized. One thing I do feel the need to mention is: you don’t see “watching TV” on this list, do you? It’s probably the one hobby that does absolutely nothing to further your career, unless you’re an actor or TV critic. If you’re not one of the two, turn the tube off and find a real hobby to enjoy!