It seems to me that these days, not much value is placed on the practice of puttering about having hobbies. You know, extracurricular activities, pastimes, leisurely pursuits and diversions?

Hobbies are those things we undertake for the intrinsic joy of doing them, or sating our curiosity in the name of learning and discovering something new, or improving at some undertaking over time.

These days, I’ve noticed that more and more people seem to have fewer and fewer hobbies. I imagine it’s partly just The Way Things Have Gone, as life has become faster and busier and more full of everything except for patience and peace of mind.

Plus, let’s face it: social media is where we put all the spare time we insist that we don’t have to commit to things like hobbies. We scroll our time away, feeling terrible about comparing ourselves, rather than while our time away on things we might enjoy or that might enrich our experience of life.

It seems like hobbies are viewed as a waste of time. If it’s not profitable, then it’s not worth doing. It seems like everyone’s got a side hustle, or is just plain old hustling hard on their main gig (would that be a front hustle?). It’s not really a hobby anymore if it turns into your livelihood and MUST pay for your mortgage and groceries.

Certainly it’s possible to turn hobbies into a career and still enjoy it. But generally speaking, I think the pursuit begins as a hobby, not as a business plan. One great example of this is Julia Child, who said, “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”

Wouldn’t it be lovely to be passionate and tremendously interested in your life? I think so.

I think the ROI on the having of hobbies is undervalued, both in terms of tangible and intangible returns on our investment. I guess it depends on what you view as a rich life…

While it may not need to become a golden goose, your hobbies don’t have to be useless, either. Think about the early days of the pandemic: everyone in the world suddenly became very fascinated with baking bread, which you learn about here. I know many people who have drastically improved their skills in the kitchen during the past 10 months or so, simply because they were stuck at home, bored with the same old dinners, and decided to learn new recipes.

These pandemic pastimes helped make a challenging and uncertain time more palatable, and enjoyable, even. They provided diversion, entertainment, focus, and even a sense of purpose and control.

I can attest to the benefits that come with dedicating time to leisurely pursuits for no other reason than purely wanting to learn something new or improve at something old. I’m a big fan of having hobbies. I’m a 40-year-old dancer, for crying out loud. I don’t expect to win any medals anymore, or land a solo or a standing ovation, but I do have a lot of fun, and it keeps me fit and flexible.

I’m here to mount a convincing argument in favour of having hobbies. As someone who has often had many hobbies, and has also weathered some less-enjoyable seasons of life without them, I know that my life is made richer for the hobbies to which I tend.

Here are some of the main benefits of having hobbies:

  • Fascination: You become more interesting, because you become more interested in things. Fascinating people tend to be people who are fascinated by things. I doubt that’s a coincidence.
  • Purpose: You may find more satisfaction and fulfillment in your life. Ooooh!
  • Perspective: Having hobbies upon which to focus some of your attention can help you from getting obsessive tunnel vision about your Big Important Life Goals and Projects. The stakes of your hobbies aren’t as high as, say, your career or business or marriage or raising children, so you can practice taking risks and creative problem solving that might otherwise be outside your comfort zone.
  • Achievement: Hobbies allow you more places to succeed in your life. You have more opportunities to grow and win, because you are playing in more than one game.
  • Curiosity: Having hobbies is a great way to practice your beginner mindset. You get to not know things. You can be curious, and learn, without worrying about the consequences of not knowing something you think you should already know.
  • Discipline: Commitment to a hobby is cross-training for discipline across the board. Showing up for your interests as well as your obligations grows your discipline and endurance for any of your endeavours.
  • Energy: We all know a change of scene or focus can be a breath of fresh air! Even though it seems counter-intuitive, the time you invest into your hobby can restore and resource you, the same way we know that working out can, even if you’re tired.
  • Skill: Talent is great, but it will only take you so far. The deliberate practice of having hobbies is how you learn new skills, and master old ones, instead of relying on innate talent, or deciding you have none.
  • FUN: Letting yourself enjoy a task or undertaking seems simple, but I think we all could use a little practice allowing ourselves to let go and have fun.

Maybe we need to rethink how we view hobbies and wasted time. Perhaps time spent on something important to you is not wasted, whether it makes a buck or not.

A brand-new year is just around the corner. What’s a hobby you have loved, or one you’ve always wanted to try out?

Are you willing to let yourself be tremendously interested in the things about which you are passionate?