There was a time when most men didn’t have time for hobbies. The demands of just staying alive overruled any frivolous pursuits. As technology evolved and the middle class grew, hobbies became much more prevalent. The 20th century may well have been the golden years of hobbies.
In recent years, however, hobbies have begun dying off. The advent of social media and video streaming services has filled our time with mindless distraction and relegated intentional hobbies to the sidelines. In this article we’ll talk about the importance of hobbies and why every man needs one (or two..or three…or…)
Why Have a Hobby
A hobby, by definition, is some sort of leisure activity done outside of your job. Their primary purpose is for relaxation or enjoyment rather than skills development, income, etc.
Men are all wired differently and enjoy different types of activities and pursuits, but some things are constant for all of us. For one, we all need restful time to detach from the pressures and stresses of work and life. Hobbies can help this goal.
Hobbies for Learning
When we first pick up a new hobby it provides the benefit of engaging us in learning a new skill. You’ll always be learning and growing in your hobby, but those first weeks and months are the steepest learning curve. This stretching and growing of our mind and body are extremely beneficial to our overall well-being.
For this reason, I encourage men to try new hobbies even if they don’t stick with them long term. I myself tend to pick up a lot of things and lose interest in them over time…and I used to feel guilty about this. Eventually I realized that this “interest” was a good thing and embraced it…I just remember to try a new hobby for a while before I make a big investment in equipment and supplies!
Hobbies for Leisure
As you find the hobbies you love most and begin to pursue them consistently they become less a source of learning and more a source of leisure. Hobbies have the unique ability to displace the stress otherwise in our mind. If we just “do nothing” we will quickly drift back into whatever stress or time wasters we’re trying to avoid.
When we’re engaged in a hobby it is much easier to think deeply. Since many hobbies involve a creative aspect I believe they can help get our “creative juices” flowing as well and help our work life as well. Often times after working on a hobby for an hour or two I find myself able to approach problems in a much more creative and strategic way.
Finding Time for Hobbies
The most common reason for not having hobbies is lack of time. I always find this excuse amusing as we all have the same amount of time. The question is what are our priorities.
Now I understand that some have priorities that put pressures on their leisure time more so than others. Having children, completing a graduate degree, or a busy season at work are all things that take up more time and leave less for leisure pursuits.
This being said, our 8 Pillars are all about having balance. You may be able to starve your Leisure pillar for a while, but eventually it will catch up to you. To prioritize a hobby doesn’t minimize the importance of the other Pillars, it just keeps them all in balance.
The reality is that many of us waste large amounts of time. We tend to fill the time we have and now that phones provide such ready distraction to fill even a few seconds of free time we can pilfer away hours every day and week. This isn’t the case for everyone, but it’s true for most.
When we insert a hobby into our priorities we’ll be focused to structure our time more efficiently and cut out some of the time wasters. This often has the effect of actually allowing us to accomplish more in our working hours due to the healthy stress imposed by a tight schedule.
I’m not saying that you are going to immediately free up 10 hours a week to delve into some new hobby headlong, but I suspect that almost anyone could carve out 2-3 hours a week to pursue a hobby.
To accomplish this, you may choose to pick a hobby that can be easily started and stopped, like reading, so you can pursue in short 20-30 minute increments. Alternatively, you may schedule a time each week and devote a solid block of time to your hobby. Having external accountability through a group would help keep this commitment, so perhaps you join a sports league or schedule a standing time with a friend.
To find time, define your priorities and schedule the most important things first. Eventually you’ll hit a point where you really don’t have more time for anything and need to reprioritize, but unless you’re there and feel you’re perfectly balanced across the 8 Pillars you likely have time for hobbies right now.
What Hobby Is Best for You
Determining which hobbies are best for you should consider a variety of factors. What you enjoy, what you can afford, what you have time for, and what is available are all considerations. Let’s talk through some of these considerations in more detail.
Finding a Hobby
Finding a hobby seems like it should be a simple task, but that isn’t always the case. A hobby can range from low cost, sedentary activities like reading, to expensive, active sports like skiing. Knowing which one is best for you should consider your existing interest, skills, time, and budget.
Often times there’s a gap between what we want to enjoy and what we actually enjoy. For example, a lot of people wish they were “outdoorsy”, but they actually hate camping. Deciding to make a major change and learn something far outside your comfort zone is good, but also know your limits and what you naturally drift toward.
While I would encourage a man who is primarily into video games to choose an active, outdoors hobby, you might want to pick up tennis before you try rock climbing. Tennis is low cost, readily accessible, and can be started at any fitness level. Rock climbing requires specialized gear, exotic locations, and a high level of fitness and strength.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule. If you really think you’ll love rock climbing, go for it! Just be aware that sometimes simpler is better.
It can be easy to get fixated on idea and go down the internet rabbit hole of that particular hobby without ever actually experiencing it. Learning about something before trying it is great, but rather than spending hours online consider getting a book out on the subject from the library.
Borrowing a book is no cost and almost any book on the subject is going to provide a much more holistic and well-rounded overview than browsing random articles and forums for weeks on end. Remember, the internet never ends and when you’re first exploring a new hobby it is good to have defined boundaries.
Once you’ve researched your hobby some I’d suggest you find a way to try it rather than jumping in with both feet. The cost of renting gear, taking a class, or hiring a guide the first time you do something is more than offset by the advantages it provides.
Firstly, “try before you buy” will usually save you money long term. A few years ago, I wanted to try mountain biking and kayaking. In both cases I borrowed or rented the gear the first time I went out to make sure I actually liked it before spending more money to buy my own gear. These rental fees of $20-40 were money well spent vs. $200-400 for something I might not enjoy (check Craigslist for all the “used once” hobby equipment if you want an example of what I mean!).
Secondly, renting provides you an opportunity to learn more about what you’ll actually want. Getting the purchase right, whether you decide to start with beginner gear or spend more money for the good stuff, will save you a lot long term.
Now I’ve talked about buying “gear” because most hobbies have all types of gadgets to go along with them. Keep in mind that most of this is built just to be sold to newbies like you, so start with the minimum. I took up golfing a year or so ago and started by buying a set of used clubs and the minimum number of accessories. You don’t need a $200 range finder when you still don’t know how far you hit your clubs!
I’m also a big fan of buying used. In addition to saving you money up front you can usually recoup most of your cost when you decide to upgrade later. Being patient to watch Craiglist and Facebook Marketplace for a month or two will save you hundreds of dollars on some great equipment.
Quitting a Hobby
You’re not going to love everything you try and some things you do love you may drift away from over time. Sometimes you just lose interest and other times circumstances change. Maybe you loved mountain biking when you lived in California but find the terrain just isn’t as exciting in Texas.
Regardless of the reason, sometimes you decide to quite a hobby.
When this happens, first ask yourself why. If you realize you’re just out of balance and not prioritizing your Leisure Pillar like you should, maybe you should keep your hobby and recommit to investing the time and money it needs.
By contrast, if you decide you just want to pursue something else then decide if you want completely out or to just refocus your time for a while.
Several years ago, I had decided to buy my golf gear but didn’t really stick with the learning process after a month or two. Rather than sell all my clubs I kept them around, knowing that renting clubs even occasionally would cost more than my clubs were worth. Eventually circumstances changed and I decided to pursue golf more seriously. At that point I was glad I still had the equipment!
Don’t “Side Hustle” All Your Hobbies
The baby boomer generation seemed to be perfectly content with spending 30+ years working a stable job at a single good company. The Millennial generation seems obsessed with the “side hustle”.
The side hustle is some sort of pursuit outside of your main career to make extra money. It can either be just to bring in some spending money or you may hope to someday pursue it full time.
I suspect some pursue side hustles in hopes of making it big or someday telling their boss off and making a grand exit. For most Millennials though it is likely a byproduct of the financial crisis and the desire to diversify income sources.
Having a side hustle is a good thing and something I generally encourage. Turning something you love (a hobby) into a business can also be a great way to find more happiness and success in your work. Perhaps you love golf and start teaching golf on the side. It’s a great way to diversify income while doing what you love.
You shouldn’t, however, make all of your hobbies a side hustle. Once you start pursuing a hobby for income it is no longer just a hobby. If you choose to do this you should have other things that you pursue purely for leisure and relaxation.
Hobbies provide a host of benefits and shouldn’t be scoffed at as a waste of time and money. Find one or two hobbies you enjoy that also fit your lifestyle and budget and then prioritize them. Set aside time throughout the week and month to develop and pursue your hobbies and over time you’ll find you have a richer, more successful, and balanced life.