From Jon Crowley:
I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m realizing just how much of a problem not having any hobbies is.
Put more bluntly, my life was a cycle of working very hard, then blowing off steam, for about two years.
Work would be time spent at the office, or writing and research and networking done in the pursuit of getting better at what I do. Blowing off steam was essentially drinking with friends, drinking at networking events, and from time to time, drinking by myself.
Because these two elements were 95% of my waking hours, I essentially needed to anchor my value to my progress and growth in the realm of “work”.
Recently (as in, the last few months) I’ve noticed that I need, at minimum, a third category: recharge / relaxation. This staved off burnout, but didn’t give me anything to take pride in.
You can’t tie a sense of self-worth to your ability to read while sitting in a beanbag chair.
The core problem is this: my belief in my own value is far too wrapped up in my professional progress. As such, if I feel I’m not making enough progress (totally independent from quality of work, or value created by my work), I begin to feel off-balance.
I’ve done this in the past with relationships, so it’s not a completely isolated behaviour.
The problem is, I don’t really work at anything that isn’t my job. I don’t have an external source of validation. I’ve managed to build a life that doesn’t have any outlet for my desire to do meaningful work, outside of my job.
Problematically, identifying an issue does nothing to address it. But it does shut up at least one of the threads of inquiry that has been running through my head late at night.
I’ve clipped this because I suffered the exact same problem. I spent at least one whole year buried in work, and I was so wrapped up in it that I was unable to see where I was succeeding and what needed to improve.
Step 1 was figuring out what I needed to achieve with my extra activity, Step 2 was examining what resources I had available, and Step 3 was making room in my schedule for it.
My activity is motorcycling. Recently I’ve been making trips on my motorbike, and that’s been hugely beneficial to me. The nature of riding is what fixes everything – the thought and concentration that has to go into each trip is intense and leaves you with little room for focus on anything else. My mind has the chance to relax, and eventually I find this place where I’m thinking on a higher level.
I’ve been fortunate with the resources available to me. My family is very keen on motorcycling and this enabled me to learn and get comfortable with riding at a pace that suited me. It’s an activity that you can bundle with work or pleasure trips, transforming the whole visit so that getting there is an adventure in its own right.
Perhaps some folks might look for a hobby that has a competitive element as this would include benchmarks for assessing self-worth in a natural way. This isn’t how I personally account for my activities as I have always preferred sports which allow me to better my existing achievements. Iron Butt looks like it might be for me – immense preparation and self-discipline to conquer extreme distances.