As technology advances, our minds grow increasingly complicated. With task after task being added to an already long to-do list, making time for things like hobbies seems nearly impossible.
How many of us long to make time for a hobby or project, but feel too busy dealing with daily demands? Fortunately, making time for the things we love is not an elusive dream, but it does require a change in perspective.
Are our job duties at odds with hobbies?
For the vast majority of adults, having a job is essential for supporting ourselves and our families. Working hours take up a large part of our day, and can render us exhausted. This presents one obstacle to enjoying hobbies, but social pressure can also erode our capacity for personal enjoyment and satisfaction.
With industry and technology advancing at an exponential rate, the notion that “time is money” has modified our perception of the world. This is exemplified in China’s recent generations, who, since 1989, have been told by their government to seek their fortune by any means and not to worry about national affairs.
The resulting “money worship” culture that emerged in China gave rise to the longest known working hours and a wealth-oriented view of life, in which profitable activities are prioritized over anything else.
In the West, this notion has taken another form. Although not systematically promoted, the desire to make money and accumulate wealth has created a “hustle culture,” whereby overwork and its consequences are justified in the name of prosperity and success.
If you find yourself always wanting to make a business out of each of your skills, or ensuring that you invest your time in something profitable for your future self, there is a chance that your notions of success and prosperity are tied to money or material welfare. In that case, making time for activities that bring nothing but personal satisfaction — such as hobbies — may be difficult.
Take a moment to evaluate your own idea of success. Do you really need to accumulate wealth to live well? How would you rather spend your time? When priorities are established, it becomes easier to devote time to activities that nourish the soul.
Internal causes for not making time for hobbies
If you’re not really attached to money, yet you still find yourself working so much that you neglect other meaningful activities, there may be hidden and deeper causes worth uncovering.
Many people view their degree of productivity to measure their self-worth. This is particularly prominent with those raised in an environment where competition with peers and the desire to stand out were always encouraged.
Since any failure or omission — however small — may lead them to think less of themselves, devoting more time to work gives them a sense of merit and worthiness. Naturally, making time for anything other than work is difficult for this type of person, and doing so can lead to feelings of guilt.
Another possible cause is the fear of disappointing others, especially your boss or supervisor. Perhaps you spend your free time doing extra work so as to avoid showing any shortcomings or a need for help.
Wanting to improve yourself in your free time should be seen as a noble pursuit and, in fact, could even be considered a hobby! But if it is motivated by the wrong intentions, such as safeguarding your reputation, it can hardly be counted as an activity that nurtures your soul.
The fear of not being recognized or of losing opportunities can also lead one to devote more time to work than necessary. While being on top of everything at all times can pave one’s way up the corporate ladder, the pursuit of material wealth and prestige can leave very little time for pleasure.
Can you really make time for hobbies?
As the famous Chinese general Zhou Chu once said “Where there is a will, there is a way.”
But how can we strengthen our will? It all starts in discerning what truly matters to us.
Maintaining balance is key to doing well in all areas of our lives. If we give priority to one aspect of our lives to the neglect of the rest, it may not only affect those who count on us — be it partners, parents, children or coworkers — to fulfill our roles; our true selves can also become smothered by these myriad notions and pursuits, making it difficult to discern what is really important.
Finding a hobby or activity worth devoting our free time to involves the question of knowing what ignites our souls. What would you like to do even after a long day at work? What kind of activity could turn a bad day into a memorable one? Once you find an answer to these questions, it will be like finding an inexhaustible source of joy.
If you find it difficult to justify spending time on yourself, remember this: The state of our minds and souls at any given time largely determines how we behave. If our minds are occupied with thoughts of worry or stress, we are likely to perform poorly in our daily activities, including our work.
In contrast, when we spend time — even minutes — feeding our spirit with activities that bring value to our lives, we allow ourselves to regain motivation and even become more efficient and resilient in the face of problems. When we ensure that our inner world is in good condition, our outer world is bound to follow.
The path to your best self
If you live on a tight schedule, your hard-earned free time may be your only opportunity to engage in your hobbies, which could mean sacrificing some less-fulfilling leisure activities — like television or social media. Making this decision is an opportunity to find out what really feeds your soul.
According to Robert Stebbins, sociology professor at the University of Calgary, the desire to improve is an essential part of having a hobby. Be it art skills, a spiritual practice, a sport or an academic discipline; all hobbies require time and effort to be developed.
“The critical thing for any serious leisure activity is that a person loves it even if doing it is initially painful,” said Stebbins, who emphasized that hobbies directly correlate to our happiness and wellbeing.
Treating your new hobby like a job or putting too much pressure on yourself, can end up pulling you away from your newfound source of joy. If that ever happens, take a moment to reflect on why you chose it in the first place and strive to establish a healthy relationship with it. Through genuine self-discipline and unconditional self-compassion, you’ll be one step closer to a happier version of yourself.