This month I’m traversing the world of hobbies – how to find them, their value and why we should all make room for them in our lives!
The importance of hobbies in our lives should not be underestimated amidst work, family and other responsibilities demanding our attention. Finding time for activities that help us recharge our batteries is essential for our wellbeing and personal growth! I have tried many hobbies over the years, from running to reading, dancing to origami. I find the activities that stick are those that allow my body and mind to rest and centre. So as I reflect on some of the hobbies I enjoy, with reading and nature defining my life at the moment, I’m reminded of how these activities are good for us and how they create mental and physical wellbeing.
Finding meaning and purpose through hobbies
Hobbies and ikigai share a meaningful and interconnected relationship, as both contribute to finding our purpose. ‘Ikigai’ is a Japanese concept that roughly translates to ‘reason for being’ or ‘a reason to wake up in the morning,’ represents the intersection of three core elements: what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for.
One of my most interacted with posts in 2020 was ‘Three Hobbies’ which garnered such great insights from so many of you! The balance achieved if you pursue physical activities, creative adventures, and impact the world with purposeful missions sparked a flurry of superb advice and learnings.
In connecting Ikigai, Purpose and Hobbies, some of the activities I enjoy are as followed:
Keeping in shape: My weekly diet of daily yoga, tandem cycling, tennis, and beautiful countryside walks has me in better shape than I have ever been as I am very active, exercising for between 1 and 4 hours every day! I also have my home gym set-up with kettle bells and a treadmill for the colder months where I like to focus on strength and continue cardo!
Being creative: My longest standing hobby is reading, I love books and have over 2000 in my collection that live in my new book shelves! Each reminds me of a memory, happy or sad, from the time I read them, and I think they say so much about how I was thinking and feeling in the moment. I am also writing regularly, gaining new ideas and producing content that hopefully sparks debate and engagement amongst my community! I also love listening to music, singing-along and dancing, which bring me joy and remind me to not take life too seriously!
Making contributions: I have re-interpreted this style to be how I can contribute to the world. Volunteering is a passionate hobby of mine, right now raising funds for the Gressenhall Village Play Park, arranging the flowers at the church and revitalising an annual Church Cycle Ride of all the Churches in Norfolk! My hobbies in this space also focus on how I contribute to society and inject purpose in the community, through my strong belief of Tikkun Olam. In 2020, I started my Schools for Youth with Potential in Thailand and supported Mission Beyond’s social mobility platform over the past few years, having recently stepped down from the board to explore other exciting endeavours!
Beyond these areas, my hobbies extend to special family time with my family, especially with Mum and grandchildren. These are valued social activities that create gratitude, support and fun!
Hobbies fostering human curiosity
Three hobbies that allow my human curiosity for exploring and experimenting to flourish are reading, travel and fashion!
#1 – Reading
As a child, I drew immense inspiration from the stories in books. The magic and wonder of tales transported me to new worlds, and taught me valuable lessons about resilience, courage, and perseverance. Through stories, I learned to believe in myself and to never give up in the face of adversity. I especially remember losing myself in the pages of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic tales of Middle-earth. The fantastical landscapes, vivid characters, and intricate plotlines captured my imagination and sparked a lifelong love of storytelling! Even now, as a new grandmother, I find myself drawn back to beloved stories, sharing them with my own grandchildren, babies True and Barney.
For World Storytelling Day, I wrote an article on those who have inspired me the most through their stories! Some of my top storytellers, who have talked to, inspired and delighted me over the last 60 years include:
- My Dad – An Early Form of Cotwolds-Wildlife-Watch!
- William Shakespeare – not a story of his I don’t love in the telling!
- Nelson Mandela – I can hear his voice and feel his presence most days!
- Walt Disney – brought me and my siblings such joy and escape through cartoons!
- Bruce Springsteen – lyrics that opened up the story of part of a nation for me
- Steve Jobs – the ultimate genius marketeer and business storyteller
- Anita Roddick – the first business women environmentalist who rocked me!
- Charles Dickens – I curl up with him often and love his stories of an entire Victorian Era
- Maya Angelou – she has shaped who I am as a woman through her strength, stories and poems
- Rabindranath Tagore told amazing stories through every medium and led me to love India
- Anton Chekov -his realism moves me every time I read for example Uncle Vanya or the Seagull
- Oprah Winfrey – a modern unraveller of the great stories of others
My passion for reading has extended to the creation of my International Book Club where I have reviewed some of my many favourite and inspiriting reads:
- Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
- The Cleft by Doris Lessing
- Museum of Broken Promises by Elizabeth Buchan
- We Are Beillngcat by Eliot Higgins
- The Lost Café Schindler by Meriel Schindler
- Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
You might know Karen Carpenter as the sweet-voiced singer of Carpenters hits like “Please Mr Postman,” but did you know her first musical career was playing jazz drums? A 1975 Playboy poll ranked Karen as the world’s best drummer ! I’m thrilled to share my interview with Lucy O’Brien on her wonderful biography of Karen Carpenter. You can watch it here.
#2 – Travel:
Travel is another hobby that fills my cup, where my human curiosity for exploring new places and cultures is satisfied! I love visiting new destinations and collecting memories that create a sense of nostalgia and connection. I think travel also challenges us to step out of our comfort zones and adapt to new environments.
India – As many of you know I love India, having travelled, worked and vacationed there extensively most of my adult life. Whilst heading up Asia-Pacific for IBM I was across the subcontinent 10 days a month and loved pretty much every moment of it. The colour, the vibrancy, the people! Jaipur the capital and the largest city of the Indian state of Rajasthan is one of my favourite cities In the world! Also known as the Pink City due to the dominant color scheme of its buildings, Jaipur was constructed within a period of four years and is the only city that has been planned as per rules and regulations of the Vastu Shastra and the Shilpa Shastra. Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful, but the people of the region are so strong, beautiful and kind!
Berlin – I love the German capital with its sensational array of attractions, a best in the world wildly flourishing cultural scene and a way of life that’s both fast-paced and relaxed! Berlin is a city of art, artists and museums. The significance of this city looms large with its Communist past and a broken-down wall with the liberalism and brilliance of its population – once locked within, bursting out in every form. It also never escapes me that the city’s renewal and prominence has the face of one of the greatest post war leaders, Angela Merkel. It is the best city in the world for millennials because of its art, social scene, overall coolness and support for all manifestations of entrepreneurial spirit. I try and capture the ‘grey’ artistically in my photos below because many German towns and cities have been called ‘grey’ as much was rebuilt in concrete after WWII. But, it’s far from grey in spirit and diversity!
To read more of my travel posts you can read my travel newsletter here.
#3 – Fashion!
Fashion is another hobby that has evolved throughout my life, where I take delight in expressing my own unique style! It is often said that fashion offers a creative outlet where we can showcase our personality and mood through clothing choices, as well as boost self confidence by feeling good in what we wear! This is a hobby that has seen me learn about the historical significance of fabrics and patterns that serve as cultural influences in many countries and gain a passion for designers and their artistic expression while attending fashion shows and wandering around stores. Dressing well and developing a style I believe always makes us feel good!
I recently visited the Crown to Couture exhibition at Kensington Palace featuring over 200 items that draw fascinating parallels between the world of today’s red carpet and the Georgian Royal Court in the 18th Century. I loved observing and learning about the looks, and it reminded me about the statements we make through fashion which are often very profound! I am thrilled to announce I am soon to launch a video series ‘London is not just a city, it’s an entire Universe!’ where I will feature all the amazing highlights (from this experience and others!) as I reflect and recall my lifetime exploring the streets and surroundings of London.
Should we invest more time on hobbies?
Harvard Business School have weighed in on this question with their article ‘Why You Should Work Less and Spend More Time on Hobbies’ saying: “Hobbies can make workers substantially better at their jobs and by spending time with your hobbies you can boost your workplace skills too – creativity, perspective, confidence.”
I believe finding a balance between work and dedicating time to hobbies can have boundless benefits to our overall wellbeing and quality of life providing:
- Stress Reduction: Engaging in hobbies provides a healthy outlet for stress relief, helping you relax and recharge.
- Improved Mental Health: Regularly pursuing enjoyable activities we enjoy can boost offer a break from the demands of work, reducing the risk of burnout and mental fatigue.
- Enhanced Creativity: Hobbies often involve creative thinking and problem-solving, which can stimulate your brain and improve your creativity, helping you approach tasks with fresh perspectives and innovative ideas.
- Work-Life Balance: Striking a balance between work and personal life is crucial for long-term happiness. Spending more time on hobbies allows you to disconnect from work-related stressors and enjoy a more fulfilling and balanced lifestyle.
- Skill Development: Many hobbies involve learning new skills or improving existing ones, which can transfer into other aspects of our livesFor example, I learnt origami throughout the pandemic which enhanced my attention to detail, patience, and fine motor skills.
- Physical Health Benefits: Sports or outdoor activities, promote physical fitness and a healthier lifestyle, improving our physical health, boosting energy levels, and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
· Social Connections: Many hobbies are social in nature, allowing us to connect with like-minded individuals. For Graham and I, nature and hosting dinner parties have been new hobbies creating social connection amongst our new neighbours in Norwich!
Has modern life killed the hobby?
“For the last decade, culture has been ruled by two figures: the entrepreneur and the influencer. These figures – who are really two sides of the same coin – have come to represent “success”. Careers are over. Now, the “career dream” is to make your job up yourself. Make a hobby a side hustle. Have multiple side hustles. Quit your day job and be your own boss. Get paid to do what you love.”
This nirvana to have a side-hustle lifestyle is said to place a pervasive pressure pump on “leisure time” for profit.
This graphic by Ramin Nazer beautifully illustrates the discussion and points yet again to each of us of having the fullest repertoire of skills that the world needs, and our need to drive inner balance through physicality, creativity, and making money/purpose by unlocking our talents and capabilities as we hone them into skills the world needs!
The finest thing about a hobby is that you can’t do any pretending about it. You either like it or you don’t. – Dorothy Draper
Enrichment through hobbies
A hobby requires good fortune and some privilege around having time, good health and a community in which to thrive both giving and receiving. As one of my favourite Singaporean civil servants said to me when I asked about hobbies “we just work, shop and eat, that’s the Singaporean way!”
By exposing ourselves to new experiences, cultures, and perspectives, hobbies can broaden our horizons, deepen our understanding of the world, and make our lives more meaningful!
I would love to hear about the hobbies that are defining your life right now – please share in the comments!
Past posts on hobbies: