I’ve always been a hobby person. I like to learn, and I like to explore. I don’t take myself too seriously, and I am genuinely curious about almost everything. Some might say I dabble in too many things, but trying new hobbies has made me a better person.
I’ve become more comfortable in vulnerable situations, grown resilience, and flexed my problem-solving muscles. Those skills don’t only apply to whatever activity I’m currently focusing on; they seep into every aspect of my life.
Through exploring new hobbies, I have learned four important lessons.
- It’s okay to be bad at things.
- It’s okay to ask for help.
- Sometimes you need to let things get messy.
- It really is about the journey.
It’s okay to be bad at things.
Since joining Atomic, I’ve dabbled in (and seriously committed to) quite a few hobbies. Here are just a few: dressage, motorcycles, drumming, archery, pole dancing, ukulele, aerial hoop, dirt bikes, and trapeze.
I wasn’t what one would call “naturally gifted” at any of these activities. When I started pole dancing, I couldn’t do a single pushup. I couldn’t even kick-start the dirt bike on my own when I bought it. When I started playing the ukulele, my dog would bark at me non-stop — even she knew I was bad!
No one likes to be bad at things. However, picking up a new hobby does require you to become comfortable with being not-so-great or even downright bad at something. Making a hobby out of picking up new hobbies has helped me assuage the insecurity, perceived judgment, and anxiety that might typically come with trying something new.
Instead, I embrace that I am in a learning phase. I might feel vulnerable. I might not be great at this new activity, and that is okay. This has translated into the confidence that I can:
- try new things and survive (and eventually even thrive).
- learn new things either on my own or in a group setting.
- think critically to solve problems if things don’t go as I expected them to.
That confidence doesn’t stop at my trapeze or archery classes. It carries over into my professional life, too, and helps me navigate delicate conversations with clients. That confidence also allows me to be self-assured enough to volunteer to try out new tools, workflows, or roles.
It’s okay to ask for help.
When trying out a new sport or activity, people expect you to need help. This is why there are classes, YouTube videos, private instructors, etc., for just about any sport, craft, or hobby imaginable. Why should this be any different in other areas of our lives?
It is only logical to treat asking for help in our personal and professional lives similarly to asking for help when learning something new just for fun. Sometimes the human brain is not logical, though. Sometimes we are afraid to ask for help — fearful that this might make us look weak or unintelligent.
Through trying an endless list of new activities, I’ve learned that asking for help sooner is the way to go. If I’m truly stuck on something, I ask for help. I don’t feel insecure or self-conscious about this anymore.
I’ve learned that most people actually like it when you seek them out for assistance. It makes them feel like an expert in the topic you are asking about. And, that’s always a nice confidence boost.
Because of the positive experiences I’ve had asking for guidance when picking up new hobbies, I no longer hesitate to ask for help or feedback at work. This has a nice trickle-down effect, too. The more I embrace the idea, the more I see people around me doing so. This leads to a much more collaborative atmosphere, which, of course, can produce more inventive results.
Sometimes you need to let things get messy.
The last point was about asking for help, and this one is about learning to let messiness simmer a bit. Sometimes you don’t know what you need help with unless you allow things to fall apart.
It’s not comfortable when things fall apart. This is often when fear of the unknown will kick in. This is when we might doubt our ability to put things back together. However, you can learn a lot when all the mess is on the table, allowing you to poke, analyze, and slowly untangle it until it makes sense.
I use this approach often when riding and training my horse. As a perfectionist, I am tempted to not let things fall apart. I think “It won’t feel good. I can’t let her lose her balance. I need to help her.” But the reality is that letting her be a little more accountable for her own balance will help both of us understand why she isn’t balanced. My concerns were founded. It does not feel good. It feels messy, unorganized, and uncomfortable.
However, after all those negative feelings, there’s almost always an “aha!” moment, when I understand what I need to do next. I only achieve that moment of understanding and clarity by first sitting in the messiness.
This same concept rings true in my professional life. Allowing teammates to make (safe) mistakes or simmer in project ambiguity for a bit often creates growth leading to unique solutions. It’s tempting to jump in to help. You may want to provide a template of how to do things or default to the way things have always been done. However, if you do that, you’re not allowing yourself and others to discover an even better approach.
It really is about the journey.
I am a results-oriented person. One of my favorite aspects of learning is tracking progress over time. I love looking back at old aerial hoop performances so I can see how far I have come since then. How much smoother are my beats, and how much straighter are my legs when doing splits poses?
As much as seeing progress is great, it is also important to remember why we do these activities in the first place. It’s all about the experience.
I decided to take archery classes because a few of my friends were interested. I had a blast learning with them. The folks who ride at my barn have become some of my closest friends. Doing doubles tricks on an aerial hoop will force you to become quite close with your partner (not just literally!).
I have gained so much through the experience of trying new hobbies. Sure, I have gained confidence, increased stamina, and improved mental health. But I have also gained camaraderie, friendship, and a place of belonging.
Our work lives can be about the experience, too. I want my customers and fellow Atoms on my projects to feel supported. I want them to feel the camaraderie I feel when engaging with my hobby pals. There’s no reason these positive aspects of life cannot transfer from personal interests into our professional settings.