One boss I had said several times that, “Work is my hobby.” This is the guy who would spend Sunday afternoon writing nasty e-mails to his managers (me and my colleagues) about what a bad job we were doing. Sure made Monday morning fun! My Monday morning stomach aches aside, the boss identified an issue that is unfortunately common for high achieving professionals: the commitment to work pushes hobbies and avocational interests aside.
HBO boxing has produced a series of movies called “State of Play.” The “Happiness” edition features Brett Favre and other professional football players making the transition to retirement. Brett Favre tells that when he was asked what he would do after he retired he said, “I don’t know, I’ll figure it out when I retire.” Then after he retired he, “wanted to crawl into a hole somewhere.” He really needed Beer and Peanuts!
Even if you aren’t a professional football player, you may be highly focused on your career and work. Between commuting, spending time at work, traveling for work, working on work at home, and thinking about work, some people pretty much just have work. Others (mostly moms but sometimes dads) are very dedicated to kids and their activities. There is school, afternoon school activities, sports, lessons, dance, music, youth group, summer camps, and on and on. All of this focus on work or kids can result in neglect of your own interests and activities. Things that used to be important just get set aside. Friends you spent time with before work or kids became so consuming haven’t been called in months or years. Hobbies and other interests are like anything else: use it or lose it. Without attention they will atrophy and no longer serve their purpose in your life.
But at some point, kids will grow up and work will come to an end (because of planned retirement or downsizing). When that happens, non-work interests and activities will be really important. Work and kids will no longer provide structure to your time and purpose to your day. If your hobbies and interests have suffered from neglect or experienced atrophy, here are three ideas to help you begin or rediscover activities and interests outside of work:
Go back to what you used to love. Think about things you enjoyed before work and kids squeezed them out. Was it reading fiction? Bowling on a league? Hiking, cycling, running or playing tennis? Playing music? Set aside some time to get back to it. See if you still like that activity. Maybe take a round of lessons so it becomes enjoyable sooner.
Keep your eyes and ears open. Begin to collect stories of people experiencing great retirements. Pay attention to things they do after they stop working full time. If you see someone working in a store who looks old enough to collect social security, consider asking them about their job. It might be something they choose to do as a retirement activity. Find out if it is a good job for retirees.
Build a Dream board. Some people have let their own interests go for so long that they can’t even come up with ideas outside of work. Set up a bulletin board in your office, a file in your drawer or a pinterest board. When you read magazines, look for ideas of things you might be interested in trying. Tear out the magazine page or pin a picture to your pinterest page. Collect ideas broadly. After you have 50 or 100 items, pull them out and look for themes. If there are 12 articles or pictures about fishing, boats and rivers, maybe its time to try a fishing trip for a vacation. Maybe you will notice a cluster of ideas about craft making.
Remember, anything you start isn’t permanent. Just because you try model railroading, you don’t have to do it for the rest of your life! Years ago I bought a 1942 Chevy pickup in an advanced stage of decay. As I started the restoration project I went to some antique car shows. My thought was that I could make some contacts and friendships as I spent time at car shows with my truck. However, the more I did it, I realized that I didn’t really like car shows. I understand that lots of people love them, but it wasn’t my cup of tea! It’s ok to try something and then try something else. The key is to have some ideas about what you might put your hand to after you stop going to work every day. Best wishes as you plan a great, engaged, significant life!