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How to choose your hobby

Bored? Want to get into something, but not sure what?

Lots of people have interests, hobbies, recreations…call it what you will, activities that take up a lot of their time. Many people don’t, and they’re quite happy that way.

But there’s lots of others who wish they could find something to do with their time. Newly-separated parents who suddenly have every other week without kids, for example. Or people who have just taken a bit of a step back from a demanding job. Maybe even people who can’t do their favourite thing any more due to a change of circumstance like injury.

The obvious thing to do is to make a list of the things you think you’d like to do. Maybe that’s walking, knitting, getting involved in a book club. Or maybe it’s fencing, running and skydiving.

I’ve got a different approach which has worked for several people, so I’m sharing it here.

What you do is identify not the hobby, but the fundamental elements of activities you like, and don’t like. This my list of Likes:

  • technical machinery – has to be something that is complicated with a lot to understand
  • risk of death and danger – I like adrenalin!
  • physical coordination – love things where you have to master a difficult physical skill
  • outdoors – not essential, but I prefer outdoor to indoor
  • able to learn by osmosis
  • a very wide scope so I’m constantly learning more, preferably a never-ending journey of discovery

Things I Don’t Like or don’t really need, but others may enjoy:

  • people, team sports
  • creativity
  • competition, beating others
  • narrow, fixed rules and guidelines, structured learning

so any hobby which meets the first set of Like criteria and not the second Don’t Like criteria is one I’m likely to enjoy.

Now, I’m known for being into cars, and I am. But I’m actually heavily into 4X4, as well as circuit racing…different but related because both meet the Like criteria.  And, I’ve tried scuba diving which I enjoyed and would do more, but time and money prevent me, same reason I don’t do more sailing or windsurfing. Before cars, I was a glider pilot instructor and light aircraft aerobatic pilot, and I would love to do more parachuting. You get the idea..each of those hobbies meets my criteria. I didn’t make the criteria – I looked at what I enjoyed, and worked backwards to find the common threads which became the criteria. Then, the criteria can be used to find new hobbies.

It’s important to look at what you don’t enjoy. For me, that’s team sports, because I find the rules too restrictive and there’s insufficient breadth to do your own thing. I’m not particularity creative, but I absolutely love learning. I don’t have in me a deep-seated desire to beat others, so winning competitions doesn’t give me a huge buzz or drive me like it seems to some others.

Here’s an example of how two people can be very different in what they enjoy. For various reasons, I have two LEGO Technic Unimog sets. I used one to build a model 4X4 of my own design that I could use in videos to explain how cars and 4X4s work. It is remote controlled, has three differentials with the centre one lockable, and a power winch. That’s how I enjoy LEGO.

My daughter also loves LEGO. But, she isn’t even remotely interested in her own designs. She loves following instructions, doesn’t care to understand what it is or how it works, just takes pleasure in following the steps. She smashed through the Unimog, one of LEGO’s more complex sets, in less than a weekend. There’s no way I could do that. Not only does the thought of just following instructions blindly bore me to tears, it also fundamentally goes against my nature because I must know why, why, why…as anyone who’s ever tried to teach me anything knows all too well. And, I’d make so many mistakes in trying to follow instructions I’d fail, in all seriousness I probably couldn’t even do it if you put a gun to my head.

And my daughter loves cars too, but her thing is the design, form and beauty – whereas mine is the driving and how they work. Others are into building, not so much driving.

This is all part of understanding what you like and don’t like, and making an activity something you do like. Another example is bushwalking. I only enjoy it when the trail is so faint it’s hard to see and the terrain is so tough you need to think about every footstep. Not interested in a gentle meander along a well-formed path. That fits into my Like criteria nicely too.

So maybe all the above makes sense, but you’re not even sure what your Like and Dislike criteria are. Well, there’s an easy way to find out. Just try things. Anything. Anywhere. Anytime. And don’t say you did, or didn’t like it as a whole – analyse it and ask yourself which parts of it you liked and didn’t like, and why.  Don’t write any activity off as “oh I wouldn’t like that”. Do it anyway, what have you got to lose? An hour, half a day, a day? There is no way you can know what works for you or doesn’t until you try, trust me. For example, I was persuaded to try Ceroc, a form of dancing. Which is totally outside of my interests, but turns out…I liked it, and became a solidly sub-average, minimally talented dancer. Never be afraid to try things outside your comfort zone, throw the Like and Don’t Like lists out every once in a while.

You may well also need to try something for a while before you really know whether it’s right for you, particularly the more complex activities. When a beginner is faced with something new it can be overwhelming, so hard to fully enjoy, particularly if you’re in with lots of experienced people. This is why “Come and Try” events are so good, because they are designed to be a introduction. Take scuba diving, for instance. I’ve dived in Port Phillip Bay where we had to leap out of the boat at a very specific time, and descend very quickly to avoid the current. And when we did get down, not a lot to look at. I loved the excitement of it all, but that’s me.  Not that divemasters would put novices in a situation like that, but a better introduction to scuba for most people would have been a nice quiet pier dive, or better yet, in the calm and warm waters of the tropics, abundant with marine life.

Finally, you might have objectives for your hobby other than just giving yourself something to do. Two common examples are becoming fitter and meeting new people, perhaps after moving to a new city or a relationship breakup. So factor those in too.

So still not sure what to do? This is where I’m going to ask for help from the readers…please post your thoughts on how you pick a hobby!

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