How a Hobby Can Boost Your Motivation and Change Your Life


If you want to be happy, be.” ~Leo Tolstoy

We’ve all hit a low motivational point in our lives at one time or another. I am completely aware of that feeling of having nothing to fight for. In those reoccurring periods of despondency, I couldn’t find a reason to get myself out of bed.

It’s funny that I got the life-changing question at a job interview. It was a stressful situation, and the hiring manager made it even more overwhelming when he looked at me straight in the eyes and asked: “What motivates you in life?”

I can’t remember what I answered, but I do remember the devastation I felt from the true answer I found in me: “Nothing, nothing motivates me.”

That was the turning point. Lots and lots of meditations later, I realized where all that frustration was coming from: I didn’t have a single thing that made me happy.

Why was I so incomplete? I couldn’t get a job that made me feel useful, and all my friendships were superficial. I’ll spare you from the details of my reasoning process. I didn’t read, I didn’t write, I wasn’t trying to learn anything, I didn’t have a special someone in my life, and I didn’t have a hobby.

A HOBBY! The sole thought of it made me burst in laughter. I’d never had a hobby. I basically had nothing to lose, so I decided I would give this idea a try. Picking a hobby was all I needed to do, and that’s how I ended up making endless reading lists.

I found different reasons why I needed a hobby:

It helps people express their creativity.

I had an office job at the moment, and I was a total slave of routine. I needed that ‘escape’ activity that left me alone with my thoughts.

I was already meditating every day, but I couldn’t call that a hobby… it was more like a responsibility for me. And, to be honest, it was making me even more miserable: I knew I needed a and I knew I didn’t have the courage to leave my job. A hobby like gardening, jewelry making, painting, knitting, or anything else related to creating would allow me to keep touch with the inner artist.

That special activity clarifies the mind.

It doesn’t matter what hobby I would pick. My options included reading, yoga, piano playing, running, or walking—all these activities have a meditative effect on the thoughts. The entire awareness is focused on the thing we are doing, and we can shut out every negative thought that was present before. In a way, when the hobby merges action and awareness, it becomes meditation in motion.

Most hobbies have a social aspect.

They give us the opportunity to interact with people who share our interests, so we develop connections that are not shallow at all. Let me tell you a secret: I have great communication with the people I met through Goodreads. We can Skype for hours and we never run out of topics. All discussions related to the activity I picked made me feel appreciated as part of something greater. That leads me to the next point:

The hobby is a confidence-booster.

When I realized I was good at something (other than my boring job), I started valuing myself as a person much more than before. In a way, I individualized myself in a non-egocentric way. When I opened the first page of War and Peace, I was hopelessly intimidated. When I finished it, I felt like my life was changed. Not because I read such an overwhelming book, but because I gained new perspectives through it. There is one word that conveys such an accomplishment: growth.

Stress? No more!

Trust me; I know how hard life gets sometimes. I’m the master of loss and heartache, but I realize that stress is an inseparable part of our existence. When people are immersed in a hobby, though, they find a simple relief. It’s like getting in a safe zone where stress has no access. When I return to my daily activities after a reading session, they no longer seem that problematic.

When I was choosing my hobby, I knew it had to challenge me. I needed to pick something I always liked, but this activity was not supposed to be easy to conquer.

Reading came as the natural response to my quest. It’s an activity that progressively gets more challenging, and it allows me to keep discovering new dimensions of the world that surrounds us. From Huxley to Orwell to Eco, I want to read everything! That’s what makes this hobby so motivating: the more progress I make, the greater challenges I need to face.

From this point, I understand why I laughed at my realization that I needed a hobby: It was a subconscious reaction initiated by my fear of change and failure. I could find millions of excuses:

I don’t have enough time for this.

I’ll never make it through Tolstoy.

I’m too busy looking for an actual job.

I’m not smart enough to face Proust.

At the end of the day, excuses don’t matter. I realized I needed to take action to make my life better, and that’s exactly what I did.

Everything started with a reading list, which kept getting more and more extensive. Things didn’t stop with listing books I’ve read, though. This hobby helped me make friends, it made me a more confident person, and it eventually led me to inner harmony.

From Hobby to Realization

I don’t usually tell people how I met my partner. Mostly because I’m afraid the story is too much of a cliché. But, now is the right moment to share it: We met at a bookstore, buying the same book. Ironically enough, it was Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

He asked if he could add me as a friend on Goodreads, so we could share impressions. After the first 100 pages, I wrote an impression: I can literally feel my stomach dropping. I’m already crushed. He responded, and we had an arrangement for a coffee within hours. Everything was so spontaneous that I’m still surprised how I showed zero anxiety on the first ‘date’. We were madly in love from the first moment we met.

This brings us to the lesson:

  • Passivity, inertia, excuses… we don’t need that stuff in our lives. What we need is an activity that makes our mind focused on something other than stress. A hobby.
  • I won’t lie: a hobby takes commitment. It’s not something you do in your free time; it’s something you make free time for. The first thing I did was an action plan. After I took the first step, nothing could stop me.
  • The hobby gives us a chance to open up to the world. Meet new people, see new places, learn new things, and become braver. We just need to grab that opportunity and stay spontaneous.

When things get hopeless, I remind myself there’s a new reading challenge in front of me. The hobby is not a distraction; it’s a reminder that regardless of the struggles in our lives, we always have a spark that can brighten our days.

With progressive steps and daily emergence in the hobby of choice, we can transfer that enthusiasm to every other activity we undertake. Suddenly, we will start feeling complete.

About Jessica Freeman

Jessica Freeman is a professional journalist and a freelance content writer at the company Australian Writings. She enjoys writing on the topics of education, motivation, success, and career developments. You can follow her on Facebook and Google+.

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  • Greg Cruthers

    Great read. I would stress (for me) in many situations that hobbies which require human interactions are most beneficial. I am interested in your Good Reads group….sounds cool…enjoyed some of the authors you mentioned.

  • JLDH

    Now the question is how do I pick a hobby?

  • Stanislav

    Just do stuff. Really. You don’t know what you like until you try different things. I prefer to read and eventually (once the money’s saved enough) I plan to make graphic t-shirts and re-start my book collection. Think of things you like and try to do stuff in that area that makes you proud.

  • George Peden

    Wow! When the student is ready…

    I have been thinking about how to fill the void. I now know. A hobby. Thank you for such an inspiring article and for the guidelines to make it happen. Thanks.

  • RT

    Hi Jessica, love your story and thank you for sharing. I’ve been thinking of what hobby I could do because at this time I am going through a major life transition and in between “the work”, pressure and worry, I would love to do something where this would not exist. Something where I would feel what I am looking for peace,joy and happiness. But at this time I have not narrowed it down but you’ve inspired me to make a visible list, which I will place on my vision to see what comes to me. Thank you for sharing because I believe it’s a wonderful idea. Thank you. Merry Christmas!

  • sushmita

    I have to say this is one of the most motivational message I got from randomly browsing the internet. Been struggling for days because of too much busyness and I am feeling so down that I dont have time for the things that make me happy anymore. I always set aside drawing time for FREE TIME. But it’s been months and the FREE TIME never really comes. It should be me making the intentional effort to give time for it. Thank you so much Miss for making me realize that. God bless you 🙂

  • This is so timely! I’ve been searching for a resource to share with psychotherapy clients. Hobbies are more than just a way to pass the time, and the social aspects alone can help to get out of our heads and get into interacting and sharing with others. Thanks Jessica!

  • Jonathan Deer

    Totally endorse what you are saying about having a hobby…….it opens up your own headspace/me time/free time (whatever you want to call it). Anything can be a hobby I reckon……as long as you are in control of what you are doing, ownership of your own time….precious time for yourself to be able to immerse yourself in what you truly enjoy doing without others dictating/defining. Also, going for it with a hobby is so perfect for actually getting into your own head space, letting creativity flow. I am convinced that creativity is one of the best life-enhancers and empowers us, giving ourselves a feeling of worth and fulfillment. I would also say don’t feel scared or frightened of having a hobby/being creative, you don”t need to prove anything to anyone, just enjoy the feeling of freedom and headspace, immersing yourself into something truly enjoyable. I’ve been truly grateful to my hobby which I now have the honour of being my full-time job… life changer…

  • Patricia Davies

    I found this article very interesting and inspiring. I myself read articles/magazines as opposed to books and I find what I read very helpful.

  • jannid

    Terrific article. I was having a difficult time and never once placed my inability to handle excess stress to the fact that I had to give up cross stitching and drawing as I could no longer hold either a tiny needle or grip and apply pressure with a pencil. Someone suggested knitting as a means of trying to keep my fingers moving by lightly holding needles and yarn. So I took a class which taught me that a firm lefty can knit right handed. Turned out that knitting also helped me pause, breathe, and focus, which of course reduced my stress a bit to where I could handle it. Then I joined a Knit Gang and am learning to get out of my shell a bit while talking with new friends who help me knit with confidence… and who teach me to not fuss some of the creative embellishments. Now, even though I have only knit a couple projects, I feel satisfaction when I look at what I created, more at peace, more complete. Thank you. Your article made me smile and reminded me that I need to go work on my daughter’s hat.

  • jannid

    I asked friends what I might do to keep my arthritic hands active and they had a delightful time on my fb wall debating knitting vs crocheting.

  • jannid

    goodreads is an excellent place to discover new authors and genre.There are a number of discussion groups.

  • Gustavo Woltmann

    I’m loving this website more and more. Everytime I open a blog and have a read, I can’t stop until I finish reading, Every post is just inspiring and awesome.

  • Love the post. It is definitely beneficial in anyone’s life. as we know life can get hectic with work, kids, and life in general. we all need an escape from “life”

  • Great article…wish I read this in college…woudlv’e saved me years of depression and mental health crap. These days, I practice sprinting, not only because of the health and mind benefits, but because I love the excitement of sprinting, and its a great reson for calling myself a future Olympian;-)
    And you’re right…adding a hobby helps depression and gives you a reason to live. Thanks for reminding us

  • Having gardening as a hobby for so many years has helped me through tough times but also to bond more with my daughter and her kids as it gives us something to do together. I will miss it one day when I can no longer do it.