“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.