Decent photographer, even better employee

As someone with many hobbies and passions outside of work, it can feel like these interests are competing for attention versus self-directed professional development initiatives. Should I go to a yoga class, work on a side project, or write this blog post? Are hobbies viewed as a waste of time by current or future employers? There is a growing body of research that suggests what you do with your free time can have a positive influence on your work and that hobbies can even improve your work.

Embrace a “growth mindset”

Hobbies are a great opportunity to train your brain to embrace a “growth mindset”. Dr. Carol Dweck popularized this term when she introduced the idea that people generally see life through the lens of a “growth” or “fixed” mindset. “In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail — or if you’re not the best — it’s all been wasted. The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome” (source). When you embrace a new or existing hobby there is often a fear that you won’t be good at it. Why waste your time doing something you might falter at when you can keep doing what you know you’re decent at? However, when you look at a new activity from the perspective that just trying it is in itself the achievement (notice some parallels with “The Power of Habit”), you are better able to live in the moment and enjoy the experience. Embrace the journey of tackling a new or existing hobby without imposing the burden of needing to necessarily excel at it. As an added bonus, it is often by accepting that this new pursuit will be a journey towards skill and proficiency that you are actually more likely to find success and mastery.

Get your blood pumping

Get used to feeling uncomfortable

Sometimes we grow the most when we’re thrust into an extremely uncomfortable situation. Placing yourself in unfamiliar surroundings or situations creates opportunities to come at your problems from a different perspective. Maybe you can better empathize with your technology challenged customers after a weekend feeling confused about how to edit images in Photoshop. If you’re never pushing yourself out of your comfort zone professionally- whether it’s by taking on a presentation you’re not sure you can handle, or selling to a customer you think might be too big for your software- you’re missing opportunities to grow your experience and brainstorm new ways to tackle hurdles.

Return to your work well rested

“At the core of it, people that have hobbies or side projects say that they are on a path for continued improvement, intellectual curiosity and well roundedness.” — Dawn Sharifan, Slack’s Director of People Operations (source). Your hobbies should be a source of enjoyment and an opportunity for self exploration, and those benefits can carry over and have the added benefit of having your hobbies improve your work.

Customer Success consultant, writer, and expert

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