How to Make Yourself More Interesting and Relatable in Business and Life
Finding a hobby that truly engages you outside of the office will help you at work and beyond.
If there's one thing I think has the power to positively affect your life, it's the pursuit of a carefully chosen hobby
When you see me in a corporate setting or when I'm on stage speaking, your first thought probably isn't: This woman plays bass guitar. But I do. It's a deep-seated passion related to my love of rock music that also happens to help me connect more deeply with clients and people from all different walks of life in business.
I decided to start learning bass guitar at a time in my life when I was realizing I'd completely neglected my interests in music and art. I'd shown an early interest in these areas, but as I got started with my chosen career path, I focused in on work and didn't make time for much else.
So when my son was learning to play electric guitar, I decided it was time for me to learn as well. Many of us believe that being an adult limits our ability to learn new things. The author Jim Butcher wrote, "It was never too late to learn something. The past is unalterable in any event. The future is the only thing we can change."
Your hobby has to be something that speaks to the core of who you are, which probably means it won't be exactly the same thing your friend does. You won't really want to make the time for it unless you love it, so it's critical to take the time and find a hobby that fits your personality.
Here are a couple benefits you can expect to gain from a hobby that truly engages you:
1. It will make you interesting and relatable.
When people -- whether a business associate or a parent at your child's school -- learn about your hobby, it gives them a glimpse of your story and makes you more human.
A hobby gives you dimension beyond just a job title or someone's mom or spouse. You're those things and also the person who crochets amazing designs, or deejays on the weekends, or whatever the case may be.
When business associates or customers find out about your hobby, it gives them something to ask you about and might even introduce them to something new. Often, it prompts them to share their own interests or pursuits, which can help build stronger connections.
For example, I recently told a customer how my husband and kids and I play different instruments and practice together as a family band. Sharing this opened an opportunity for that customer to tell me how he wanted his kids to learn an instrument and his approach to get them interested in music.
I loved learning from him, it taught me something new, and also created more of a connection than just the typical business discussion.
2. It will benefit all parts of your life
A hobby is great because it can be enriching, but also recharges you. There's a lot of evidence showing that when we spend time on things we inherently enjoy, it encourages creative thinking. Wharton professor and TED speaker Adam Grant explains how this works in a brief on the American Psychological Association website:
"For more than three decades, psychologists have studied intrinsic motivation as a driver of creativity. The core assumption is that when employees enjoy the work itself, they process information flexibly, experience positive affect, and become willing to take risks and persist in efforts to develop and refine ideas."
When you give your brain a break from work, you free it up to think creatively about other things, to rest, and maybe to make connections that you might not have seen in the first place.
The time you spend on a hobby definitely has the potential to enrich you as a person (which is rewarding in itself). It can help you become a better boss, manager or employee. It can help you solve business problems or come up with new innovative ideas because you gave your brain a reprieve from the office to process.
Those are just a couple of the benefits of pursuing a hobby -- there are so many more. Even if you have a hobby that isn't fully doing it for you, I encourage you to try others until you find one that excites you. Your future self will thank you.
This post was originally published on Inc.com on May 17, 2017.