10 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Hobby
Ask yourself these ten questions to find the most fulfilling hobby for you.
Posted September 9, 2018
Sometimes we stumble into hobbies. This can work out well, but you can also take a more self-reflective, deliberate approach to choosing a hobby. Try these questions to better understand exactly what you're looking for in the perfect hobby.
Hobbies can either cost money, generate money, or have a neutral financial impact. Is this important to you? Some people like hobbies that generate extra money (e.g., making and selling handcrafted items, playing music at weddings, coaching sports, writing ebooks). For other people, a hobby that generates money quickly starts to feel like a second job and isn't fun anymore. You might have a threshold for expenditure: for example, you're fine with a hobby that costs up to $500 per year. Any answer to this question is fine. The question is merely about understanding your preferences and budget.
Tip: If you're interested in a hobby that makes money, check out this giant list of "side hustle" ideas. Sometimes hobbies that traditionally cost money can be morphed into a money-making or revenue neutral version, like flipping motorcycles rather than just collecting them, or teaching the skill you have.
Some hobbies realistically require a minimum time investment. You can't train for a marathon in an hour a week. Are you looking for a hobby that'll only consume 1 to 2 hours per week, 2 to 5 hours, or over 5 hours? If you're retired or have spare time, you might be looking for a more consuming hobby whereas if you have many demands on your time, you might want an activity that doesn't much time.
3. When do you want to participate in your hobby?
As well as the overall time commitment, you might want a hobby you can engage in at particular times. For example, you already have plenty of outdoor hobbies for the warmer months but you're looking for an activity you can do in the dead of winter. Or, you might only have time for a hobby when your kids are in school or during times your work is quieter. Some people like hobbies they can add to their regular schedule, but if you have rebel tendencies you might not like a hobby that requires you to commit to being somewhere at a particular time/day on an ongoing basis.
4. Social contact
If you have a very social job, you might be looking for a hobby that won't require further social interaction. You might want to knit in front of your TV. On the flipside, if your job is solitary, you might be looking for a hobby that will help you meet people and make friends. Within this, you might have a preference for whether your hobby involves interacting with other people online or in person. Either is fine, it's just what your preference is.
5. What types of people do you want to interact with?
What types of people do you want to interact with as part of your hobby?
- Maybe your work place is quite conservative and you want more contact with crunchy, environmentally-conscious people?
- Maybe your job is very intellectual and you'd like to spend more time with people who see life from a less intellectual perspective. You want to do stuff with your hands and not overthink.
- Maybe you're a lawyer who wears a pantsuit to work everyday and you'd like to spend your leisure time around people who share your zany streak.
- Maybe your main group of friends is quite materialistic and you'd like greater contact with people who are more minimalistic.
You probably have an idea about the types of people you typically like to spend time with. I like hobbies that attract people with the full spectrum of political beliefs, to help counteract the filter bubble that's so easy to fall into with friendships and career circles. On the other hand, I have a longstanding preference for spending time with people who have a strong DIY instinct. I'm self employed and mostly hang out with other self-employed people. This independent streak tends to be a fairly consistent theme in the types of people I most like being around.
Think about sides of yourself where those traits aren't shared by most of your current friends and colleagues. A point I mention in my book, The Healthy Mind Toolkit, is that most people in my line of work tend towards being conscientious and not particularly risk taking. I generally prefer hobbies that put me in contact with people who are bigger risk takers and who are less concerned with rules. I like the contrast and an outlet for another side of my personality, which brings me to my next point.
6. What sides of yourself don't you express much through your job and current hobbies?
I like hobbies that involve math. My current work involves words (obviously) but as a little kid I liked math a lot. Whatever you do for work, you might want an outlet for your other skills and strengths, whether related to creativity, physicality, or relationship and community building etc.
7. In what ways do you want your hobby to challenge you?
Are you looking for a hobby that's mostly relaxing or mostly challenging? Again, any answer is fine. The question is just about knowing what you want.
People sometimes want a hobby that challenges them intellectually or physically, or that challenges them in an area of self consciousness (e.g., you challenge your body-related issues by taking up dance).
If your current hobbies are relaxing, consider a challenging hobby, and vice versa.
8. Are you looking for a hobby you can do with your spouse or partner?
If you have a lot of solitary interests you might be looking for a hobby you can do with your spouse and other couples.
9. Do you struggle with finishing things?
If you already struggle with finishing things, you might not want a hobby where this could be an issue. For example, I can imagine that if I took up a hobby like knitting or cross-stitch I'd probably end up with a lot of unfinished projects sitting around. My work requires motivating myself to finish things, and I don't particularly want a hobby that also requires that. If finishing projects is a strength for you, then you'll know you can take on a hobby that requires this.
10. Self-check: Are you interested in the hobby, or in the equipment associated with a hobby?
Finally, a very easy trap to fall into in choosing a hobby is thinking you're going to like a hobby because you like researching or shopping for equipment associated with that hobby. For example, you like camping gear much more than you like actual camping. Or, you like yoga blocks and yoga pants much more than you like actual yoga.
If you've been stuck for ideas about hobbies you might like, hopefully this list of questions and considerations has stimulated your thinking. While serendipitously falling into a hobby can work out great, there are lots of hobbies to choose from. Thinking about your preferences, lifestyle, and the aspects of yourself that are currently under-expressed, can help you find a fulfilling option you may not have previously thought about.