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Get a Hobby, Save Your Soul

by Karen Charnock(more info)

listed in health and life coaching, originally published in issue 154 - January 2009

How time and people change, or perhaps more accurately, how people change with time.

Take hobbies for instance – oh, what a quaint notion, what a boring concept! In my less enlightened youth, I had always viewed 'hobbies' akin to flower arranging and air fix models. For the life of me, I just couldn't see the point of them. I mean, why be wasting valuable time and energy on stuff not guaranteed to 'achieve' you something in the outside world? Like a job promotion. By all means, daub a bit of watercolour around in your free time, if you think it's going someplace, otherwise forget it.

Hobby Representation

In the Dark

As you might have guessed, the whole idea of doing something, anything, simply for the sheer enjoyment of it, was still a long way off for me!

Naturally, I had read a whole host of articles, on a variety of topics, many of which included leisure pursuits and their benefits such as relaxation, and improved physical and mental health. In principle I could agree. I just never personally, equated any of it with me!

Gradually, oh so gradually, I began to realize that my colleagues, the well adjusted ones at least, had them. Strange! Squash, hiking, photography. Bizarre, in fact! To a 'career' girl like me, it didn't make sense. I was more attuned to the straight ahead, no nonsense, let's make progress school of thought. Life, oblique work, became a one dimensional, and wholly encompassing activity – for me at least, the kind of tightly focused road of existence.

What's Going On?

Nevertheless, even I couldn't fail to see that something was going on. I mean, after all, these colleagues of mine were all intelligent people. Talking seriously as they were on Monday mornings about their weekend hikes and forthcoming tennis lessons, I had to admit, something most definitely seemed amiss!

In particular, I started to notice the amazing ability 'these people' seemed to have at 'switching off', their sense of ease, their ability to rise above the normal day-to-day work life fray. All the things, in fact, I found annoyingly difficult to achieve! Looking back, considering my outstanding abilities at mentally re-living each day, and projecting tomorrow, it's hardly surprising. To put it bluntly – I had nothing else to think about, no other demands upon my time. I was, long before the term was coined, the original 24/7 kind of gal!

Of course, there was something else. Something else escaping my attention, as I valiantly battled for life's true meaning, this – our interests, passions, 'loves', provide invaluable insight into the kind of work we might enjoyably be doing for a living. What a notion, what a concept! What a load of common sense!

For instance, tasks I hate, find hard to accomplish, might prove effortless to someone else. What causes me tremendous stress and pressure might prove enjoyably challenging to someone else. Why? Simple, because we all have our own individual strengths, likes and dislikes.  Maybe it's a kind of puritanical thinking we've got going here, because there's no doubt in my mind we all seem to have a much stronger tendency to focus on correcting perceived 'weaknesses', than on recognizing our inherent strengths!

But common sense? No way. Work was work. It wasn't meant to be easy; it was something we did, had to do. Hopefully well. I had never seriously been introduced to the concept of turning something I enjoyed into a living. The idea you could pursue an avenue of work you liked, had a natural predisposition for, seemed too far-fetched for me. But no! Take sport for instance. All those careers around the periphery, like commentator, sports reporter, events organizer, trainer, coach and so on? Ok, so you aren't David Beckham doesn't mean you have to be excluded from the game. And as inspirational author Dr Wayne W Dyer reminds us in 'Everyday Wisdom for Success', "There's no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love. There's only a scarcity of resolve to make it happen."  And that's good enough for me!

A Holistic Approach

I suppose, coming from a family that prized itself on educational attainment, it was natural to try shoe-horning myself into a respectable career, one for which my qualifications seemed to fit. But 'all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy' too often applies.  Ironically it's only now that I have a string of academic qualifications, can I say 'education' means more than simply racking up a string of academic merit badges. It's so much broader than that.               

Developing our full personality is key to our health and mental well-being. I am reminded of this concept often, and particularly so every Christmas when I visit Durham Cathedral. Displayed at the altar is a finely detailed work of art, otherwise known as The Nativity. Intricately carved with huge attention to detail, this piece was crafted by a coal miner, long since dead. Apparently during his breaks underground, he used to chisel out bits of wood he found lying around the coal shaft. It wasn't however until well into his fifties that he discovered fully his outstanding talent. To think, an 'ordinary' coal miner, spending his entire working life underground, when he possessed such amazing skills. A life half lived, maybe.

In fact, there are countless examples of people who have benefited emotionally and financially from their hobbies. During my career as a marketing executive, I routinely used a freelance photographer to cover a host of photo shoots. Whilst chatting one day, this photographer told me that leaving school with few qualifications he became a forklift truck driver. He had done this job for 16 years when suddenly he was made redundant. Since he had always enjoyed photography as a hobby, out of sheer necessity, he decided to use the first day of his redundancy approaching a photography shop and newspaper editor with the hope of gaining work. At the end of his first day he had secured a job as a shop assistant and a commission from the paper. After six months he had so much freelance work he was forced to resign his job as sales assistant and focus exclusively on taking photographs. Certainly for him, being made redundant was the best thing that could ever have happened! 

I Can See Clearly Now

For me, it took the best part of twenty years to fully appreciate we should never creatively pigeon hole ourselves. In my defence of course, it must be said that even the most 'intelligent' ones amongst us, sometimes take what amounts to an inordinate length of time to grasp the nettle – get the point!

And the point, being this. We all need a full inventory of our self, a full appreciation of our assets. We also need a release, a diversion, a change of mental scene from the rigours of day-to-day life. All of us – you and me! It even allows us the opportunity to bounce back, more fully revived to our 'troubles' and pick up exactly where we left off! In fact, more often it allows us to revisit them with greater clarity. Churning over and over the same issue is exhausting and potentially mind numbing. How many times does the answer to a problem appear when we are mentally preoccupied with something else? The endless chatter our mind likes indulging in, needs the occasional silence. Only then when stilled can a fresh voice, a more insightful voice be heard.

And so, whether it's needlepoint, pot planting or stargazing, it matters not. It really doesn't! It all in the end serves the same purpose. Some people take up meditation, and great I say, trying it out myself. Because in essence that's what I believe all hobbies do – they meditate, soothe and medicate us even!

I once heard a well renowned spiritual guru recount a lecture he had given. It was on the virtues of meditation. Throughout his talk, an elderly, white haired lady was sitting in the front row, vigorously nodding. In conversation later, intrigued, he queried her enthusiasm. In response she replied, she knew exactly what he was talking about, since she herself was an avid knitter. Knitting no less! No matter.

And so it was, I finally realized that my intellectual snobbery had for years been playing a blinder on me. Told me I was too ambitious, clever even, to waste my time on such frivolous pursuits as rag rolling and hang gliding. Or in the words of my more simplistic and well adjusted mother, "you can have all the qualifications in the world, but you still have to live in it", or words to that effect. What of course she was really trying to tell me at the time (and all to no avail), was simply this – there's more to life than fancy job titles and money. There's something more important and infinitely more rewarding – that's our health, contentment and peace of mind. A true connection to our self. And that my friend, is most definitely an inside job!


Dr Wayne W Dyer. Everyday Wisdom for Success. Hay House Inc. ISBN 978-1-4019-0552-1. 2007.


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About Karen Charnock

Karen Charnock BA (Hons) MA Dip CIM Dip RSA HNC works as a qualified Life and Performance Coach within the area of Work Life Transition Coaching, drawing upon her personal experiences of geographical re-location, career change, company re-structure, redundancy, retirement and more. As a marketing specialist, she helps clients assess their current situation, explore opportunities, define goals and formulate strategies for their successful achievement. Her coaching focuses primarily on the changes a client may encounter within the realm of work, drawing mainly upon the Solutions Focused Model of Coaching. Karen attained her Life Coaching Diploma and Performance Coaching Diploma from Newcastle College and had several coaching related articles published by Positive Health magazine PH Online – her author profile.  Karen may be contacted via and LinkedIn

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