Work, Hobbies and Happiness

Last week I picked up a copy of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin as part of an exercise completely unrelated to actually reading the whole book. (The reason is a story for another day.) Thankfully the public library allows me to take books, not read them, and return them for free. Hooray for libraries!

As I thumbed through the book, however, I was struck by the chapter on work. Rubin writes, “Happiness is a critical factor for work, and work is a critical factor for happiness…. Happy people work more hours each week — and they tend to work more in their free time, too.” She explains how it’s a two-way street. If you’re happy with your work, you’ll work more and you’ll work more because you’re happy with your work.

Later, when describing the reasons she decided to leave her law career to focus on a career as a writer, it was because the passion wasn’t there.

“People who love their work bring an intensity and enthusiasm that’s impossible to match through sheer diligence. I could see that in my co-clerks at the Supreme Court; the read law journals for fun, they talked about cases during their lunch hours, the felt energized by their efforts. I didn’t.”

She goes on to say that she was always a writer, researcher and analyst, realizing she needed to go forward with her passion for writing. She has since made a successful career as a writer, podcaster and speaker.

Confession, I haven’t finished the whole chapter, but it that part has stuck with me. I began to think of where my passions lie. When my industry magazines arrive do I read those journal articles and dig in to learn the latest techniques or do I put them to the side to collect dust until it’s time to donate them to the previously mentioned library? (Unrelated, I hope you know many libraries take magazines donations for reuse. Ours has a free donate/trade area.)

But, then there’s this… as we discussed on the VeryPink Knits podcast episode 113, what I call the Instagram effect, has many people turning their hobby into their job or trying to be influencers to monetize their passion. Our guest, Brigid Schulte, encouraged us to look at the role of the hobby in our lives. Do we use it to relax, is it the escape, or do we want to put in the time needed to make it a job?

Another previous guest on our podcast, Dr. Art Markman, comes at the question as a psychologist with this article answering, should you turn your passion or hobby into a job? He suggests exploring your values, personality and responsibilities related to this question. Can you make a living and support whomever you need to support with your passion? Or, is it enough to have it be your creative outlet while your day-to-day is perhaps less inspiring?

Clearly, a lot of creative types struggle with this question. Here is yet another piece, The Modern Trap of Turning Your Hobby into a Hustle. Especially if you have a craft or hobby that is outward facing, like wearing a sweater that you knit, when people find out you made it they often suggest that you should open an Etsy shop and sell them. This author laments that we are constantly made to feel inadequate if we’re not living our passion or constantly being the best at everything we do, down to simple household tasks.

She writes, “How did we get to the point where free time is so full of things we have to do that there’s no room for things we get to do?”

We constantly compare our lives to others on social media. It may look like that artist on Instagram is living the dream, but we don’t see behind the curtain that she hasn’t taken a real vacation in 5 years or she’s barely scraping by financially and has an eye twitch.

I can’t make a living as a certified cat admirer, Instagram scroller or Facebook comedian, unfortunately. But, I have been examining the work that I do, the hobbies I love and where my passions and strengths lie. That’s another variable in the equation for people looking at making their hobby their job… are you even good at it? This isn’t a grand announcement that I’m leaving my job to join the circus because I am not good at circus tricks.

Do you work to live or live to work? Do you love your hobby so much you are willing to put in the work to make it not your escape from work, but your actual work?