December 8, 2010

Is This Missing From Your Retirement?

You might be thinking. "nothing is missing. What are you talking about?" The short answer is a hobby. Then, you might respond, "why do I need a hobby at all? My life already full and getting busier. Who has time to take on a new commitment?"  I'm suggesting the answer is, you, if you haven't thought seriously about finding one. What exactly is a hobby? According to the dictionary it is an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation.

Two words in the definition give you a clue to its importance: pleasure or relaxation. In previous posts I have discussed the common misconception that a retired person has nothing but free time, few obligations, and even fewer responsibilities. If you have been among the non-working for more than a few days, you know none of that is true. A satisfying retirement can be just as hectic as your working days. So, the need for something that allows you to take a break from the routine is every bit as important.

Hobbies are as varied as the people who pursue them. My father-in-law collected swizzle sticks and matchbooks. I started stamp collecting as a pre-teen and eventually moved into ham radio. Others choose woodworking, quilting, gardening, mountain biking, golf, sky diving, fishing.....the list is endless. But, what makes a fulfilling hobby?

Some pick a hobby that is "practical," others do something just for the fun of it. A practical hobby would be sewing, woodworking or vegetable gardening. While it provides the pleasure or relaxation you need, it also produces something that can be used, sold, or enjoyed later. Just for the fun of it is pretty self-explanatory. Mountain biking, ballroom dancing, or most forms of collecting are taken up because the activity is enjoyed. Generally there isn't a practical use for whatever is done. Importantly, both categories have equal value. A hobby satisfies a need you have. Whether it is practical or just a lot of fun doesn't matter in the least.

A good hobby is one that often uses skills or talents that aren't fully utilized during non-hobby times. If you spend a lot of time in front of a computer, a satisfying hobby might involve something more physical, or with different skill sets. If you write technical reports all day, turning out a good mystery novel might be just the ticket. On the other hand, if your day is filled with some form of manual work, a hobby that uses more brain than brawn could be best for you.

A new diversion can boost your creativity. The energizing aspect of a good leisure activity can prompt you to tackle something new. You learn new ways to solve problems. You face new challenges that must be dealt with differently than during other times of your life.

In most hobbies there are opportunities to meet new people who have the same interest as you. Everything from formal clubs to informal gatherings over coffee are part of many hobby activities. Problem-solving and question-asking through e-mail or telephone exchanges introduces you to someone you may never have met any other way.

Most hobbies require a serious dose of "me-time." You are intently focused on the activity or process. You shut out distractions or the needs of others for just awhile. You feed only yourself. Particularly if you are involved with other people most of the time, this solitary experience can be very pleasurable.

Showing the versatility of hobbies, the exact opposite situation may also occur. You may spend time with a spouse, child, or significant other in a way that is totally different from normal interactions. If you are both hiking a mountain pass, the experience will trigger reactions and conversations very different from those involving who takes out the trash or what's for dinner. The chance to learn more about each other can make a shared hobby a real kick.

Finding a hobby that really fits your needs takes experimentation. Unless you are lucky, you might have to try out several until something clicks. You might change hobbies over time as your needs and interests evolve, and that's OK, too. My only advice: keep searching. I went for almost 8 years without anything that would qualify as a legitimate hobby. As soon as I found what I was searching for I knew it.

What about you? Do you have something that brings you pleasure or relaxation? Have you found something that really brightens your free time? Or, are you still searching? I'm interested in learning about your hobby or your hunt for one. Please share your experiences with us.

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  1. Hi, Bob... Thanks for a great post on an important subject. I believe you've hit the nail on the head regarding the importance of a hobby in retirement. I'm reminded of my wife's dad who, upon retirement, expanded his interest, and time devoted, to building furniture. Out of his garage / furniture shop, he produced some wonderful furniture pieces that his each of his four daughters continue to enjoy. Bill

  2. Morning, Bill.

    I was a lot more content and easy to live with when I finally landed on a hobby that satisfied me. For several years I filled extra time with excessive reading, Internet wandering, and working in the backyard. Discovering something that was both pleasurable and relaxing and gave me a sense of accomplishment made a huge difference.

    Handmade furniture is such a joy. It is beautiful to look at, functional, and a very concrete reminder of someone else's talents and love.

  3. Here's another reason for you. I like to knit, the repetitive rhythm relaxes and engages me. In the evenings, my husband likes to watch TV--there are very few shows that I actually enjoy, but if I pick up my knitting, I enjoy the TV in the background and spending the evening with Doug, even if we are mostly engaged in our own activity.

  4. Good point, Syd. A hobby or relaxing activity that you can do with your spouse, even if only by proximity, is a major plus. A relationship requires together time, even if not "together" at the same activity.

  5. Another vote for knitting here. I love the textures and colors of the yarn. I can knit in the car while we drive back and forth to visit Bill's folks and I can't help but believe that there is some primal need met by having made something with your own hands rather than buying it from the store.

    So what is your hobby Bob?

  6. Hi Chris,

    I'll add one more to the knitting column. My Mom used to knit but I'm not sure if she really enjoyed it. I got the feeling she felt she "should" knit us boys a sweater or scarf.

    My hobby? Now it is primarily blogging and writing. I'm teaching myself guitar and am still involved with ham radio, though not as much as I once was.

    Next year Betty and I hope to launch a web site to sell her abstract and landscape photographs. That is something we are looking forward to doing together.

  7. Who's got time for a hobby? Retirement is serious business!

  8. Hey Bob!
    I try to spend my free time with family and friends, I think it's be the best way to spend it!
    Nice to meet you Bob!
    Hope to see you around!

  9. Hey Fernando,

    Thanks for stopping by. Free time spent with family and friends should be listed as one of the most rewarding hobbies there is.

  10. I'm not quite retired yet, but I work from home and my husband is retired. I satisfied a lifelong dream with my hobby. Never having played any instrument and not knowing how to read music, I began taking violin lessons at 58. The small town where we moved after my husband's retirement has a 40-piece orchestra. Not quite three years after starting lessons, I joined them this season, last weekend playing three performances. Thrilling! My husband has competed in archery with his recurved bow, a hobby he took up after retirement

  11. Wow, that's great, Linda. Playing with an orchestra after just three years, and the violin is not an easy instrument. That is really something.

    Archery is another new hobby on my list. Not sure what a recurved bow is but I don't think I want to stand in front of him.

    Thanks for two great examples of tackling something new.


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