Growing up, I never understood what it meant to just enjoy an activity. I was very performance-oriented, so I couldn’t comprehend why a person might be internally motivated enough to pursue a hobby– for the sheer joy of it.

This past year, I spent a lot of time blogging here on Simplicity Relished. I wrote several posts at the time defining the purpose of my blog– a hobby and creative outlet so that I would not neglect my writing skills.

Here comes the confession: I don’t think blogging was ever my true hobby. I cared too much about how my blog was received. I cared about its readership, and I cared about my audience. At the very least, I was not just in it for my own enjoyment. I was concerned with numbers, opinions, reactions, and relationships.

But the more important lesson here is this: my general obsession with excellence made it challenging for me to find a relaxing activity– where I could be completely at ease.

Why you need a true hobby and not just a side hustle

The problem with the “side-hustle hobby”

“Side-hustle” must be a buzzword for our generation. So many of us are discontent with our jobs, and we desire nothing more than to begin calling our own shots.

For those who haven’t heard, a side-hustle is usually a project that one works on while employed in another fashion– with hopes of the hustle becoming a legitimate full-time option.

So why is the side-hustle not a real hobby? If you love something enough, then it never feels like work, right?

Perhaps I have yet to see the light, but I believe that work should feel like work, no matter what it is. Thomas Edison famously said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

In other words, most promising side-hustles are hardly hobbies. Side-hustles are work– unpaid, unstable, and often unrecognized work.

So, your side-hustle can’t be your hobby. Here’s the rule: if it’s performance-oriented (and most viable career paths should be), then it can’t double as a leisure activity. 

Why you need a true hobby: 6 reasons

I remember back in middle school when we learned about the “leisure class,” or the upper crust of any society in human history. These people were defined by the fact that they had free time– a strange concept to many kids who find themselves voluntarily busy.

Having a hobby used to be considered a privilege, and I still think that it is a privilege we have to choose for ourselves. Call me old-fashioned, but I strongly believe in hobbies. If only my performance-oriented self could have realized this years ago, I would have reaped its immense benefits during times when I really needed it.

1) A hobby’s sole purpose is to bring you happiness and intrigue.

How many things can we simply enjoy? Sadly, for many of us, there are few.

A hobby is not about building something new. There is no scheme behind a hobby– it just is. And it allows us to direct our energy toward something that is just for us. Not everything has to be the bootstrap by which we pull ourselves up.

2) A hobby helps us distinguish between work and rest.

These days, I wake up and work at full force on my blog until I go to my paying job. In the evenings– like this late evening– I write posts, respond to comments, and schedule social media promotions.

I’m not sure when I became fully conscious of this, but sometimes I work more than 12 hours a day. This blog is not my resting place; I strive for excellence, and I am intentional about it.

My current hobby, on the other hand, is learning about succulent gardening. There’s no timeline, no competition, no strong sense of performance anxiety involved there. When I’m learning about plants, digging around in our patch of dirt, or creating my own arrangements (coming soon!), I am fully at ease in my mind. It’s a good and necessary place to be.

3) A hobby keeps Internet and TV at bay.

I’ve watched my fair share of television and obviously spend a lot of time on the Internet. However, it saddens me that many people spend more free time with their technology than they do with their spouse (source). We default to scrolling through our phones when we don’t know what else to do.

Without a well-developed hobby, our weekends can slip by between episodes and Instagram. And the worst part is, we rarely feel truly rested, much less joyful, do we?

4) A hobby doesn’t have to be competitive.

A hobby doesn’t make any promises to pay the bills or become a breakthrough. It’s focused on the present— being happy, creative, clever, or engrossed– in the here and now.

Despite my natural affinity of competition, I see a huge benefit to resisting that competitive streak. Not everything has to be a matter of success or failure; some things can simply be enjoyable. Not every activity needs an audience; some activities are worth doing for their own sake.

5) A hobby can relieve anxiety and fuel inspiration.

Side-hustles are stressful and tiring; if they don’t induce at least a healthy level of anxiety, then something is wrong.

However, that anxiety needs to be put to rest on a regular basis. Between jobs and side-hustles, our minds are constantly vacillating between building a viable livelihood and maintaining the one we currently have.

Taking a break to do something without any pressure can help us remember that we are not defined by our careers. It’s during these moments of leisure that our minds can refuel– perhaps even re-inspire.

6) A hobby can be enjoyed with people you love.

Work is often done apart from those we love. And even if our work partners are loved ones, it’s important to enjoy activities together that are not all about performance.

My husband and I have developed a great rhythm when we’re in the kitchen together, making meals for friends. And while cooking can be performance-oriented, it has become less that way for us, and more pure fun.

Another friend of mine got me into plants and succulents in the first place– and we like comparing notes, plant-shopping, and helping each other keep our leaf-babies alive.

Hobbies are a simple but effective way to cultivate relationships, old and new.

The bottom-line: don’t work all the time.

The most important step here is to recognize work as work. If an activity carries a lot of weight, promises an extra line on your resume, or is bringing in extra income, then it’s work. (And yes, when a hobby turns into something that makes money, then it’s no longer a true hobby.)

One of my goals is to develop enough true hobbies so that, on any given free day, I’ll have a rewarding, life-giving, enjoyable and shareable activity to pursue. I want to emerge from the end of that free day, feeling refreshed and ready for the work ahead of me. Hobbies are an essential part of the work rhythm– as essential as the work itself.

Do you have a true hobby? Is it important to you? I’d love to know!