It’s easy for professionals to become consumed by their careers. It happens all the time: professionals of all stripes see “success” as the ultimate end goal, and they believe the only way to meet this target (and fast) is to throw themselves into their work. They take the ‘work hard, play hard’ mantra and turn it on its head. Instead of ‘work hard, play hard’, it becomes ‘work hard now so you can play hard later.’
Except later doesn’t always come. People trick themselves into believing that there’s a finish line they’ll eventually cross. They think that when they break that tape it will finally mean they’ve ‘made it’ — that they’ve accomplished everything they’ve set out to do. But there is no finish line. As you up the ante for yourself, it’s possible that instead of chasing success, you’ll only be chasing your own tail.
Don’t lose yourself in your career. Your job can be part of your identity, but what you do for a living isn’t the only aspect of who you are — this is something that I learned only after I’d missed countless special occasions and important moments all in the name of chasing ‘success.’ Everyone has passions and hobbies, so identify yours and commit time to nurturing them outside of the workplace. There’s even evidence that suggests that when professionals pursue hobbies outside of work, they end up having more lucrative careers. So it seems that success is a byproduct of both professional and personal passion.
Here are a few reasons why it’s so important for professionals to have hobbies outside of work.
Careers aren’t always forever
When I’m getting to know someone new, I worry when all they can talk about is their job. It’s great when a person is so career-motivated, but I’ve always believed that people should be more than their professional identities — that they should be proud of more than just their professional accomplishments.
The reason for this is because a career can be taken away from you so easily. Sometimes this can happen when a decision is made that’s outside of your control, and other times it can stem from a personal choice to remove yourself from a situation or an industry that you come to find no longer aligns with your values or ambitions. Careers aren’t always forever; our circumstances and dreams can change, so it’s important that we don’t only rely on our professional passions for fulfillment.
Join other communities
When you work at an organization for a while, your team becomes your work family. The same thing happens when you’re part of a particular industry for a long time. In the industries my career touches, for example, everyone knows everyone. They’re all in the same social group, they all vacation at the same destinations, and their kids all go to the same schools.
Nothing beats the feeling of being part of a community. In fact, when I realized my professional ambition was coming between me and my friends and family, turning to running as a hobby helped to bring me closer to my best girlfriends and to my brother. Instead of shutting them out in the name of my career, we started to find ways to fit in races in new cities at the ends of our business trips and ensure that we routinely met up for a stress-relieving after-work run. And by meeting people in the broader running community as well, I became part of a tight-knit community of runners who are each other’s support systems — some of us even became lifelong friends. Surround yourself with people who find just as much joy in a hobby as you do, and you will experience acceptance, inspiration, and fulfillment unlike ever before. You might even become closer to the people you already know!
Every career invokes stress. Deadlines, meetings, and challenging projects all enhance our anxiety; the more you throw yourself into your work, the more stress you’ll feel. Hobbies are a great way to relieve this pressure. When you engage in activities that make you happy, it distracts you from that long day at work and provides you with an outlet to channel your frustration, anxiety, and fatigue. As a result, you’ll slowly start to see your happiness start to trickle back into your professional life. We don’t work well when we’re stressed out, so we need to make more time to do the things that make us the happiest in life.
You aren’t just a CEO, an attorney, a manager, or an administrative assistant — you are also a runner, a swimmer, a travel enthusiast, a painter, and a reader. Whatever your passions are, it’s time to make them a priority in your life again.