Learn Something New: Starting a New Hobby

Here’s your guide to choosing a new hobby so you can decide which activities would be most rewarding in your life.

By: Helen Jane Hearn

It happens every autumn. As the fresh school year starts, I get the urge to learn something new. It’s not an easy decision, and sometimes I need help narrowing down my options. This list of five questions always helps filter which hobbies will be most rewarding, and where to best spend time, money and effort.

1. Is It on Your Bucket List?
I find that choosing a new hobby is easier when I work from a list I’ve already made: my bucket list (Some people call it a “life list.”). If there’s a language I want to learn, a skill I want to master or an experience I want to have, my life list can provide a great map for deciding what hobby to try next. So far, my life list has provided hobby fodder such as: learn Italian, map my family tree and draw a colouring book, three things that would all be fun hobbies to pursue.

2. What Do You Read About in Your Spare Time?
Do you like to read cookbooks? Memoirs? How-tos? Self-help books? Take an inventory of all the books in your current reading queue and determine the different categories of hobbies you think you’d enjoy. Since I like to read cookbooks, I can be fairly certain that any activities dealing with food can be a fulfilling hobby.

3. Where Can You Comfortably be a Total Beginner?
Taking on a beginner’s mind-set is freeing. Since I’m expected to be a professional at my job and at being a mom, it’s liberating to approach something you know absolutely nothing about.

With that in mind, I took on music as a hobby. I needed to stop comparing myself to professional musicians and reject the idea that musical literacy is just for the kids. We were able to find a music teacher who comes to the house once a week to give both of my daughters and myself a 30-minute lesson (and my husband a cello lesson as well).

4. What Would Improve Other Parts of Your Life?
When deciding what new hobby to pick up, I often find it’s good to multitask. Is there an activity that will improve other parts of your life? For me, learning how to make my home more welcoming is a way to make my hobby feel more productive. I’ve found that cooking classes at the local community college are great places to get started. If I take my interest in home décor and gardening more seriously, I can make the place we share with friends and family even more rewarding.

5. What Would You Feel Totally Guilty to Pursue?
For me, that’s art. I’m a designer by trade, so any artistic output feels like it needs to have a financial reward. Rather than leaving guilt as the end-all feeling, I like to see it as a marker to note where I could invest in my own happiness. Taking a painting class, poetry class or writing seminar are three things that could leave me feeling so guilty — so I look to it as a worthwhile investment in my happiness.

Do you have too hard a time figuring out what hobbies to pursue? Or do you have different ways of choosing? Let us know in the comments!

Napa Valley-based, Helen has written about Internet culture and home entertaining at helenjane.com since 1998. She is a certified specialist of wine and founder of Cheesewhizzes, a nationwide cheese tasting club. She also captains her bocce team, Joanie Loves Bocce.


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