You really need a hobby

“A man can wear out a particular part of his mind by continually using it and tiring it, just in the same way as he can wear out the elbows of his coat…to be really happy and really safe, one ought to have at least two or three hobbies, and they must all be real.” Winston Churchill, Pall Mall, 1925

I just read Daniel Smith’s book How to Think Like Churchill. I recommend it. Smith has written 26 short chapters about Churchill’s life in a blend of biography and life lessons. We’re all familiar with Churchill’s incredible life and legacy, but before reading the book, I was unaware that he was a huge advocate of hobbies and had many himself. Smith devotes an entire chapter to discussing this topic. Churchill:  

  • Was a keen fan of music, particularly military marches and classics from the music hall.
  • Enjoyed cinema, particularly the works of the Marx Brothers and Walt Disney.
  • Was a connoisseur of fine wine, food, and cigars.
  • Was a keen hunter, riding with hounds even in his seventies, as well as enjoying big game hunting.
  • As a boy he had an interest in stamp collecting and card games. 
  • Enjoyed landscaping and especially, somewhat unexpectedly, bricklaying, to the extent that he became a member of the Guild of Bricklayers. 
  • The pastime he enjoyed most was painting. He took up painting in his forties and in his lifetime produced 500 works. He insisted that all his unwieldy artist’s paraphernalia—including stools, easels, canvases and paint boxes—be taken on his exotic travels. In 1948 he published a volume entitled Painting as a Pastime. He was quite good at it; Pablo Picasso said, “If Churchill were a painter by profession, he’d have no trouble making a living.”

A hobby should not be just an extension of your profession. If you’re a CPA working for an accounting firm, reading the latest journal articles about the tax code does not qualify as a hobby. A real hobby might be pursuing scuba diving or ballroom dancing. Escape from your bubble and become a novice in a different area.

A good hobby should initially put you in unfamiliar territory. You’ll start as a neophyte, feel uncomfortable, and fail often. But ultimately you’ll get better and the journey will be invigorating. 

I have several major hobbies. I create pedagogical art (art that teaches a lesson) and I am a wine expert (I have three advanced certifications in wine studies and maintain a small vineyard). I enjoy these hobbies so much I often get into the “flow” when engaging in them; I lose track of time and enter a different mental state.

It’s beneficial for couples to share a hobby. My wife and I love to travel. We want to visit 60 countries before we die; we’ve been to 48. We enjoy visiting museums; we’ve been to most of the great art museums in the world. We enjoy cooking together; sometimes we’ll spend three hours preparing and savoring a meal.  

Hobbies are extremely beneficial. They:

  1. Help reduce or eradicate boredom. 
  2. Give you something to do when you have extra time. 
  3. Give you an activity you can look forward to and get excited about.
  4. Help you develop new skills.
  5. Enhance your life. 
  6. Relieve stress.
  7. Promote better health and may lower the risk of high blood pressure. 
  8. May reduce the risk of depression and dementia.
  9. Some hobbies are good for you physically; they keep you active.
  10. Improve creativity.
  11. Get you out of your mental and physical ruts.
  12. Can strengthen relationships.
  13. Provide a good transition to retirement.

It’s never too late to start a hobby. The old saying—When is the best time to plant a tree? The best time is twenty years ago; the next best time is today.—applies to starting hobbies. 

Please click the respond button and tell your fellow readers—What are your hobbies?

12 Replies to “You really need a hobby”

  1. Very encouraging essay, Don, and I’m going to have to buy that book about Churchill (my library doesn’t have a copy). It might give ideas for my husband and me. My hobbies include reading, writing (as well as a ministry via e-mail), playing various musical instruments, cooking, baking, and trying new recipes with food or with essential oils. Being mostly at home with a husband who needs care, I read and research (online) health issues and ANYTHING I find interesting such as American history details or how, where, and why a movie was made. Occasionally, I participate in weeklong webinars or a free, work-at-your-own-pace Bible class (Biola has very fine offerings). Thanks for what you wrote!

  2. I love this great advice. I have been thinking about this for a while. I play bridge as a hobby, but my husband and I will start cooking together. Thanks , Don.

  3. Before my medical problems limited my activities, my hobbies were fishing, hunting, traveling and missionary work in Peru and Russia. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of my hobbies because they took me away from my from my profession, which demanded long hours and some self created pressure.
    I agree wholeheartedly in having hobbies that are not connected to your work.
    Thank you Don for reminding me and others who read your blog about the importance of having a hobby for mental and physical well-being.

  4. My hobbies are guitar playing and collecting, hiking, golf, canoeing, camping, reading; when I officially retire next year, I already have a course in Spanish and one in string theory to take on DVD, bought a banjo and dobro to learn. Hobbies are a wonderful stimulant for creativity, renewal, and highly encouraged.

  5. Great article Don. Patrick Lencioni did an amazing podcast on the planting a tree Chinese proverb. You should check it out. At the Table is the podcast.

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