Your company is your livelihood. It’s how you pay the bills, provide for your family, and make your mark on the world—and, for many operators, it’s also how you’ve met some of your closest friends and where you’ve made your second family. It’s only natural that the transportation world you call your professional home also has seemingly consumed your personal life.
But how often do you identify yourself first and foremost by your professional role—rather than, say, a parent, a spouse, a part-time musician, or an avid baker? Chances are that the first impression a newcomer to your life gets is hinged on your identity as a CEO or a transportation industry decision-maker. But just because your work is how you make a living, does it have to become your entire life, too?
No matter how old you are, you’re an ever-evolving work in progress. As long as you’re receptive to change and open to the fact that life is a parade of opportunities to learn new things, the person you were five years ago is not the person you are today. People have come and gone from your life. Your interests have waxed and waned. Your circumstances, tastes, and priorities (and more!) have all changed. You’ve learned things that have broadened your perspectives, lived through things that have morphed your opinions, and tried new things that have blown your mind. New experiences change a person: Throwing yourself at your job might have worked for you once, but personal growth comes from stepping outside your comfort zone.
Of course, time is a premium in a 24/7/365 industry, and your knee-jerk reaction is no doubt “But how can I find the time for myself when my company, my employees, and my family need me?” To that, I’d like to remind you that it is impossible to pour from an empty cup. You might think you’re nobly straining under the nonstop stress of being the linchpin holding all your worlds together, but all you’re doing is patting yourself on the back for running yourself needlessly ragged (and, if nothing else, remember that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy). Prioritize making time for you—even if you start at 15-minute increments of reintroducing yourself to dormant passions or venturing into something you’ve always wanted to try but never dared to take the plunge. Today’s the only guarantee you have, so if not now—when?
If you’re still not sold on the necessity of unpaid pursuits, look at it practically: This industry is people-driven—not just in a literal sense, but also in that you need customers to keep your business salient. Delving into a brand-new world will open you up to potential new clients and maybe even employees you might have never met otherwise. You can’t be unwilling to explore untapped revenue streams and driver resources, and literally anything that has you meeting new people can accomplish either end. After all, isn’t who you know half the battle?
Still think hobbies are frivolous pursuits? Check out these proven—and unexpected—benefits of branching out and dedicating yourself to a pursuit beyond work.
1. You Learn More
Information sticks better when it has an emotion attached to it. It makes sense: You’re not only using your brain’s right-side emotional center and left-side logic, but also redundantly supporting the input you’re offering the ol’ gray matter.
“Just a tiny bit of emotional arousal will influence whether you remember something just a few minutes later,” memory researcher Dr. James McGaugh said in regard to a study done by New York University a few years ago to prove that very hypothesis.
We are absolutely flooded with countless bits of information every day, so anchoring the most useful details to feelings can help you recall them better and more immediately. And learning as a positive byproduct of pursuing something that interests you will ensure that the education you get from it is underscored by a sense of satisfaction and personal fulfillment outside the professional scope.
Even a seemingly unrelated hobby can have countless benefits to boosting your ability to take in new, useful information that you can turn into unexpected assets because everything is multi-faceted. Taking a class in something you enjoy puts you in touch with a whole new crop of peers whose experiences and insights can teach you about what motivates and excites people—which is information you can turn into marketing appeal or improved customer service.
The more you grow, the more you learn; the more you learn, the broader your understanding of the world becomes. Don’t close yourself off to the benefits of how expanding your mental horizons can present you with new ways of thinking or new experiences that could help you come at your business with outside-the-box thinking to keep your company fresh.
Here’s a parting thought on the matter: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg credits his coding prowess not as much to his classes but rather largely to side gigs that he accepted as passion projects. He applied that augmented skill to create a product now used by nearly 1 in 4 humans on the planet—and one that made him not only a household name but also worth $71B these days.
2. You Manage Your Time Better
Sure, your free time might be a scarcity, but isn’t that all the more reason to regard it as a precious commodity?
Passive activities like bingeing your favorite TV shows or scrolling through your social media feeds one more time definitely come with some benefits: Vegging out gives your mind a chance to turn off and recharge—and both certainly can lead to a good Wikipedia rabbit hole or treasure trove of inspired documentary-watching or podcast-mining, which yield untold learning opportunities in their own rights.
But active leisure activities are simply more stimulating and better for us. If you’ve ever experienced a runner’s high or that moment when you look up at the clock and realize that you’ve been so immersed in the activity at hand that you not only lost track of time but kept negative influences helpfully at bay for hours while you focused on something that genuinely invigorates your mind, you understand “flow.” Flow is that ever-elusive state where you lose yourself in an activity so much that you stop being a quivering mass of looming deadlines, personal worries, and general anxiety; it is where, to paraphrase the 20th-century Symbolist poet W.B. Yeats, the dancer becomes the dance.
Nothing helps you structure your time like being motivated by something where the traditional laws of time are stripped of their meaning in a way only flow can offer since, as Parkinson’s Law dictates, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”—or things take as much time as you have.
Left to your own devices, an evening full of unscheduled time can result in overindulging those potentially ruinous passive activities that are all leisure and no substance, or checking and responding to email until 2 a.m.—which seems productive until your morning alarm proves that you denied yourself the sleep your brain needs to optimally perform.
Hobbies can foster improved efficiency in a seemingly counterintuitive way: By having less scheduled idle time because your book club, cooking class, or choir practice has a meeting that you’re looking forward to, you’re less tempted to whittle away your downtime with meaningless tasks and get required work done with more focus and urgency.
3. You Avoid Burnout Better
You love your job, the lifestyle it affords, the variety it offers, and the ways it’s enriched your life—and that’s a big deal, because not everyone can say the same.
But as the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt. You wouldn’t relish vacations if you didn’t need some time to recharge, just as you wouldn’t look forward to getting out of the office for the change of pace.
Your job is just one part of your life, your interests, and you: Throwing all of your energy into cultivating just one aspect of your personality will come at the cost of letting all of your other traits and interests wither while leaving you feeling utterly sapped by your day-to-day goings-on. Anyone who’s an avid gardener will tell you to rotate your crops or plants every season so that you’re battling erosion, increasing fertility, and not depleting the same patch of soil from one set of nutrients (or attracting the same pests each year). The same principle applies to people.
Just a tiny bit of emotional arousal will influence whether you remember something just a few minutes later.” – Memory Researcher Dr. James McGaughHaving something to look forward to is important, and so is utilizing different parts of your brain. Take it from a writer who turned that hobby into a career more than a decade ago: You can love something so much that it’s the only thing you could fathom dedicating your life to, but also experience periods of boredom, resentment, and a woeful lack of organic interest in that very same thing.
The good news is that simply means you need to reassess your mental balance, which is a fairly easy fix if you have a hobby in your life to draw some new energy from.
According to health psychologist Matthew Zawadzki (who authored the study “Real-Time Associations Between Engaging in Leisure and Daily Health and Well-Being” in 2015), you can reduce stress by harnessing the mental stimulation of an outside-work pursuit—which comes with benefits like improved focus, immediate stress relief, increased happiness, and even a longer life.
Zawadzki found that people who engage in recreational interests experience lower levels of depression and negative feelings hours and even days after the fact.
“We’re still talking about the short term, but there was a definite carryover effect later in the day,” he says. “If we start thinking about that beneficial carryover effect day after day, year after year, it starts to make sense how leisure can help improve health.”
It’s definitely hard to see or justify the payoff of stepping away from your professional and personal obligations to pursue a new or revitalized hobby, but the long-term payoff has the potential to pay you back in perspective, education, and maybe even a boost to your business.