The Benefits of Seeking Joy in Non-Work Activities
First off, in this blog post I have a personal confession to make: I play the guitar and sing. In fact, in the distant past, I’ve performed publicly along with a group of guys. But the truth is, I’m not very good.
Many of you will be surprised by this. Most of my friends know that I love music, but my guitar playing and singing have been a closely held secret. The reason for this is simple. As we’ve established, I’m not very good at it. So, these days I do it mostly for my own enjoyment.
One reason I love banging away on my axe and howling is because I know absolutely that I will never be a singer-songwriter like Bob Dylan or Paul McCartney. So, I simply revel in being mediocre and playing in my office. And every once in a while, I actually do sound pretty good – at least to my ear. (After writing this sentence I snorted and laughed to myself.)
Another reason why I play the guitar and sing is for my mental health. Most people who know me will say that I’m mentally healthy. One reason among many for this sanity – in the midst of ample insanity – is that I derive a sense of pure joy from my musical exploits regardless of their quality. Sure, I get frustrated at times that I can’t play certain chord combinations like George Harrison, or finger pick like Eric Clapton. But just trying them gives me a sense of pure joy.
As a competitive person and perfectionist, I use my career and work life to achieve things. But it’s not just a means to various ends. I also truly enjoy work. The variety, in particular, is very engaging and helping underdogs to succeed makes me happy. Almost everything I do in my work life lifts my spirits, but it doesn’t evoke joy.
Although they are closely related, joy and happiness are two different things. Happiness is an emotion that brings short-lived feelings of satisfaction and contentment, while joyfulness is a deeper state of being resulting in long-term feelings of inner peace and delight.
My recommendation to you – brothers and sisters in the tech industry – is pick up at least one non-work activity. There are so many, but just to name a few there’s:
Caring for dogs, cats or other pets
Ceramics, sculpting or painting
Hiking or rock climbing
Boating and fishing
Just one of these activities – done weekly, or several times per month, or more regularly – can lead to passionate engrossment. Once you get into it and try to stretch your limits (like those tough chords on a guitar) it may make you feel uncomfortable at times. But that’s a new part of you that’s growing. And in the process, you’ll be able to be more present, do more for others, and reconnect with nature or the arts. Your new (or perhaps renewed) activities will produce opportunities for you to laugh and cry. It’ll also position you to more often be in the company of others who are not working during these activities, and therefore not hyper-focused on business outcomes. There’s more to life than winning in business. Opening yourself up to those possibilities will surely be a positive element and contribution to your life. And who knows? Maybe it’ll even get you to that elusive sense of joy.