SINGAPORE — Like many Singaporeans, I discovered my hobbies and interests while participating in mandatory co-curricular activities in school or volunteering as a student.
HAULING YOURSELF OFF THE ARMCHAIR
Over the years, I have toyed with the idea of picking up new hobbies such as video editing, poetry writing or learning a new language.
However, it was always less of a hassle to jump on the couch after a long day at work and leave an episode of Friends running in the background.
Other people also told me that they have found it difficult to keep up with hobbies they enjoyed in the past.
Ms Nurul Nabila Mohamed Naseem, a 26-year-old executive assistant in the healthcare sector, said that she used to read up to 10 books a month as a student but now finds herself requiring a lot more mental effort to focus on reading after a full day of sending emails.
However, Ms Nabila said that she found a replacement hobby in pole dancing instead. The physically demanding activity does not require staring at a screen and allows her to relieve stress after work.
Ms Nabila disclosed that she had been hesitant about picking it up because she did not feel confident. But she eventually mustered the motivation to sign up for classes in March after a friend suggested that they try lessons together.
Aquascaping enthusiast Lai Cam Linh, who started pursuing his hobby five years ago at the age of 34, emphasised that “it’s never too late to learn something new”.
It is easy to pick up something new in this day and age given the amount of information available online, the environmental engineer said.
Mr Lai, who had discovered aquascaping while buying a pet fish for his daughter, said that he picked up the hobby through YouTube tutorials and online forums.
“Once you do your research, your success rate will be higher and the learning curve much flatter.”
Ms Goh, the counsellor, acknowledged that it might be daunting to start something new.
In such instances, it may help to break it down into smaller steps such as researching available classes, booking the class and buying materials.
To overcome the inertia of picking up a new hobby, Ms Ng of Mind What Matters said that the first step is to set a limit on unproductive activities (think Netflix bingeing) and introduce other activities in its place.
These replacement activities should inspire, excite or allow you to grow and learn new things.
Time and again, I’ve fallen off the bandwagon when trying to pick up a new hobby.
Inspired by gardener friends during the pandemic, I tried to grow my own plants and then gave up after they died before blooming.
I also had to shelve my ambitions to be the next MasterChef Singapore after post-cooking clean-up left me more stressed than rested.
Hobbyists I spoke to shared tips on how they keep committed to their hobbies.
Ms Nabila said that while there are days where she feels too exhausted to attend a pole dancing class, she sticks to them since she has already paid for the lessons in advance.
Ms Goh, the counsellor, suggested that I set small targets to keep committed to a new hobby.
For instance, I could work towards playing a certain song on an instrument or running a certain distance.
Another way is to pay for a fixed number of classes — having something definite will give me something to look forward to, she added.
STARTING SOMETHING NEW
I haven’t given up on pursuing new hobbies altogether. For me, the biggest motivating factor has been to find pursuits that give me joy, purpose and an identity outside of my career.
A friend of mine shared the same sentiment, saying: “I want to be able to look at my non-working hours and feel like I’m spending my short time on Earth doing more than just watching mindless television shows.”
I have already put in place some of the tips offered by counsellors and other hobbyists for this piece.
I started weekly rock-climbing sessions several months ago, been on a kayaking expedition and signed up for an improvisational theatre class in a bid to rediscover myself outside of work.
To keep myself committed, I signed up for these activities with friends and made payments in advance so that I would see through them.
Hopefully, I will have more than an analysis of the Netflix hit Squid Game to share the next time someone asks about my hobbies.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Navene Elangovan, 31, is a senior journalist at TODAY, covering environment, education and housing.