Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alastair McEwin, the Disability Discrimination Commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Commission.
The interview – conducted for Lifetimes in Law, a blog project I run with the general counsel of Canon Australia, David Field – was an eye-opening experience for me, in that I was able to get a firsthand account into what disabled Australians faced on a daily basis, especially when it comes to entering the workforce. I walked away with a more profound appreciation of existing societal challenges, and how we can all do better to support and understand one another.
Writing a fortnightly post for Lifetimes is a time-consuming process, especially for someone with very few spare hours to begin with. But it’s a hobby that stimulates me intellectually and professionally in ways I otherwise might not be able to probe.
It is incredibly beneficial, I’ve found, to include such activities that engage and enliven the intellectual senses.
There is, of course, a time and place for a Netflix binge, or a day on the couch watching re-runs of Geordie Shore. While pleasurable things may kill us slowly, nothing kills you quicker than having no pleasure in your life at all.
But it’s necessary, to my mind, that we also involve ourselves in pursuits that serve to challenge our thinking, expand our worldview and hone our skills. There are a few reasons for this.
One, partaking in such activities can have flow-on effects for our professional lives, as they can make us better rounded individuals with more to offer our employers, both present and future. Two, they help bridge a gap between work and pleasure, ensuring we don’t see hobbies as a way to simply escape from the 9-to-5. And three, these activities are often mindful in nature, as they demand your full attention in ways that watching TV, for example, can’t.
If you’re an older person, it can also be crucial for increased or sustained cognitive function.
Having a hobby that provides intellectual stimulation doesn’t mean having to set up your own blog, or create a podcast, or anything too onerous. It can simply mean listening to an audiobook for an hour a day, or taking an art or language class, or reading the news each morning to see whatever moronic thing Donald Trump said or did overnight.
Furthermore, these pursuits can be done with others. Start a book club with your mates, attend a lecture on human rights as a group, get the old band back together (literally, not metaphorically).
I can’t wait to write up the blog post about Alastair McEwin. It’s a form of writing I don’t get to do very often, and helps me retain passion for the art of putting pen to paper (figuratively…I type on a laptop).
Without such stimulation, I likely wouldn’t enjoy my writing as much as I do. If I didn’t devour news and politics as I do, I wouldn’t have a strong sense of my place in the world and what kind of advocacy I can get amongst. And if I didn’t read books, I wouldn’t learn new words to expand my vocabulary (which I can then use in conversation to make myself sound smarter).
Add an intellectual string to your hobby bow. It will continually challenge you, help you grow as a person, and never be boring. And, you may just find it can bring you as much pleasure as those ones for which we’re told to feel guilty.