The Transformative Power of Learning New Things As An Adult
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As a busy adult, it can seem impossible to imagine adding new hobbies into your life. I can hear some of you laughing: "Ha, I don't have time for hobbies. I barely have time to take a shower!" I am the same way. There aren't nearly enough hours in the day for all of the things we already have to do.
Beyond the lack of time, some of us are perfectionists and struggle to take on new hobbies because we might not do them well. Others are so engrossed in our existing passions and talents that we don't believe we have the creative space to add on or we feel defined by the talents that we already have.
Not long ago, however, I read a quote in a letter by Kurt Vonnegut, which turned my perception of talent, hobbies and learning on its head: “I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.”
In recent years, although it was not part of a deliberate attempt to “learn a new thing,” I started gardening despite not having a green thumb and possessing a demonstrable history of killing most plants in my care. It's been a journey peppered with lots of failure but also with increasing success. Most importantly, however, I enjoy it. It relaxes me. It keeps me on my toes. It rewards me with fresh vegetables and herbs to cook with. After reading that Vonnegut quote, I realized that I wanted more of that kind of learning and growth in my life and decided to make a point to keep learning new things.
I read a quote in a letter by Kurt Vonnegut, which turned my perception of talent, hobbies and learning on its head: “I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them".
Last fall, for example, following a lifelong disdain for running and, more importantly, a belief that I couldn’t do it, I decided to learn how to run. When I first started running, I couldn’t jog for the entirety of a 20-minute class without stopping to walk in between intervals. Gradually, I pushed myself to keep a (slow) jog going the whole 20 minutes. And then I began pushing myself to higher and higher sustained speeds. I had a modest goal of being able to run 2 miles in 20 minutes and worked hard to get there.
The self-confidence that comes from this type of personal growth applies to areas outside of exercise, too. If I can run 2 miles in 20 minutes, I can do anything. I learned a lot about myself along the way, and believe it or not, I actually love running now. I will never be the fastest runner and I have zero desire to run a marathon. And that’s just fine with me.
Not all attempts to learn something new are filled with the glory of reaching your goals. In some cases, you may find more adversity along the way than you ever expected and learn other important lessons about yourself. But if you take away the pressure of taking on hobbies with the goal of mastering them and instead set out to learn new things so that you may gain new perspectives about yourself and the world along the way, you simply cannot go wrong.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for my first formal golf lesson …