How following your passions could make you more productive and help you lead a fulfilling life

Finding the Future

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela

It is not a coincidence that “passion” and “productivity” both start with the letter “p”. How many of us remember the joy that comes from forgotten passions such as painting, gardening, traveling, swimming, reading, writing or even stamp collecting? Most of us do, yet when asked why we’ve given up our passions, our response is, “we don’t have time” or “there is too much work.”

Research shows that having a hobby outside of your workplace helps you reduce stress, improve your physical health and increase productivity at work.

How is that possible?
How can gardening help me code with lesser bugs?
How can writing stories help me deal with an angry customer?

The Journey of Occupational and Organizational Psychology published a study conducted on 400 employees. The study observes a marked difference between those who engage in creative hobbies outside of work and those who do not. Let us take a look at the three core areas where the difference was noted.

  • Reduced stress: Anjali, an IT professional and an aspiring artist, said: “When I go home and pull out my sketch book, all the stress of the day drains off my body. For the next half an hour, I just sketch with nothing else in my head than what is in front of me.”

When someone asks us who we are, our typical response would be to tell him or her, of our profession. “I am an accountant.”

“I am a software developer.”

“I am an HR Manager.”

“I am a teacher.”

Our profession becomes our whole definition. This is dangerous because when our work gets challenged, we feel like it is our definition that is being questioned.

What stresses you more, your child’s teacher complaining about her/his performance or your manager sending you a stinker email?

Over the years we have managed to live to work, instead of work to live. While work is a part of our lives, it is critical that we don’t make it our whole life.

  • Increased productivity

Lakshmi, a leadership consultant, said that following her artistic pursuits and passion for creative writing helps her deal with dissent at work. While there is no direct correlation between the two, she states that having a life outside of work has allowed her to look at conflict at work objectively.

“What would have offended me a few years ago simply doesn’t bother me anymore,” she said. “This is good because in my line of work, I cannot afford to have ego clashes with my clients. Lately, I have found that my relationship with my clients is a lot more amicable, perhaps because of this change in my outlook.”

Lakshmi no more defines herself, just as a leadership consultant. Now she is also an artist, writer, occasional gardener and mother.

  • Improved physical health

Gokul, father of two young boys, said that in spite of the kids and work, he manages to follow his passions. Luckily, his passions are things that he can enjoy with his kids as well.

“I have always been a cricket enthusiast.” Gokul said, “Twice a week, my older son and I play cricket for hours. Apart from that, I have recently discovered the joys of coloring. I never thought I would find coloring with my younger son so therapeutic.

If you are not into sports, that doesn’t mean that your hobby will not help you remain healthy.

A study conducted by several psychologists with around 1,400 people found that people who said they engaged in enjoyable leisure activities had lower blood pressure, total cortisol, waist circumference and body-mass index.

It means that you could be sitting and playing guitar thrice a week and yet the effect of indulging in a passion would positively impact your physical health.

There are thousands of tips and tricks online to help you increase productivity, from planners to apps, from mind-maps to project trackers. However, nothing can help you more than freeing up your mind off all those layers of muck created by stress at work, just like the dust and cobwebs covering that guitar lying in the corner.

So what are you waiting for? Pull out that easel, wash those gardening tools, unleash your dancing shoes, rev up that Enfield and take yourself on that adventure you have been waiting for.