Years ago when I was interested in quite a few new activities, I had some people trying to helpfully tell me I needed to choose one, maybe two of the activities which interested me the most, and focus only on those.
Their reasoning was that I couldn’t possibly do more things well, and that I’d be dispersing my energies too thin.
Interestingly, at the same time in my life, back when I was teaching private art classes, I had many students who were facing their own internal skepticism about their artistic talents, and dealing with doubts expressed by friends and family regarding spending money on taking classes. “Why waste good money if you only enjoy something, but may not have a talent for?” was the thought.
These are questions which people ask themselves and others around them with regards to hobbies and creative pursuits. Some people feel they aren’t able to justify their interests to other people, and so quietly shut it down inside of themselves, which in turn causes a lot of inner grief since the soul isn’t being nourished.
When we shut down our desires to pursue activities we have an interest in because we can’t provide an answer we think is acceptable to others, or if other people vocally express their doubts, this inner unhappiness can evolve into resentment and anger towards other people. Then further down the road it can devolve into self destructive habits, in order to try to quell those resentments, which by now have turned to bitterness.
I’ve seen too many people suffering with simmering anger, and trying to stuff it down through negative distractions.
Part of my work as an art teacher to adults, was to help people give themselves permission to follow their heart, and develop their joy and love of their new activity.
“There’s no one in my family who is an artist!” Creative pursuits are thought to be inherited, and if we don’t come from a line of artists, then one can’t possibly have any talent! Does this sound a little improbable now that you’re reading this? I’ve heard this objection so many times, I can’t tell you how many!
“How do you know that there weren’t people with creative talents in your family?” I’d ask.
“Well, it’s obvious!” they’d say. “No one is an artist or a musician or a dancer!”
“How do you know that there aren’t a bunch of people with talents in your family, but because they never gave themselves permission to pursue it, or because they listened to the criticisms of others, they shut it down inside of themselves?”
This became a sobering moment. Upon reflection, many people realized that there probably was a great deal of truth in this thought.
“Are you able to give yourself permission to do this activity, or do you need me to express to you that I see you have talent, so you can allow yourself to continue?” was a question I frequently needed to ask people.
Some people were able to give themselves the permission, and other people needed me to give them affirmations, which they could then repeat to their critics.
Once we pass this barrier in life and give ourselves permission to pursue an activity, this opens up new worlds inside of ourselves! Many of us discover we have multiple interests!
Do you think it’s necessary to choose between your interests and pick one or two to focus on?
I’m very happy I didn’t limit myself! I taught myself to do calligraphy and jewelry making; experimented with advanced painting techniques and even discovered a few on my own; started writing; pressed flowers from my walks and later made beautiful creations with them; sewed, crocheted and tried knitting; dabbled in stamping for card making, and most recently got into lino-cutting with my art group!
My experience with multiple creative areas in my life has shown me:
- Creativity doesn’t get used up, rather it expands!
- We create more neural pathways in the brain by learning new activities, and being involved in them!
- Each area then speaks to the others, because we’re developing brain, body, and spirit skills, so improving in one area interestingly has an effect of other areas improving too!
- We see life in enhanced ways, since we keep alert for new experiences and materials to bring to our chosen activity!
- Our satisfaction with life increases, because we are expressing our spirit in so many different ways!
- When our brain becomes saturated with one activity, we have others to move into for self expression!
- We have multiple outlets of expression for dealing with life’s issues and joys!
Based on my own experiences and my observations with other people, I can whole-heartedly endorse having multiple interests and activities.
One point which I’ve mentioned from the list above, of being able to move from one activity to another when the brain becomes saturated, has been misunderstood in the past.
Previously it was thought a person was fickle, not able to finish something, or didn’t have enough interest in an activity to continue with it. However, it is now understood that realistically, the brain can handle only so many hours of input before it becomes saturated, and taking some time off is useful.
It’s no longer necessary to drop creative pursuits entirely when the brain becomes saturated or tired from one activity, and many of us have found that by engaging in something else, the brain shifts it’s focus, and refreshes itself, even finds solutions to barriers or problems.
How does this relate to retirement? Is it a good idea to wait until retirement to start new activities, or is it okay to start sooner?
I advocate sooner! In fact, the sooner the better, for you will tap into areas of yourself which will bring so much satisfaction and joy in your life!
Think about the advantages of starting sooner:
- Joy and satisfaction starts to manifest sooner!
- There’s more time to develop the brain and body skills needed;
- which keeps the mind young and more elastic!
- This leads to increased self awareness and self-confidence,
- which leads to connecting with our inner spirit, a very soul nourishing benefit!
- A salary helps in the purchase of materials and tools over the years, so there’s not a huge start-up cost upon retiring!
Is it more challenging to find the time to pursue activities while still working? Yes it is. I’ve been doing it for years, so I know how it feels to come home after a day of working, to make dinner, care for the kids, do laundry, clean, run errands. I really do understand the challenges of squeezing in personal creative time!
My creativity and being able to do creative work isn’t just a cute pastime; it’s a necessary component to my life being in balance and feeling positive about life! I need to express myself in one way or another, or I will suffer inside! It’s how I process much of what happens in my life, and is an outlet for a wide range of emotions.
Even though I come from an artistic family, where my mother was an artist and my father was a musician, I still had to find appropriate responses to the critics I had in my life, questioning the need and “wisdom” of immersing myself in a creative pursuit vs. doing something more “productive”!
I’ve had to give myself permission, many times over, to keep involved with activities which brought me pleasure and release, while not adding to the family budget!
So my final words of advice? Go ahead, take classes to learn, do and practice your chosen activity or activities! If you need permission, give it to yourself!
Have fun! Enjoy! Live your life!
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