Hobbies? Those things that someone does, not to be good at, but for fun?
For a very long time I disliked even the idea of hobbies, “What’s the point?” I’d think. If I couldn’t see direct results from something that would instantly benefit me I would likely discard it. I suppose looking back to school times, although Judo was clearly my primary focus, I did have a number of other activities that I enjoyed; reading, rollerblading, writing, football, basketball, visiting historical places, music. When I got into the big wide world of adulthood however my vision became narrower and narrower, until I was virtually left with only Judo as my go to activity. Doing Judo exclusively served me well for a good while but eventually it began to get monotonous, less exciting and, somewhat stifling, so much so that I didn’t really know what to do if I wasn’t doing it.
Nearly two years ago I decided to give up drinking, I found myself in that classic cycle of loads of work (Judo for me) and then just going to the pub in my spare time. I was a single man at that time and, looking back, it was largely a cure for boredom from not knowing what else to do and, the only attempt at connection that I really knew. Not that I was aware then, I “just wanted a drink.” A genuine feeling and fear that I had when the decision to quit was made was what am I going to do in my down time now? How will I go to the pub and just drink Diet Coke for the rest of my life? I smile now when I remember thinking like that because today I don’t have the time to do all the things that I want to do and enjoy. It has though, taken a good while and a fair bit of trying new things, which does make me slightly anxious.
My natural want is to be good at things, so when I start something new and I’m not I would feel a bit silly. I found that it does require getting out of my comfort zone but that that gets easier as I go along. I remember speaking to a friend about it who, perhaps, wasn’t really on the same wavelength, “Danny, you spend everyday right in the mix at a highly competitive combat sports club, how is that a comfort zone?” I got what he was trying to say but the fact is that it is an environment where I felt comfortable, it’s all I had really known. I’ve spent my entire life in and around Judo clubs, training camps and competitions. Being in those situations and places is not daunting. Put me in a book club though and my knees would be knocking together!
A mindset that I have to constantly be aware of, and fall into if I’m not careful, is jumping ahead and getting competitive with myself; especially when starting something new. If I write I want to be published next week, play tennis then to become Wimbledon standard, to read then to go through the entire library to get ‘all the knowledge.’ When I let this part of me take over then I strangle it all, actually enjoy it very little and, finally, when I come to the realisation that I’ll not rival Roger Federer at the next grand slam, think why am I bothering at all. Dummy spat firmly out.
I find ‘practicing presence’ and trying to stay in the moment helps me greatly. Just focusing on this sentence that I’m writing or the next shot. A technique I use if I need to step back briefly is something I learned from Donald Robertson, renowned cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist and highly respected author on Stoic philosophy. Robertson asks patients to slowly look around the environment they are in and describe to themselves, slowly, what they are seeing and hearing. This must be done, self spoken or thought, at a slow pace to maintain attention. “I am aware of the sound of the people talking at the end of the room. I am aware of the shadows moving across the floor.”
I’ve found this really useful in being able to just focus on the task at hand which makes it more enjoyable, not being distracted by desire or fantasy. I’m still very much at the practicing stages but I’ve found that most things are enjoyable when I at least try to ‘be there’ at that exact time. And there was me thinking that ‘be here now’ was just the title of Oasis’ third album 😉
I had begun to do some writing for the psychologist that I work with and decided that I would continue with this even after that period ended. I began to keep a more in-depth diary and then began to write about anything that I wanted to. An area of Judo, music, what I thought of a book or film, literally anything that tickled my fancy. I really enjoyed it. It was something that I continuously wanted to do but always found an excuse, “when I get more time”etc. I used to do a fair bit of personal writing when I was at school and aside from the odd bits here and there that was the last period of my life when I would regularly devote time to it. I really look forward to writing now. This blog helps me with a routine; I aim to put a post out each week, at minimum, fortnightly. It also keeps me from sacking it off completely, which I do have in the locker if things don’t go my own way or I’m not writing like Hemingway after 18 months!
I had for a long time also shied away from any other physical activity, concluding that it would fatigue me for Judo. A normal weekend would consist of a recovery run on the Saturday and a rest day on the Sunday. I didn’t enjoy the run. I did it as I saw it as part of the job, I felt the benefits of doing it and I knew that it would help with the weight. Playing a game of basketball, for example, or anything else that might be a wee bit more fun, never occurred to me.
Over the past period I have enjoyed doing some mountain biking, we are spoilt for choice for trails by us. We have been playing the odd games of tennis that I’ve found really enjoyable. My girlfriend had wanted to do some boxing or kick boxing for a long time, it’s something that interested me too. We have been attending weekly sessions at Woking Thai Boxing Club which have been really good, it’s become one of my favourite of the week. And, after it all, I have noticed my want to do Judo, particularly randori (sparring), is more prominent than it has been for quite a long time. Derren Brown discusses in his book Happy about the importance of having different facets to ourselves, not getting stuck in one identity. “I’m a Judo player” etc. He argues that when one area may fail us that we have others to fall back on and, that ultimately, they all benefit each other. I find that when I take this approach that it helps me achieve a bit more…..gulp……balance, which helps enhance every area of my life.