Are you good enough at your hobby?

Leisure has been a status symbol throughout modern history. While the poor worked all hours, the wealthy spent time reading, enjoying art and taking their tortoises for a promenade (fact). Now this paradigm has been reversed, and the time-poor businessmen eagerly turn what little free time they have left into yet more work. But why?

Have you ever worried if you are good enough at something you do for pleasure? Perhaps you were striving to improve your running performance, grow social media following or reach a page number goal in a reading challenge, when, in a moment of self-doubt, you compared your performance to others and considered quitting?

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

Why do we treat leisure like work?

While the underlying reasons for this behavioural change will undoubtedly occupy scholars for many years to come, here are some contributing factors (particularly in the Western society):

  1. Because it can be measured. Thanks to the new technologies that have become an integral part of our lives, everything from the number of steps you take to the quality of your sleep gets measured and recorded by default. With so much data in our hands, it’s hard not to spot patterns and start comparing…
  2. Because it can be compared. While there is nothing like a bit of a competition to boost your motivation, the fact that our efforts can (and will) be compared to achievements of random strangers sets unrealistic expectations. The global competition facilitated by the social media is a losing game for most of us and a hard battle for the few who can take on the challenge.
  3. Because we are told we should. The pressure to compete and win comes in many shapes and forms. Social media has successfully amplified the good old story of the American dream — a narrative about an ordinary person doing extraordinary things. Instagram is full of stories of people seemingly effortlessly doing what they love and receiving a lot of recognition, and so when our drawing/baking/knitting skills fail to match their success, we naturally feel like we should try harder. Every app that uses gamification to help you maintain your exercise routine or learn a language sends the same message — there are badges to be earned, goals to be achieved and streaks to be maintained. If you can’t keep up, well — bad for you.
  4. Because it’s fun. All of the above feeds into our hardwired desires to learn and improve, to express ourselves, excel and be recognised for it. Many of us enjoy competition and nearly everyone likes winning, which is why we accept the tradeoff and give up on relaxation for a chance to win. But at what cost?
Image for post
Image for post

So what is the problem?

OK, so we do treat our hobbies more seriously, but why is this a problem?

The culture of metrics has migrated from the business world into our leisure time via education and public services. Schools have become more results-oriented. In an attempt to make the important measurable, we have instead made the measurable important.

Written by

UX designer at Make it Clear. Runner. Minimalist. Environmentalist. Rationalist.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store