Stan Lee created his first comic at 39.
Vera Wang joined the fashion industry when she was 40.
JK Rowling was 32 years old when she first wrote Harry Potter.
What do all these people have in common?
All these people were determined enough to push past the superficial idea of being ‘too old’ and pursued what they wanted, when they wanted.
How many times have you heard from a parent “I’m too old to learn that?” From my own personal experience, this tends to be the attitude towards technology, leading me to land an unwanted, unpaid PA job for all things digital.
As a society, we’ve set expiration dates on learning new skills and following our dreams. Ageing has now become synonymous with trading in our creativity and passions until they eventually slip away.
The truth is, we can learn new things at every age; it’s not just something reserved for the young. In fact, growing older gives us a more definitive sense of self, so if there’s any time to engage in new hobbies that fall in line with your values then surely, it’s when we’re old?
In this article I'll be compiling a few reasons as to why you should say f*ck it and go learn that new skill.
In the society we live in, we adhere to norms, values and stereotypes. I guess that’s how we maintain a sense of shared identity as well as regulating one another. One - of many - downsides to this is that we often listen to what society tells us rather than ourselves.
I’ll give you an example. Skateboarding is seen as a predominantly male, young sport. What happens if you’re a 43-year-old woman who wants to learn how to skateboard? Absolutely no way, right?
If we stop and analyse the reasons why, you’re not stopping yourself because of lack of interest. We stop ourselves from enjoying new things because we’re fearful. We’re afraid of how people will react to us.
Whilst the example I gave is oddly specific, know that there are people out here conquering their fears every day. If Aunty can do it aged 43, you can too.
Letting go of this fear and judgement can be hard to do by yourself; if you have a friend or family member let them know your plans so they can cheer you on!
HOBBIES HELP US FORM OUR IDENTITY
In James Clears’ book, Atomic Habits, he talks about the formation of habits and how we can do this by adopting a new mindset. He describes the behaviours we engage in as a reflection of our current identity. If you’re interested in reading more about his 4-step process on creating habits, click here.
One thing he distinguishes is in order to adopt sustainable habits, we need to shift our goals into identity-based habits.
The same can be applied when we look at how we identify ourselves with hobbies and interests; these can often become defining characteristics of ourselves that lay outside of identity factors outside of our control. Examples of these are ethnicity, age, nationality and gender. However, our identity is made up of more than this.
Hobbies, likes, and interests are paramount to our identity and how we formulate relationships.
For example, I have been an avid reader since I was a young girl and I love reading (performance). Thus, I don’t see myself as someone who enjoys reading (appearance) but I identify as a reader (identity).
As we get older, we have a strengthened sense of self, and keeping engaged with old or new hobbies is important in solidifying our identity and recognising our place in the world.
HOBBIES AREN’T JUST FUN, THEY’RE GOOD FOR YOU
Evidence shows that partaking in hobbies also contribute to overall good health. Studies found that those engaging in hobbies were less stressed, had a better mood and had more life satisfaction [i].
Another study conducted by psychologists of 1,400 people found that those who engaged in leisure activities had lower blood pressure, cortisol and better physical function [ii].
Research also shows that partaking in a hobby outside of work can reduce the chances of burning out [iii].
STOP CHASING YOUR ‘ONE’ PASSION
The societal pressure of finding one hobby that you excel at is something that can deter people from engaging in something new. Seeing people who've refined their craft and perform better than you can be disheartening, and often times we compare ourselves to those who we see as more skilled than us.
There are 7.7 billion people in this world (and counting). Stop comparing yourself to a remote few. I guarantee you that the majority of the world enjoy a variety of things without excelling in their passions. Not every skill has to be commodified, and sometimes a hobby can stay a hobby, even if you find you’re not the best at it. The important thing to take note of is how it makes you feel.
FINDING THE TIME
So, you understand the benefits of trying new hobbies. You understand that sometimes you have to go against society and live for yourself. But it’s just so hard to find the time when bills need to be paid, mouths need to be fed and sleep is to be had, right?
Jaime Kurtz, Ph.D, writes for psychology today;
‘For many of us, we habitually waste time, creating the illusion of busyness. Facebook, email, Netflix—pick your poison. If you’re like me, you don’t wake up in the morning with the goal of squandering so many precious moments on social media, but it often happens, and this is unaccounted for time that can be better spent elsewhere’ [v].
Whilst we engage in various time-consuming activities throughout the day, social media has unconsciously become of these, with the average UK user spending 110 minutes per day [vi]. That equates to 660 hours each year – that's 27.5 days.
Just imagine what you could do if you made a conscious decision to fill half of that time with something more engaging and fun.
Getting older is difficult. Sometimes our interests change, and we’re unable to do things we enjoyed or we don’t enjoy the things we once did. Don’t be disheartened by this; our likes and interests are constantly changing alongside our identity.
It’s never too late to take up something new, no matter whether you're 25 or 66. If you have enough determination in yourself then no-one can stop you.