Hobbies are things we regularly do for pleasure.
They tend to be fun, nieche activities involving some form of social element. Our hobbies recharge us – in part because it doesn’t matter if we’re bad at them.
Pursuits are like hobbies, except for the fact that gradual improvement is at the core of our enjoyment of them.
Going bowling with your friends for a laugh once a fortnight is a hobby. After a few months, perhaps you’re a better bowler than average. Some nights you might even get lucky and put together an impressive score. But the vast majority of your time bowling would still be considered leisure time.
If you were treating bowling as a pursuit, while you might still have the same fun fortnightly game with your friends, the majority of the time you spent thinking about bowling would revolve around the question;
How can I be better?
You’d find time to practice on your technique, you’d probably invest in your own ball and shoes and you’d study footage of professional bowlers with awe.
You’d be obsessed with progressing and improving, because becoming a better bowler is the fun part of pursuing bowling.
All pursuits require the processing of feedback in order to innovate our approach to the activity.
In bowling, the feedback is clear; you either knocked the pins over or you didn’t.
Until you can score five perfect games in a row, there’s technique to work on.
When you find a pursuit you’re passionate about, there is an intense gratification which sprouts from putting in the work to improve. You bowl to get better at the bowling.
The fortnightly hobbyist has no interest in the intensity or focus required to pursue bowling.
When bowling is a hobby, the fun is showing up. The fun is the bowling.
When it’s a pursuit, the fun is the result of consistently showing up. The fun is the bowling because it’s making you better at the bowling.
Idenfying these patterns in the things you love to do and making clear decisions about what you’re willing to suck at is can liberating and quite valuable.
Pursuits demand tenacity and a refusal to fail. They’re high stakes and hard work, but far more gratifying tham hobbies long term. Pursuits are a commitment to growth.
Hobbies provide a special kind of short term satisfaction which we all crave. They’re low stakes and relaxing. Hobbies are the time where we can give ourselves permission to fail. The results don’t matter because taking part in the activity is it’s own result.
We should all have both hobbies and pursuits, but we should also know the difference.