04 Mar 2017 Get a Hobby!
A Paradoxical Source of Leadership Enhancement
Six years ago I completed my doctoral dissertation, “The Leader’s Muse,” exploring how artistic sensibilities enhance organizational leadership. It was a fascinating journey that revealed something most of us know at our core, but is often veiled when viewed through a strictly rational lens. We are creative, relational beings in search of soul-satisfying ways of experiencing the world, and heartfelt ways of expressing our truth. Through the research process, I began seeing true leadership in a new way. The aesthetic or artistic dimensions of leadership began taking shape and coming into sharper focus.
With this new perspective, a vision emerged of
developing leaders in different ways to build
capacities associated with the right brain.
By focusing on artistic and aesthetic capacities – capacities related to intuition, imagination, inclusion and compassion – our leaders will have more access to the 98% of brain power that unconsciously drives us.
These capacities include being able to sense what’s unfolding before it becomes explicit, and see possibilities while they’re still invisible to our logical left brains.
Art-making and art appreciating are obvious sources for cultivating aesthetic capacities, yet there are other ways beyond what we might consider ‘art-making’. An important source of building these aesthetic capacities can be something as simple as adopting, or recommitting to, a hobby. I believe leaders who commit to a hobby access more of their aesthetic capacities and activate their intuition, imagination, inclusiveness and compassion.
Most of us have something we like to dabble in. Or perhaps we can remember something we once enjoyed doing – during a time in life when we had more time. Perhaps it’s something we always wanted to do but never found the right time to start. Whatever it is, deliberately engage in a hobby that exercises your right brain while giving your left brain a rest.
Visual and expressive activities like dancing, painting, photography, or playing a musical instrument, hone our ability to relate to images and sensations – and thus increase our relational and creative aptitude.
Time in nature is another excellent way to engage in aesthetic experiences. Gardening, hiking, bird-watching, and other outdoor experiences all expand our perception and ability to engage with subtleties in the world around us.
So too does nonverbal engagement with others, especially in playing with a pet or young child. These activities hone our ability to connect in a noncognitive way with others and with what’s going on. In doing so, they also rewire us, helping us to tune into the 98% of what’s going on – internally and externally – that we often miss!
Ah, the world of the tacit and nuanced…so elusive yet so powerful, so difficult to access in conventional intellectual ways and yet so easy to access in simple, playful ways.
Tips to consider while practicing your hobby:
- Stay mindful and fully present with your activity. Let yourself get completely absorbed in what you’re doing. Let yourself get swept away by the colors, textures, smells and sounds that present themselves in each moment. Let yourself thoroughly feel what emerges in your heart and moves you. Commit to fully experiencing the sensations of each moment. This will provide you with both a richer and more enjoyable experience while also transporting you into a deeper connection with sources of restoration and insight.
- Take your hobby seriously. Just because it’s enjoyable doesn’t mean it’s less important or less valuable than your other activities. Studies increasingly show that being playful and relaxing the firm grip of the critical left brain offers huge advantages for helping us see more possibilities and show up in more powerful ways. So instead of treating your hobby as a luxury you’ll get to when you have time, make it a priority.
- Have fun! Allow yourself to fully love and enjoy your experience. Let go of belief systems that insist on “no pain, no gain”. Neuroscience is now showing that being in a light relaxed state of fun and play accelerates the building of new neural muscles. This is especially true for activating the vast inner resources associated with Presence and right brain intelligence. How paradoxical and enticing!