develop skills

Bring to light your latent skills

Developing our skills in the activities that we enjoy can get our creative juices flowing, open our minds to new ways of self-expression and enhance our mental wellbeing.

As a child, I loved to draw. I remember using up countless notebooks, crayons and sketch pens to draw and colour. I had the steady hands needed for sketching and the patience to sit for hours, drawing lines, curves and patterns. And looking at completed drawings filled me with a sense of satisfaction and exhilaration. But as I grew older, my academics took precedence over everything else. I was discouraged from wasting my time on anything extra-curricular. And gradually, over the years, I stopped drawing.

Today, as a grown-up, I still love to draw. And I do not have anyone policing the way I spend my leisure. Yet, other responsibilities, social engagements and, sometimes, sheer laziness keep me from engaging in something that brings me so much joy. I have seen that many of my peers feel the same way about their passion—be it playing the guitar or dancing or writing poems. As much as they love the feeling the activity brings them, they find themselves putting it off due to various reasons.

I suppose it is often a mental block that keeps us from investing in our hobbies. Working through this block and pushing ourselves might be well worth the effort, as our hobbies can contribute immensely to our personal growth. Developing our skills in the activities that we enjoy can get our creative juices flowing, open our minds to new ways of self-expression and enhance our mental wellbeing. This International Youth Skills Day, Soulveda explores ways in which we can hone our latent skills.

Among the many excuses I give for not drawing as much as I would like is, ‘I don’t have the time.’ And this is a common reason, I have found, why most people push their passions to the backburner. Indeed, between our studies, job responsibilities and chores at home, we might feel that we have no time to spare for these activities. But this is not an excuse, says Laura Vanderkam, best-selling author and motivational speaker in her Ted Talk How to Gain Control Over Your Free Time. “Time is highly elastic. We cannot make more time, but time will stretch to accommodate what we choose to put into it,” she says.

The key is to think backward and plan our weeks depending on what things we would like to be better at a year down the line, Vanderkam advises. Indeed, by meticulously planning our days to include our hobbies, passions and pursuits, we can make sure we improve consistently. This is what Smriti Srivatsa, a student of dentistry, does to develop her crocheting skills. She carries her hook and her yarn with her wherever she goes and starts knitting the second she has some time to spare. “If I am not eating or sleeping or working, I am probably crocheting!” says the youngster.

Not all hobbies are so convenient, though. Most creative pursuits demand a rush of inspiration, some find. Of course, this means that when inspiration strikes, one needs to give vent to it right then. Rupika Rangaswamy, a software engineer who makes art on the side, agrees. “I’ve skipped parties, compromised on my gym routine and even lost my sleep when I’ve felt the need to make art,” she says. It was to bring a bit of structure and discipline to her passion that Rupika recently took up a 36-day art challenge. And it was important to do that, she admits, for talent without practice may not take us very far.

Hobbies are indeed way more than pastimes. They are an aspect of our personality that needs to be honed and polished.

Working on one’s hobbies in a dedicated manner without compromising on other priorities can be quite a challenge. But if we manage it, we might be able to reap the rewards soon enough. Arun Hegde, a techie, was one of the hundreds of people who owned DSLR cameras and called themselves photographers a few years ago. What set him apart from the herd, however, was his passion for the craft and the amount of work he was willing to put into it. “I spent hours bettering myself every day, watching tutorials on the internet and experimenting with different shots,” he says. This, along with his networking, helped him land enough opportunities to make a reasonable living. So, eventually, he quit his job as an engineer to pursue his craft full-time. Today, Arun spends his days travelling for work and conducts photography workshops.

Indeed, there are some skills that can be more rewarding in terms of money than others. But we must admit, there are others kinds of rewards that are just as valuable, if not more. For Smriti, crocheting is a meditative activity, a source of peace in the midst of her stressful life as a student. Moreover, joining an international community of crocheters has helped her make friends from across the world and learn from them. Rupika, on the other hand, has gained the confidence to showcase her art online and even start selling prints. The encouragement she has received so far has made her want to experiment with different, more challenging subjects.

Evidently, these individuals look at their hobbies as more than just a way to pass time. These activities form a major part of their lives and identities. Their example tells us that time is, indeed, elastic. And if we only try, we can stretch it to accommodate our many passions into it. We can identify and polish our ability to do various things—write, sculpt, make movies, even skateboard if we wish! In my case, I could turn my art into my way of unwinding after a long day at work—if I could only set aside 30 minutes of my day for it. I admit I can already see how much it would improve my life!

In that sense, hobbies are indeed way more than pastimes. They are an aspect of our personality that needs to be honed and polished. Sure, there is no denying that our plates are full and our schedules jam-packed with daily chores and appointments. But by setting our mind on a particular activity and investing in it on a regular basis, we might be able to uncover an aspect of our personality we didn’t know we had. We might discover that we’re great at something that brings us joy. And we all know that if there’s one thing the world needs, it is more people who do what they love.


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