I love that word, and I realize we don’t have a good version of it for our post-academic adult life. We don’t have a good word for it as adults because we mostly abandon the concept as adults, and that’s a shame!
When we’re in school, we have these three spheres: your required academics (the direct schooling you’re pretty much forced to do), your personal life, and then extracurriculars – stuff you choose to do (or not to) and have a lot of control over but which still relates to your continued educational and academic pursuits.
Then, we become adults and get jobs, and most of us just abandon that idea. We have our “main job,” and then we have our personal lives. Most people don’t do a lot of stuff that relates to their “continued career pursuits” but isn’t something they’re directly getting paid for as a job itself. This is tragic!
No, I don’t think our entire lives should revolve around work, and I don’t think that we need to turn everything we do into a way to make money. But I think we often draw too bright a line between “work” and “personal” spaces as if work was something that needed to be quarantined lest it infect our personal lives and ruin them. My work is more rewarding if I’m more invested in it, more in control of it. My personal life is more rewarding if it’s more than just the space between workdays, using that time to escape something I dread.
Hence, extracurriculars. I have plenty of personal hobbies that have nothing to do with work, but I also set aside space for career-related things that I don’t have to do. No one makes me post on LinkedIn or write guest articles for business-related publications or chat with people outside of my own organization. It’s not pure relaxation, either – it’s not a board game night or a park outing with my kids. It’s a middle ground that enhances both.
Take a few hours away from your main job each month – you’ll never miss them. Use those hours to add a few extracurriculars to your schedule. Talk to some people that are neither clients nor co-workers (or even prospective members of either group). Go attend an event or conference because you want to and find the topic interesting. Log into a webinar that you think looks neat. Then talk about it with someone. This is a simple concept, but sometimes hard to execute. I promise you, it’s more than possible – the only thing stopping you is personal inertia. Once you get this ball rolling though, both your career and your personal life become vastly more rewarding.