Finding Purpose Beyond your Desk

In June, 2020, I took a big step of turning my hobby into something more purposeful. It was exciting and completely nerve-wracking!

I used to believe that work life and personal life exist independently from one another. It took me years to discover that this perception was completely wrong, even damaging at times. Having been raised in Vietnamese culture, we are often taught that to do better at work and advance in a career, we have to sharpen our focus on our job and reduce the time we spend on personal activities. Finding Purpose

At the beginning of 2014, I founded a food startup here in The Netherlands. For almost three years of running my company, I spent all my time and energy on work. If I can describe it in one sentence: my life was my business and my business was my life.

But then everything changed, in 2017, my company was sold and I looked back… and I realized… I had been doing life all wrong… what passions did I have outside of my work? Why did I give up my happiest pastimes as a kid? And that’s when I came to the conclusion that pursuing hobbies and creating my own personal goals, should be just as much of a priority as my career goals.

2017 was the year that I realised that my work should not define me as a person and so I decided to pick up my passion for dancing. And looking back on it now, these decisions was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I set goals to train once per week, then twice and even three times per week. First, going back to the beginner class, then gradually moving to intermediate, advanced, and semi-professional classes. I set goals to perform on stage, to make my own choreography for songs I like, and to create short dance concept video projects. Every time I see myself accomplishing all of these little goals, I feel the change within me, and I can say with certainty, that dancing has increased my confidence and self-esteem significantly. Finding Purpose

And these feelings of self-confidence didn’t just stay on the dance floor, they started to accompany me in my daily life. I noticed that this newfound positive energy and attitude of self-assurance is what causes me to perform at my best.

Not to mention that dancing is a great way to relax, de-stress and remove myself from, what is quite often, a hectic schedule of work. By regularly taking a step away from my day job, I feel recharged and ready to go when it is time to concentrate on professional matters.

Training your brain and Developing new skills  

I believe hobbies have the power to inspire us and tap into our creative side, which is sometimes hard to come by in your work routine. As a result, you can train your brain to think in a more creative manner, meaning you’ll also start to become more thoughtful and imaginative where work is concerned. Problem-solving, strategizing, and collaborating are just some of the areas that will benefit from a more creative point of view.

You might disagree with me, but your personal life and your work life aren’t completely separate. Skills that you develop while cycling, running, painting, singing or knitting, can play a beneficial, and sometimes even crucial, role in the growth of your career. 

But I hear you asking me, My, what possible skills could I gain from singing that would be applicable to my job in accounting?

I’m glad you asked. Let’s take a look at the three most valuable skills that I’ve developed through dance, as an example. Finding Purpose

An eye for detail and Enhanced Concentration

Attention to detail is a valuable skill to have in any job because it prevents you from making errors which might prove costly to the employing organization. Therefore, you should create habits to enhance your attention to detail, and I believe dancing can be one of them. 

Dance is all about the details. The initiation of a movement, the tilt of the head in epaulement, and split-second adjustments in timing all play a pivotal role in the successful execution of choreography. Although I am not a professional dancer, training at least 2 times per week improves my observation skills through my eyes, ears, and kinesthetic sense. I have learnt to pick up the rhythmic patterns in my teacher’s voice. I learnt to spot minuscule changes in height of a leg or the angle of an arm. I learnt to feel the minute weight changes that make all the difference between a good balance and a great one. 

Emotional development 

Dancing is more than just physical exercise and I believe that it’s the same for any other sports. Learning to express ourselves and deal with failure and disappointment in a healthy way shows emotional development. In short, dancing has boosted my emotional intelligence – which plays a vital role in the workplace nowadays. 

Coaching skills  

Coaching plays a huge role in learning organizations. The ability to facilitate professional development in others and improve their performance is important not just to the bottom line, but also to people’s well-being and much longer-term organizational health. 

After the quarantine period, in the middle of June, I decided to organize my own dance class. The reasons are pretty simple. First, I want to take on a new challenge with my hobby by spending time on creating my own choreography. The second thing is to show people the beauty of dance and how it can uplift their spirit, just as it has done for me. It’s been truly an amazing experience for the last couple of months since teaching people how to dance. It has put me in a position where I can see my influence going way beyond the classroom.

Youtube link here. Finding Purpose

Placing what I’ve learned the last few months into my professional world, I’ve developed a much better understanding of adaptive communication, motivation, strength-spotting, outcome focus, and building trust which are the most important skills in coaching. 

You see, at the end of the day, you’re never “wasting time” by pushing yourself to learn something new. My advice is to try as much as you can. I am lucky to have always known that music and dance are my passion. However, if you have not discovered your thing yet, the best way to cultivate a new hobby is to go out and try new things. The journey to find what your hobbies are will bring a lot of vivid experiences which will shape the person you want to become. 

Doing things which you like besides work is often underrated by those who don’t understand its power. But if you begin to pursue some of your own passions away from the desk, I guarantee it will change the way you see your career and your personal development. And one day, just like me, when you look back, you will be so proud of yourself for how much you’ve accomplished, how far you’ve gone, and even how much you can impact others’ lives. And this is a feeling that you can never achieve through your sales quota or annual turnover.

Authors note:

I will write about my food startup in another article because I still get calls and messages from many people in our community asking about my experiences at that time. “How to start and build your own company in The Netherlands” will certainly be my next post. 

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