Excerpt from Ignite Your Spark

By Patricia Wooster

What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not in school, spending time with your family, or hanging out with friends? Are you running from activity to activity because you have so many interests and are overcommitted? Maybe you’ve found the perfect balance between school, activities, and family time. Or are you still struggling to find your niche and plan your days? If your passions don’t fall into the traditional school, sports, or after-school activities, then you may have to work a little harder to find something that sparks your interest. Get on your computer and do a search for hobby or activity ideas and you will get more results than you can imagine. Don’t worry about whether you’ll find other people interested in participating with you. Chances are that if you’re interested in something, then someone else out there is too. So go ahead and ignite your after-school time with a brand-new activity!

Choosing Your Activity

If you don’t already have an activity that you participate in, or if you’re looking for a new one, it’s important to find one that makes you excited. Ask yourself what you want to do and why you want to do it. Activities are time-consuming and require a commitment, so make sure you’re doing them for the right reasons. Are you picking the activity only because your friends or parents want you to join? Or because it will look good on your transcripts? Sometimes this forces you to try something new and you end up loving the activity. Or it may turn out to be a short-term thing as you continue searching for that perfect hobby you will enjoy for many years. Here are a few you may want to consider:

  • Archery
  • Blogging
  • Building houses for Habitat for Humanity
  • Computer programming
  • Cooking
  • Darts
  • Frisbee golf
  • Furniture painting
  • Geocaching
  • Inventing
  • Photography
  • Rock climbing
  • Skeet shooting
  • Yoga
  • Running 5Ks
  • Fishing
  • Gardening
  • Chess
  • YouTube tutorials
  • Collecting
  • Woodworking

Where Do Volunteer Work and Having a Job Fit In?

You may be looking at your schedule and wondering where you can squeeze in an activity if you are doing volunteer work or have a job. Actually, they both count as activities. Some people prefer to spend their time helping other people or supporting a charitable cause. Or you may be someone who needs to make a little extra cash. Jobs, volunteer work, and internships give you real-world experience and a glimpse of the outside world. No matter which one you choose, you will learn valuable lessons in time management, responsibility, and working with other people. Warning: It’s tempting to work as many hours as you can or to get wrapped up in a volunteer project. Make sure you are managing your time so you get enough sleep, have enough time to study, and can spend time with your friends and family too.

College Applications and Activities

Do you need another excuse to be active? Extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and part-time jobs look awesome on college applications. Colleges and universities aren’t just looking for good grades anymore. They are looking for well-rounded individuals to attend their schools. Activities don’t have to be academic to look impressive on your application. If your transcript shows you did volunteer work at a hospital and started an archery club, then admission committees will assume you are compassionate, competitive, and organized. These differentiators might give you an edge when applying to your favorite schools. Don’t choose activities just because you think they will look good on your transcripts, though. Pick activities that show who you really are. This way you can enjoy what you’re doing while you’re beefing up your resumé!

Help! I’ve Been Rejected

If you are going to try new things, meet new people, or challenge yourself, then you have to change your perception of rejection. You may have to face this when you invite someone to a dance, try out for a sports team, run for class office, interview for a part-time job, or in a million other possible scenarios.

You have nothing to lose by trying new things (like the above examples). The worst answer you can get is no; but you can’t ever get a yes without taking that risk. If you run into an obstacle or roadblock, then try taking another route. If you lose your school election for student government, then consider volunteering to help a local politician’s campaign or join your school’s debate team. There’s always another way to participate in what you enjoy doing.

Activities and Your Well-Being

From the time you are born, life is a balancing act. Every day is a combination of obligations, self-care, and hopefully fun. Your sense of well-being counts on you to provide for your social, emotional, and spiritual needs. Activities are a great way for you to fulfill those needs with positivity.

Your social needs can be met when you’re bonding with people who share your interests. Even if it’s a solitary activity like writing or computer coding, you can join clubs or participate in online forums where you can discuss your activities.

Did you know that activities fulfill emotional needs? They give you all of those feel-good emotions like satisfaction, pride, and happiness. These positive emotions increase your self-confidence and make challenges easier to handle.

You might not consider your favorite activity spiritual if it’s not affiliated with a religious institution, but spirituality can be found when you find a calling larger than yourself. If you do volunteer work, raise money for charity, or watch out for your younger siblings, then you are filling your spiritual cup.

Activities provide the perfect balance between what you need to do every day and what you want to do every day. They increase your sense of well-being and are a whole lot of fun. Some of the activities you try today may end up being lifelong hobbies or stepping-stones to your dream career. So get out there and try new things!

Think of something that interests you or that you’d like to learn more about, whether it’s chemistry, coding, soccer, cooking, or painting. It can be anything. Now come up with an action plan on how you are going to pursue this activity. First, find an expert or mentor for this activity. This can be a coach or teacher at your school, or someone who has a string of YouTube videos providing instructions for your new activity. Think of some peers who already participate in this activity or may be interested in joining you. The goal is for you to build your own activity group consisting of an expert and of people your own age. For example, if you are interested in running a 5K race, you can contact your local running stores, the YMCA, and your school’s cross-country team to gather information. The goal is to put your plan into motion.

Learn more about  Ignite Your Spark.


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