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To Be Interesting, Have Some Interests

When you are out on a date with someone new, you’ll eventually be asked some variation of the following question: “What do you do in your spare time?”

This is a signal that he or she wants to know something more about you than what you do for a living or where you are from. The person wants a glimpse of what lights you up, what you are most passionate about in life. In other words, your date wants to know how interesting your interests are.

The last thing you should say in reply is this: “I dunno. Just hang out, mostly.”

Mayday! Red alert! An answer like that can let the air out of your tires in a hurry. But what if it’s the truth? What if that’s all there is to say because that is all you ever do? Then it’s time to change that fact.

Here are four steps you can take to have an attention-grabbing answer anytime you are asked what you love in life.

Turn off your TV (and your computer, too). There is no doubt that television and the Internet give you unprecedented access to news, information and entertainment. But by plugging in, you run the risk of living vicariously through someone else’s experiences. If you spend most of your time surfing the cyber-waves, turn off the machines and break the spectator habit. Watching from the sidelines may seem safe and comfortable, but it’s far healthier and more satisfying to be an active participant in your life.

Revive old pursuits and passions. Travel back in time to your growing-up years and remember the thing you could spend hours or days doing, just for the pleasure of it. Was it drawing? Gymnastics? Taking photographs? Playing baseball in a vacant lot until it got too dark to see first base? Chances are you’d still get a kick out of it, if you gave yourself permission to try. Or maybe you’ll remember something you always dreamed of doing, but never got around to. The point is, it may be time to renew your lost love affair with a particular interest.

Take a class. Not sure where to find that special spark? Go back to school one or two evenings a week. Resist the urge to be practical—just have fun and expand your horizons. Learn to speak a foreign language, make pottery, scuba dive, or ballroom dance. The list in nearly endless. If one subject fails to excite you, try another and another.

Volunteer. Perhaps you’d be happiest serving meals at a homeless shelter, giving tours to children at the local zoo, playing piano for the residents of a retirement center, or finding homes for abandoned animals. There is no shortage of organizations that would be happy to oblige you. Few things make you more interesting—and impressive—than dedicating yourself to a worthwhile cause.

Will it upend your life to get out of the house in search of your passion? You bet! But as Mark Twain once said, “Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.”