In the increasingly competitive arena of higher education, many individuals find (or believe) that they simply don’t have time to branch out of their chosen field. Although such a statement is by no means universal, those studying the hard sciences in particular make such pursuits their only priorities, failing to find the time to broaden their creative horizons or explore other parts of themselves. In most cases, this is a mistake—and one which applies not only to those who favor left-brained study, but people all across the intellectual spectrum.
Creative outlets—writing, reading, playing music, producing any form of art, etc.—do not cease to be important for the well-being of an individual once that person has chosen a professional path outside of these interests. The human mind, as it turns out, is not a machine; it benefits from pursuing actions beyond its major interest, and, as the geniuses of history (Aristotle, Da Vinci, Einstein, etc.) have found time and time again, it in fact functions more efficiently when it is allowed to work beyond a specialized field. For a STEM major in particular, such practice of creativity outside the laboratory can not only factor into general wellness, but also aid in the pursuit of excellence within his or her specialized field of choice.
It would be a fallacy, however, to think that this only goes one way. Just as “left-brained” individuals would benefit from pursuing “right-brained” activities, it stands to reason that the opposite is true as well. Those belonging to creative fields in the first place, so often averse to the structure and formality of the sciences and mathematics, can certainly benefit from exploring these subjects, seeing as any reprieve from the typical M.O. of the human mind allows it to find new pathways of operation. Once again, well-roundedness not only builds upon an individual’s chosen intellectual interest, but enhances it. The fundamental concern of the mind can not be limited to creativity or problem-solving ability, but rather curiosity, an entity which can be applied to all parts of the mind by all types of people.
In fact, this concept of branching out goes beyond intellectual matters. In almost every case, well-roundedness is preferable to specialization, in matters of mind, body, and spirit; the bookworm benefits from going for a run just as the athlete benefits from reading a book for leisure. In both cases, the individual becomes familiar with a world beyond his or her own.
If the pursuit of specialized success were halted for the sake of general well-roundedness; that is, if people in general were willing to abandon their chosen paths to success for the sake of branching out into other fields (creative, scientific, physical, spiritual, or otherwise), the result would not simply be a society of Renaissance Men and Women familiar with every capability of the human mind and body (although this in itself would be fundamentally good), but rather a society of people able to relate more directly and healthily to the interests of others. This, in itself, should serve as a good enough reason to branch out for the sake of some other pursuit.
Individually, the benefits of intellectual, physical, spiritual, or any other sort of expansion are boundless, just as the possibilities of human activity are limitless. Such branching-out breeds not only a healthier individual, but a healthier society in general.
So, for the sake of ourselves and those around us, we should all find our creative sides, explore our scientific interests, take on an athletic venture, find our own spirituality (and learn about those of others), and do anything else which may seem, at first, unfamiliar or daunting. Our own lives, and those of people around us, will be better off for it.