What is Leisure?

This is a very broad question, and we could begin by thinking about what leisure is to you, the individual. What does leisure mean to you? Where do you find your leisure experiences?

What is Leisure Overview

Take the time to consider your own leisure choices. There are choices which you will list easily, but I want you to think further on this and consider a range of personal leisure choices. Write down your choices in a list; you will be surprised at the number and diversity of your own choices.

For some of us, these are experiences we have maintained since childhood, e.g. escaping into a novel, or related to skills we have developed through our life, e.g. needlework or woodwork. At other times we see or hear about something new and simply ‘have a go’.

At this point I would like you to watch a couple of quite different YouTube clips.

The first is a National Film and Sound Archival film, from 1976. This clip takes a satirical approach to the history of leisure in Australia; however, I’m sure that many of you will recall much of the film footage of leisure trends, particularly towards the end of the clip.
Throughout this clip, take the time to consider the client base you work with, or would like to work with. Consider if any of the concepts relate to the clients leisure choices.

Reflect for a moment on the changed perceptions of leisure, from the cultural or organised leisure choices to the more relaxed, personal approach to leisure. As a population, Australians have shifted in our thinking, from where we once engaged in activities because of cultural affiliation or public expectation, to a point where we seek individualised leisure opportunities.

The next clip I would like you to watch is very different, and very engaging.

Presented by TEDx, Professor Dr. Ulrich Reinhardt, talks about leisure, and includes a review of the history of leisure in Germany and also what the future of leisure might look like. (The TEDx program’s mission is “ideas worth spreading,” and is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through experiences at the local level). Whilst based on Germany, much of Professor Reinhardt’s analysis, including the historical context and sociological perception of leisure, is consistent with the Australian leisure perception.

Did you find you could relate to one of the ages of leisure as discussed by Professor Reinhardt?

One last YouTube clip! And this one is very short.

This poem, titled ‘Leisure’ by William Henry Davis first appeared in print in 1911.

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

While it has an obvious northern hemisphere basis, with reference to squirrels, the meaning behind the words is of relevance to our discussion today. Is this what leisure is about – reflection, personal and internal review, a gathering of our thoughts in the midst of the busyness of our lives, taking in what surrounds us, being at peace with our environment, or calming our soul, revitalising our spirit.

So, we come back to the question – What is Leisure? We have considered the historical context of leisure and reviewed data of leisure choices of today. We have also pondered on the spiritual side of leisure.

Let’s go back to where we began. Go back to your leisure list.

Now consider the reasoning for those choices – do you engage in leisure because of how it makes you feel; do you expect a benefit from your leisure choice; or is it the escape you need from daily work, does that specific leisure choice meet a spiritual need for you?

Go back to your list and note next to each entry, the meaning you attach to that leisure choice. Why do you do what you do?

Is there a trend in what you are writing? Do some of your leisure choices have the same meaning for you?

Leisure today has adopted a more personalised role. We seek individualised and meaningful outcomes from our own leisure experiences. Throughout this process of change, and in response to the busyness and demands of modern daily life, there has also been a shift in the value of leisure. We value our leisure time. This is the time which regenerates us, offers engagement, and keeps us going until the next leisure opportunity.

I would like you to now consider the client base you work with, or might like to work with, and apply this thinking to those individuals. What does leisure mean to them? Whilst their leisure choices might vary considerably to yours, the meaning attached to their choices will be very similar to yours. Focus now on one individual within your client base. Consider the era in which they were born and raised. Consider the environment in which their formative thinking was developed. In having an understanding of that person, consider those leisure choices which you know they engage in. Now, keeping in mind what your leisure choices mean to you, think about what that leisure opportunity might mean to June, or Thomas, or Ingrid.

As a leisure professional, it is a valuable exercise to revisit the meaning of Leisure, to both ourselves and to the people we interact with on a daily basis. In the busyness of managing staff or volunteers, documentation, reviews and regulatory compliance, the leisure professional can momentarily lose sight of the meaning to the individual, and the impact on quality of life, of the leisure opportunity.

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