If you’ve been following this blog weekly, you have hopefully gathered an understanding of the role leisure can play in your leisure (how it benefits you; what needs you meet through your leisure), how your priorities influence whether or not you have leisure in your life and which leisure pursuits are given priority, and that having knowledge about various aspects of leisure (e.g., what activities and experiences involved, where they take place, what they cost, what equipment you need) is critical to initiating participation.
Today, I want to focus on another element – skill. Knowledge and skill can be linked. In some cases, knowledge is part of developing skills. In this case, I’m talking about two types of leisure-related skills. First, there are activity skills and life skills that support leisure.
The leisure activity skills we have influences what we do. Do you know how to swim? Skate? Kayak? Knit? Play a musical instrument? If we have acquired the ability to do a particular activity, then we are more likely to consider it as an option when making decisions about leisure. The more varied our skill set, the more options we have. If your leisure needs a “makeover” – consider whether it is time to develop some new skills (or maybe to start using some of the skills you have). A good place to start might be to inventory the skills you have. For example, I haven’t skated in years, but I do now how (albeit not well). Are there activity skills that you forgot you had or haven’t used in a while that could help inject variety into what you during your leisure time? Or, is there something that you’ve been interested in, but don’t have the skills to do? If so, are there opportunities to acquire or even strengthen/improve those skills through program instruction? Through peer-mentoring? Are there ways to develop skills without making a significant investment (e.g., can you start piano lessons without owning a keyboard or piano)?
Knitting to Say Sane is a blog I stumbled across quite by accident. I do not know how to knit (although, I will admit that after reading some of the posts, I was seriously interested in learning). What I found throughout this blog were instructions, tips, and patterns (and even discussion about how knitting fit into one’s life). What a great place to help acquire knitting skills. No need to sign up for a class. As we see technologies develop, it is likely that we will find greater opportunities to learn about and develop skills in particular activities on-line. I’m thinking, for example, of “Snapguide“. On this site (or using the App from Apple), you can access instructions on how to do a variety of things. I had a quick look today and browsed some of the guides. I found a golf-related one – how to putt more consistently. A step-by-step guide uploaded by someone with knowledge that could help me develop my putting skills. I have a bit of an interest in photography – I found a guide on how to shoot a levitation photo of yourself and another on how to photograph food. Lots of people possess a wide range of leisure skills and as we develop new ways to share information, there may be more opportunities to develop skills in these avenues. In the case of blogs, there is also the opportunity to be a part of a community while acquiring skill (added bonus maybe).
In her mid-60s, my mother began playing the ukelele. She learned how to read sheet music, how to strum, and how to pick. She started in a class offered by her local recreation department. She had no skill whatsoever, just interest. At 71, she’s playing in two groups, has regular “gigs,” and played (and sang) solo at my wedding ceremony. My point – we’re never, ever too old to acquire skills that can allow us to enjoy leisure activities or experiences we’re interested in pursuing.
- Inventory the skills you have
- Consider whether you can put any of those leisure skills to use to “rejuvenate” your leisure
- Think about what you interested in, but lack the confidence to try or feel you don’t have the skills to do. Make a list of these activities.
- Gather some information on where you can acquire the skills (e.g., either through a group instruction setting, a one-on-one instruction context, or an independent learning context) that suit the level that you’re at (i.e., beginner, skilled but looking to improve).
Life Skills that Support Leisure
There are also basic life skills that individuals develop that support them in various aspects of life, including leisure. These include decision-making skills, planning skills, and social skills.
Decision-making skills. Those who struggle with processes that help in making choices find they sometimes procrastinate until it is too late. For example, maybe you struggle to decide on whether or not to travel to a favorite spot on an upcoming long weekend. By the time you make the decision, the hotels that are affordable or in the location you prefer are booked up.
If you are one among many individuals who struggle with making decisions about leisure (e.g., what to do this weekend), begin by considering your various options. If you need to, gather information that is important to the decision-making process (e.g., cost, weather conditions, what’s play at the local performance or movie theatre). Consider the pros and cons of your options (e.g., seeing a jazz performance would be a new experience, but also expensive; going hiking is an opportunity to get outside and get some exercise). Think about your priorities (e.g., exercise, spending time with family) and weigh your options against your priorities. Make a decision and go with it!
Planning skills. Planning for leisure involves using resources in the community to gather information that then allow you to proceed with developing a plan of action. Some leisure cannot be satisfactorily enjoyed without planning and there is some research that suggests that some types of leisure, physical activity in particular, are less likely to occur without planning. For example, saying: “I’ll go to the gym some day this week” is not considered enough of a plan to help you to successfully incorporate physical activity into your week.
In my previous post about knowledge, I discussed the importance of gathering information about activities you are interested in and the types of information needed in order to expand your leisure repertoire. Those with planning skills know what information they need and where to get it. With that information, they are able to work on organizing the various aspects needed to make an activity or experience happen (e.g., people, transportation, reservations, equipment, travel documents, etc.).
Parents can help their children to develop planning skills (which can be used in other contexts outside of leisure). Children, depending on their age, can search for phone numbers to make inquiries, read through brochures to gather necessary information, or review a bus schedule to determine when they may need to leave to arrive at an activity or place at a particular time. Encouraging children to plan for leisure encourages them to take initiative related to their free time. Engaging in planning also provides opportunities to learn and can foster independence.
Social skills. Social skills are probably one of the main influences upon the quality of our lives and leisure. Effective social skills involve basic communication with people, which in turn influences their association with us. People have problems with social interaction for several reasons. One is that they may have never learned certain social skills because of poor role models and/or significant adults have not given the necessary attention to the development of social skills. Another is that, although they have social skills, the don’t perform them for emotional reasons (shyness, negative self-statement).
For those with social skills that are less developed than they might like, taking small steps can help those skills and also leisure. For example, if you talk to a neighbour across the fence in your respective yards, consider inviting them for a BBQ. This allows the opportunity to deepen a relationship and discover more about who they are and what their interests are. Some individuals have no difficulty forming relationships, but struggle with maintaining them. For these individuals, developing strategies for preventing relationships from deteriorating is important. Making an effort to call individuals, inviting them to coffee or to go to the park with your family, and/or remembering birthdays and sending a card can help people stay connected to those with whom they form relationships.
Next week… the focus will be on “experiences” and how our experiences with leisure can influence what we choose to do.