The last area that many people need to consider when working on making changes to their leisure is the constraints they experience. Constraints (or sometimes referred to as barriers) are those structural, interpersonal, and intrapersonal factors that can influence one’s leisure preferences and/or one’s ability to follow through on what they are intending to do for leisure or during available leisure time.
Structural constraints are those things that interfere in your leisure after your preferences are formed. For example, you may prefer to go skiing on a particular weekend in December, but the weather has not cooperated and produced enough snow on the hills (weather). You may want to sign up for a yoga class, but the times offered at your local studio do not fit within your schedule (timing of activities).
Interpersonal constraints are those factors that arise as a result of interpersonal relationships; they involve social factors. For example, you may want to try ballroom dancing, but your husband/partner does not want to go (lack of leisure partner). You’d like to go to a movie tonight, but cannot locate a sitter (lack of support for leisure). We may have social roles that create constraints. For example, when you take your children to the beach, supervising them in your role as a parent may mean that the experience does not have the elements of “leisure” for you (e.g., sense of freedom).
Finally, intrapersonal constraints are individualized factors that influence leisure preferences. These factors can sometimes be a result of socialization (e.g., perceptions that ballet is for girls and football is for boys – perceived appropriateness of activities; women socialized to look after the needs of others before their own – known as the “ethic of care”). Other times, intrapersonal constraints are related to our abilities – for example, we may perceive that we lack the skills to join a bowling league. Or, our health (e.g., illness, injury) may stop us from participating in activities we enjoy or forming preferences for particular activities. Finally, some people do not feel entitled to participate in leisure. For example, if you subscribe to the philosophy that you “earn” your leisure, if you find yourself unemployed, you may not feel entitled to spend money on leisure pursuits. Some parents do not feel they are entitled to take time for themselves if it means their kids will need to go to a baby sitter.
Below is a table that outlines many of the constraints that leisure researchers have discovered as common. Some of the constraints are more common for particular segments of the population. Ethic of care, for example, is primarily a constraint women experience.
Since you worked on clarifying your needs and priorities, you have a better sense of what you want to do during your available leisure time. In other posts, I have discussed specific factors that can influence our leisure preferences or stop us from pursuing things we’re interested in (e.g., skill level; knowledge, experiences). There may, however, be other factors that affect your ability to pursue things in which you are interested. Take time to consider what is getting in the way of what it is that you enjoy doing.
I’ve created a fairly simple exercise that will get you thinking about and monitoring the constraints you face related to your leisure. In some cases, you may discover that you engage in self-talk that serves to constrain you (e.g., “I’m too tired”). Monitoring what gets in the way of you having satisfying leisure experiences is an important step to finding ways to “negotiate” those constraints and having those leisure experiences you’ve identified that will meet your needs.
Next week, I will discuss strategies for overcoming constraints.