Leisure Makeover Monday: Negotiating and Navigating Constraints to Leisure

leisure time makeover seven

This is the last post in the “makeover” series. If you have followed along, you have hopefully given some thought to various aspects of your leisure – what constitutes a satisfying experience for you, what needs are met through your leisure pursuits, what leisure skills you personally have, and even the things that get in the way of you accessing leisure or enjoying leisure experiences you are able to access.

If you completed the identify constraints exercise offered in the last post, you already have an idea of what the most common factors are that stop you from accessing or enjoying leisure. The next step is to work at finding ways to negotiate or overcome these constraints. There are a few questions we can ask ourselves to help in negotiating constraints: Is the activity or experience meaningful enough to you to bother with the negotiating process – do the benefits outweigh the costs? Are the barriers possible to overcome? Can I modify aspects of my life in order to access this leisure activity? Can I modify aspects of the activity or my participation in the activity in order to gain access or improve my enjoyment?

Meaningfulness of the Leisure Pursuit or Experience. A first step to negotiating a constraint involves deciding whether the activity we can’t seem to access – whether because of time or lack of transportation or limited finances – is meaningful enough to move forward in negotiating. For example, you may feel you do not have time to take after dinner walks. You first must decide whether walking is an important activity to you – do the benefits outweigh the costs that may be associated with overcoming the constraints. You may have ideas about how you could access this leisure (e.g., skip doing dishes; delegate these tasks; go later in the evening; wake up early and walk in the morning), but you need to consider whether the benefits you will receive (e.g., physical activity, reduced stress, time for self) are worth the costs (e.g., messy kitchen, walking later when it is dark, giving up an hour of sleep in the morning).

Constraint Can Be Overcome? Sometimes one of the things that keeps constraints from being overcome is that we don’t believe it is possible to overcome them. If you do not believe that lack of time to pursue things you enjoy can be overcome, you will not move any further in the constraints negotiation process. If you feel that lack of skill to participate in an activity is not something you can overcome, again, you won’t go further in the negotiation process. This means we need to believe that a constraint can be overcome and there needs to be a desire to overcome it before we can begin to consider or implement negotiation strategies.

Skills and Knowledge. I have already discussed that in some cases lack of knowledge or lack of skill are constraints to participation. If you can indeed link either of these factors to why you are not participating in a particular activity, refer back to these posts for suggestions on what you can do related to these constraints.

Modify Aspects of Life – Depending on the nature of the constraint (e.g., time), it may be possible to make changes to aspects of your life that would allow you to overcome the constraint.

  • Getting up earlier may buy you an extra hour to participate in an activity (e.g., go for a run).
  • Rather than sitting at your desk or working through lunch, you may want to take this time to participate in a leisure activity you enjoy (e.g., knitting, shopping, walking, socializing with friends, reading).
  • Consider how delegating obligatory tasks (e.g., cooking; housework; taking children to activities) to other family members could allow you to access leisure you enjoy (e.g., either more time for leisure, or more freedom to choose to do what you wish).
  • Consider where you are spending your money and whether making changes in where money goes may allow you to have more money available for leisure pursuits. For some people, it is not possible to reallocate their funds or to cut costs, but for some people, this is something worth visiting.

Modify Participation – Changing aspects of the way in which you participate can help you to successfully negotiate some of the constraints you face and allow for participation in some form.

  • You may not be able to get the 45 minute cycle on the trails that you were hoping for, but you may be able to bike around your neighborhood with your children. The physical activity experience may not be as long as you would prefer. It may not be just you and your bike and you may not be able to speed along as fast as you like, but there may be other elements that meet your needs (i.e., being outside, being active).
  • Some women who are fearful of running alone at night will take a dog with them when they run or only run when they are with a partner or group of people.
  • If body image issues stop you from going to the gym, working out at home may be an option. Again, research on women’s leisure has found some who are self conscious opt for women’s only facilities or program as a way of negotiating this constraint.
  • When finances are limited, it may be important to modify when you participate. For example, renting movies rather than going to the theater or going to the theater on cheap night and forgoing the concession stand snacks. Although purchasing a book allows you immediate gratification, using your library and placing holds on books you’re interested in may be a way to read new novels or biographies that you’re interested in. Many communities offer days when museums are cheaper or when attending an art gallery is free. You may not be as free to participate exactly when you wish, but by being flexible and modifying your participation, you may still have opportunities to participate in activities you enjoy.

Not Everything Can Be Negotiated at an Individual Level. Unfortunately, not all constraints to leisure can be modified by individual cognitive or behavioral processes. For example, if there are no swimming facilities in your community, modifying aspects of your life or participation to overcome that constraint may not (likely will not) be effective. It may also be difficult to negotiate social norms related to gender role expectations without the help of a partner who, for example, is willing to share equally in household and child rearing responsibilities. Therefore, it is important to recognize which constraints to leisure you experience are factors you can respond to individually, which constraints you need support in negotiating (e.g., from your partner, friends), and which constraints may require a more collective effort (e.g., lobbying for facilities or recreation opportunities).


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