Friday, February 17, 2012

How Do You Spend Your Time?

Recently I was asked to do some research into all different untapped resources to help youth at risk. The range of topics included positive youth development, connecting parents and teens, workforce and life skills prep, nurturing natural talents, and what popped out at me--recreation and leisure. In searching for all kinds of successful models from abroad, I remembered a friend from way back when who happened to have done a PhD in our specific topic of recreation and leisure! I contacted her and found out that she just happens to be living in Haifa for a few months and would be very interested in working with Ashalim. So I scheduled a few meetings connecting her with various projects managers in our department and was privileged to participate in several invigorating discussions. We are now moving forward with our collaboration and will be seeing how we can use my friend as the expert resource she is.  But this is not the point of my story. All of this talk about recreation and leisure has gotten me thinking about what it means to spend your time and what leisure really is. Here are some illuminating lessons I think we could all learn from:

Lesson 1: "What Do You Do vs. How Do You Spend Your Free Time?"
When you meet someone, what is one of the first question almost everyone asks? You got it--what do you do? My friend asks instead how people spend their free time. When a person answers, not only does can it inspire you into action yourself, but it also tells you a great deal about that person. Next time you meet someone, instead of asking what they do for a living, ask them how they spend their time, and you will discover that person's passions. How do I tend to spend my free time? Cooking, playing piano, composing music, going to parks, writing, and seeking out cultural events. How do you spend yours?

Lesson 2: Leisure is a State of Mind, Not a Function
I realized the other day that time just flew by following an especially inspiring meeting at the Haifa Museum. In order to prepare for the meeting, I had put in hours and hours of work writing detailed lesson plans with all the trimmings: aim, objective, I do, We do, You do, differentiation, scaffolding for multiple intelligences, background and applicable examples from a famous artist, materials, alternatives, extension lessons, and more. The meeting itself last three hours, with vigorous note-taking and lively debate and discussion. And I LOVED the whole process. According to my friend the PhD, when work is truly exciting, productive, and meaningful a person's job can turn into their leisure. The way you fill your time is what matters. Of course we all have to do things we don't like in order to meet a goal, but when the overall picture is directly linked to a passion, then just watch how the time flies and just how energizing that time can be!

Lesson 3: Leisure AS Learning, Leisure THROUGH Learning, Leisure FOR Learning
Everything had its nuances and leisure and recreation are no different. One of the ingredients for a successful, fulfilling life is knowing how to use time effectively and make the most of the interests, resources, and choices one has. Leisure is not just something we define as that well-deserved and dreamed of nap on a rare Saturday afternoon. It is also what do we do when we're not at work, when we're on vacation, in those few special minutes we have free each day? People can learn how to harness their confidence, attention span, goals, and interests in a way that allows us not only to make the best use of our time but also feel satisfied in how we spent our days. It is important for people working with children to understand how powerful the function of leisure, time, and choice can be and help them to learn how to make the best choices for themselves. One thing we are doing in Ashalim in developing our national arts program is giving children a chance to be exposed to the thrilling wholeness one can feel when expressing themselves through art. But exposure is only half the battle. Children then need to be given the right space, environment, tools, instruction, and support to continue to nurture a new-found talent or skill to the point where they gain the most enjoyment from it. What leisure have you nurtured in your own life?

Lesson 4: Serious Leisure
There is a concept that once a person commits a certain amount of energy, practice, and interest in a pastime it becomes more than just something one does for fun. There is a spectrum of ways to spend one's time, and they are all important ingredients to a satisfying, uplifting life. One needs time to just do nothing and know that is perfectly necessary just as much as one needs to be involved in interesting activities and hobbies that inspire and fulfill.  So there are several questions one can ask themselves: What do I prioritize when I have only a little free time? How do I want to spend my vacations? What hobbies or extracurricular activities excite me? How much do I simply let my mind rest? How much do I participate in intellectually stimulating activities? How much time do I devote to working on a goal? Is there a balance in how I spend my time? Is there a way I could even things out? Start by taking the time to reflect on how you spend your time each day by logging what you do. Then go over it and see how you can change it to maximize ultimate fulfillment.

Lesson 5: Seek Out New Things and Live The Moment
This is something that I am constantly trying to do and through this new lens of leisure I feel even more invigorated to try to grab life by the heels and take advantage of the unique opportunity I have sought out for myself this year. But living the moment and affecting your life path doesn't have to come with the grand gesture of making a big life change. It can be as simple as saying, "You know what? I've always wanted to learn how to mosaic tile." and then seeking it out. I think that after my biweekly meetings in Haifa I will do just that and join my friend in the cheery, electric little mosaic tiling studio she has begun to take lessons out and make my own little works of mosaic tiled beauty. I have also been carving out a chunk of time each day for my writing and have been trying to explore the wonderful country of Israel that I have landed in for a year. I'm going to stop beating myself up (or at least TRY to stop) about what I have not yet accomplished or done or time wasted and instead try to celebrate the time that was well spent, the new people I have met, and the great new things I have learned. How will you live in the moment?

And so my question is, how do you spend your free time? 

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