Are you one of those people who was raised to be an achiever? To be productive and useful above all else? If you are, you might experience angst when it comes to leisure time.
Dr. Laurie Santos, the Yale professor who taught a class I took last year called “The Science of Happiness,” admits to filling most of her time with work-related and product activities and that she worries that “fun is just . . . slacking off.” She pointed to research that demonstrates people who view leisure as wasteful and unproductive have difficulty enjoying fun activities even when participating in them.
Another researcher, Rutgers Business School professor Gabriela Tonietto, found that 80 percent of Americans report feeling time famished, and she “feared a belief was taking hold that undervalued play as a worthwhile activity to include in a busy life.”
“An overworked lifestyle is socially desirable and signals status,” Tonietto and colleagues noted in a research paper, and play was being pushed out of our lives due to a “false assumption that work produces benefits, while leisure does not.”
I’ve recently decided to fight those researching findings. No, I’m not going to be a science denier—I’m going to try having more fun. I’m trying to live under the assumption that “work produces benefits and leisure produces benefits.”
I work to contribute, to savor productivity, to bolster self-image, and to earn my keep in the world and help provide for others. But the older I get, the more time becomes of the essence, and I’m fortunate I can be a lot more selective about what work I’m willing to take on. I’ve been saying “no” to a lot of work projects and instead devoting time to personal writing projects, such as this blog and a new interest in flash fiction and a project to potentially bring some novels I’ve written to market.
I take on “work” only if I find it both rewarding and challenging, if I find it helpful to someone, and only if I enjoy, respect, and can learn from the people I’m working with. I know lucky I can cut such a good deal.
As for leisure time: tennis every week, that grueling yet fun mountain hike Harriet and I took, small-group friend gatherings, lots of reading, any hours I can get with my kids doing almost anything at all. I’m even pausing for a moment here and there to experience a sunrise, listen to a creek flow, or watch a bird fly—I’m throwing all that into the leisure category.
I’m hoping I can maintain a suitable balance between work and fun. I wouldn’t want to start leaning too much toward fun and start believing I had to get really productive with my leisure time. That would topple the whole balancing act.