In my first few years of being a teacher I was an avid fantasy sports player. I’d come back from work and spend a significant amount of my free time looking on the computer screen at player statistics, team statistics, records and future projections to try and assemble the best possible team of players and beat that week’s opponent or advance to the next round of the fantasy league, or competition. I spent years doing this and when one sport season ended, I’d start another fantasy league for a different sport. It was seasonal and cyclical. Then when day I stepped back and noticed that after all the years of putting in the time, I had absolutely nothing to show for it, a few bragging rights that quicly vanished after the initial victory but really, what did I have? nothing. I had gained to experience, not much knowledge, that mattered anyway and in return I had sacrificed an enormous amount of my free time and came out in the end with no gain and very little to build on. It was a revelation, because from then on I decided I’d try a different approach and start from zero again. And so here I am now, years writing this post, on a site I built, making YouTube videos and posting lesson ideas and wow what a difference in value a few years and a change in attitude can have.
When I asked my students to discuss with a partner their leisure time, they hesitated for a moment. It turns out that for many people there’s no such thing. I mean they know what it means, it’s not a new vocabulary term for them but the reality is that people don’t spend it productively. I heard Tony Robbins say once that most people ‘dabble’ in many things that are not important and which don’t give them any value whatsoever. For ESL readers out there, by ‘dabble’ he means that they ‘engage’ or are ‘involved in’.
So there you have it. What is leisure time anyway?
Is it a passion, an interest, a hobby, a stress-buster, an extra-curricular activity or even an obsession?
Most of us don’t know and that is quite worrying and probably has a pretty big impact on our happiness and mental health. It seems that video games are at the forefront of this. Everything is being gamified. We want to play a game, stop thinking about the present, our work, our issues, the crowded bus and sink into our tablet, smartphone, TV or monitor and forget about it all.
So it comes down to choice. We can choose to play a mindless game to kill time or we can choose to play a logic game, a word game, a math game. We can choose to watch senseless TV ads with some programming in-between or we can read a book. We can choose to take on a new activity or interest and set goals to improve and get better at it and commit, or we can try it a couple of times and then stop.
Our choice, and with it the value it provides. Life is full of tough choices but sometimes we need to remind ourselves that they are ours to make. And so, we can change the way.