Road to Joy

While I expected the holidays to be quiet, this year it was almost too quiet.

Everyone within my networks seemed to kick back and relax in a major way. It was almost as if we took a collective deep breath and decided we needed a break from daily stress, a lack of free time, and work that too often is a main priority. For the first time in years, emails were almost non-existent as most of us seemed to have stepped away from our computers.

While traditionally the holidays have been a signal to buy more, seek distraction, and program ourselves more, this year it seemed different. More and more of my friends, family, and colleagues projected the opinion that we need less stuff, more balance, and that elusive something referred to as joy, happiness, or quality of life.

While the pundits among us have tried to articulate a magic formula for finding happiness, the truth is there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Even when we have more time as the result of stepping into early retirement, increased vacation time, or a reduced work week, the good life may remain beyond our grasp. 

Trends indicate it isn’t going to get any easier. There will be more of us, we will be living longer, and we will have less work in the traditional sense of the word. As a result, leisure will loom even larger in our lives even though we’ve either taken it for granted, ignored it, or rarely given it much consideration. 

The good news is that we can use our leisure time to find our individual and distinctive road to joy regardless of our workload. In other words, to explore, find, and cultivate that which is meaningful, intrinsically, and uniquely satisfying to each of us.

This is especially important because the activities we pursue in our leisure time provide us with the opportunity to develop our full and holistic potential – physical, social, creative, intellectual and spiritual – work only does so much.

A cookie cutter approach won’t work as leisure is a very personal concept that none of us can simply go out and get off the shelf. Instead, we must learn it, practice it, and then apply it to our own lives. This concept of leisure education is rarely taught, yet it is an essential element of a life that reflects happiness, quality, and joy.

Leisure education means we need to develop our individual knowledge and understanding of leisure; clarify our personal values about it; assess our own leisure needs, interests and barriers; and then make the appropriate choices for how to use it.

Understanding our personal values as they relate to our leisure time is essential – is it important to use our leisure time to contribute to our community, compete, get fit, learn new skills, do something creative, be close to nature, do something meaningful, feel at peace, or get recognition? Understanding our respective values will make it easier to clarify our leisure interests, and then choose specific leisure activities. Part of leisure education is also identifying and developing strategies to overcome the barriers that may be holding us back such as family and work obligations, lack of time and resources, or uncertainty about how to get involved.

Ultimately, we need to shift our thinking about leisure. Too often we think about it as something to keep us occupied when instead it is more about restoring or igniting our spirit, keeping us alert and learning, and discovering, or perhaps rediscovering, life. It might just be that maximizing the potential and the possibilities of our leisure time is the best investment we could ever make if we want to ensure an improved body, mind, and spirit.


Posted on 01-02-11


Great blog, Brenda.  One of my biggest ‘aha’ moments with ACE was the connection between use of leisure time and our values.  We can better ourselves thru our recreational pursuits (take a class, walk in the park, volunteer) but as you also put it - sometimes doing NOTHING is great as well.  Balance is so important to our collective quality of life….

•Posted by Janet Naclia  on  01/04/11  at  10:51 AM


Right on Brenda! Thank goodness you are a writer AND you are comitted to putting values to paper on a regular basis. You have inspired me because this is such an imporatnt topic and one that is pivotal to my experience and being. Thanks!

•Posted by Carol Petersen  on  01/05/11  at  08:12 PM

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