To be able to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilization, and at present very few people have reached this level. ~Bertrand Russell
When you come home, tired and stressed, the last thing you want to do is think. You want to relax and cut loose. For most people that means zoning out in front of the TV or joining friends at the bar for some chemical stimulation.
Is this really the best way to use free time? Are all intelligent pursuits draining and tedious?
No. The feeling of discovery that accompanies learning is rejuvenating and empowering. When you succumb to laziness and fill your leisure with mindless activities, you’re sacrificing your most valuable possession — your individuality.
Your leisure is the only time you have for self development. It’s the only time you aren’t bound by contract to the interests of your employer. It’s the only time you have to develop your intelligence and discover what you really love. Are you willing to give up your “self”?
Using leisure intelligently isn’t a sacrifice, but it is an adjustment. You’ll need to become independent and deal with questions from people who don’t get it. Here are some tips to help you fill leisure intelligently.
1. Make it a ritual – Your brain is more powerful than you think, it just needs to be stretched. The only limit on the amount of thinking you can do is the one you set for yourself. Get in the habit of devoting a portion of your leisure time to an intelligent activity and do it every day. With practice you’ll find that your mind enjoys the stimulation. If you go back to your old routine, you’ll find it remarkably boring.
2. Question your companions – If you try to make a change, it’s inevitable that your companions will question you. Why are you reading that book? Why don’t you watch TV with me like usual? It’s tempting to succumb to this because we enjoy our companions and want to please them. Instead of giving in, throw a question back at them. Why do we always waste our time doing such and such? Isn’t there a more beneficial way we can use our time? Another great strategy is surrounding yourself with people who are superior — they will naturally bring you up to their level.
3. Get active – Inertia is powerful. If you plant yourself on the couch right after getting home, chances are you’ll stay there all night. Keep your mind and body alert by staying active. Hitting the gym right away will boost your energy and help you relax. Taking a walk is a great way to detach yourself, sort out your thoughts, and get some exercise. If you make it a habit to stay active, you’ll find energy you never knew you had.
4. Study a subject that interests you – Most kids grow up hating school because they’re forced to study subjects they have no interest in. Education doesn’t have to be this way. Studying a subject you want to learn about is entertaining as well as enlightening. By developing your mind, you can open up new career opportunities and create a more interesting personality.
5. Schedule your TV time – The screen is a great medium, but I think we can agree that the majority of programming is garbage. If you turn on the TV and start surfing, chances are the show you find won’t be entertaining. Make the most of your TV time by scheduling it beforehand. Pick out your favorite programs and only watch TV at those times. If you have DVR you can save time by skipping commercials. Don’t make turning on the TV be the first thing you do when you enter a room.
6. Experiment with various activities – The purpose of using leisure intelligently isn’t to pass a test or memorize a set of facts. If what you’re doing doesn’t interest you, move on to something else. Don’t be afraid to leave books unfinished if they bore you. Follow your curiosity. Dabbling in a variety of subjects will improve creativity and give you a wide range of ideas to blend together.
7. Find a good hobby – A hobby is a great way to develop skills and interact with other people. Some of them can even generate income. A hobby builds on itself. You start out knowing nothing and gradually build a repertoire of skills. Even if these skills aren’t particularly useful, the process helps you learn how to learn. Once you’ve developed one set of skills from scratch, the next set is even easier.
8. Avoid addictive time sinks – Gaming is a great way to engage the mind and develop strategic thinking. But when it becomes an obsession it takes away more than it gives back. The same is true with any addictive activity. When you feel yourself becoming addicted, pull yourself away. A game shouldn’t consume your entire life and enjoying it in moderation will keep it fresh longer.