Understanding The Meaning Of Leisure

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Over centuries, the meaning of leisure has changed drastically due to the always developing societies and their norms and cultures. In other words, everyone has a different understanding of what leisure means for them. One can look at it from many perspectives which makes the topic too broad and versatile to expect that every individual falls in the same category and en-joys the same activities. The given problem statement is how I would describe my own leisure lifestyle. This report consists of a literature review that assists in getting a theoretical insight into the concept of leisure. I am asking myself what leisure is and what the three types of lei-sure are. Furthermore, I talk about possible rewards and constraints that motivate and stop people´s participation in activities. At last, I apply the theory to my own life to find out how to describe my own leisure lifestyle and how it is influenced by my personality. For that I am in-cluding the results of a MBTI test.


This report focuses on answering a number of questions to clarify what the term ´leisure´ is about. In the beginning it discusses the overall meaning of leisure by comparing and evaluat-ing different people´s views and perceptions with each other. This should help in making the reader understand how variable the topic is and give a first idea on how to define it. Continu-ing to the next question which concerns the different types of leisure, which include serious, project-based and casual, and how those can be distinguished by their characteristics. Seri-ous leisure contains another three subgroups; amateur, hobbyist and volunteer and is a lot more complex than project-based leisure which mostly consists of one-time activities and casual leisure which is very fleeting and short-lived and is usually carried out for the one´s own sake. It is important to know that leisure activities are influenced by specific factors just as much as they are influenced by benefits that could work as motivation for individuals. Those topics are also covered in the first part of this piece of writing. To round off the report the second segment concentrates on applying the theory to my own leisure lifestyle. Addition-ally, it draws connections between the MBTI test and my personality to further evaluate my chosen activities and how my character shapes my leisure life.

Literature Review

What is Leisure?

According to Wittgenstein (as cited in (Wise, 2014)) there are many aspects of leisure that usually intersect and come together as one. Precisely that broadness and variety of the topic make it extremely hard to find a specific definition. Everyone has a different perception of it and experiences it in a differ-ent way; however, over the last century, sever-al people have described their understanding of leisureThe book ´Leisure: An Introduction´ (Page & Connell, 2010) mentions three approaches that first appeared during Stockdale´s study (1985) of the topic.

The first one describes a period of time or an activity that focuses on the individual´s own choices. Occasionally, it may also apply to a state of mind. One may view free time as their version of leisure. Another theory says, that the opposite of work or non-work also defines leisure. However, Gordon´s, Gaitz´ and Scott´s (as cited in (Jackson & Burton, 1999)) opinion slightly differs from what was just stated. They say:“It is important to note that leisure and free time are not synonymous. In everyday us-age of the language, people refer to all nonworking hours as free time. But as we know, only a small portion of this free time may indeed be free, free from obligations and free to do what one wants to do. ”Those few theories are obviously contradictory to each other, nevertheless Stockdale came up with one last approach that matches the previous point of view. The third theory is that a person´s perceptions and beliefs influence their leisure choices. Her-bert (1988) has agreed with that and additionally, he stated that an individual should be free from any constraints in order to participate in activities. Bull et al. (as cited in (Page & Connell, 2010, p. 6)) share similar opinions on the topic: “Leisure might be regarded as time free from obligations, as a collection of specific activities (embracing sport, recreation, tourism, arts and entertainment) or simply as a state of mind. ” Because such a description is very broad and variable they came up with five ways to ex-press leisure that are still relevant and applicable nowadays.

One of them is the time-based theory which states thatwhen biological needs, such as sleeping or eating and work-related activities and daily commitments for instance, the travel to work, are met the individual has got the chance to devote themselves to leisure and the activi-ties they enjoy. For some people it is more time than it is for others because if one takes a closer look, all those obligations take up a lot of time without them even realizing. Leisure can also be activity based. One independently chooses an activity by free will and in most cases on a daily basis. Sometimes their decision can be influenced by family members or friends. They might have different preferences or ideas and the individual has to figure out how much they let others affect their own choices or if they want to come up with a compromise. Another person might identify themselves with the attitude-based theory which depends solely on one´s state of mind and life style and what their motivation is. It is important to know that those things change constant-ly. It is the individual´s job to decide when and how to participate in a leisure activity.

For the quality-based approach the individu-al has to ask themselves the question if the activity helps them release stress and catch a break from the worries of the everyday life. Is it worth it to invest time in it? They can answer those questions by evaluating their experiences and the quality of the activities. If one feels like they can connect leisure with their career or employment and see a fulfilment in that activity they match Bull et al. ´s last approach which is dedicated to leisure as a way of living. An individual´s leisure life gets more important than the money they earn and the lines between it and work get blurred.

Three types of leisure

Robert A. Stebbins (as cited in (Haworth & Veal, 2004)) was the first one to discover that lei-sure can be divided into three subgroups. In that way, individuals are able to personalize and categorize their own leisure lifestyle. It was 1973 when the term ´serious leisure´ first made an appearance, followed by casual and project-based leisure.

Serious Leisure Serious

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Leisure is the most complex type. In fact, individuals that participate in a serious lei-sure activity can be distinguished too. They are either amateurs, hobbyists or volunteers. Those personas have several aspects in common but are also different on closer perspective. Stebbins named six aspects that are of big importance and need to be acknowledged in any case. One of them describes the process of overcoming struggles and obstacles when starting or even during an activity. An individual has to jump over their shadow sometimes and confront anxiety and fears. Only with endurance, ambition and discipline this will be accomplished. Furthermore, one should be able to turn their leisure activity into a career or profession if they wish so. And even if that is not the case the availability should always exist. Moreover, every person should see it as their responsibility to put effort into what they are do-ing to make sure they are successful in gaining the skills and knowledge they need, to carry out the activity. Additionally, there are rewards and benefits to every leisure activity that can serve as motiva-tion and stimulate the will to participate. It is also essential for the individual to feel comfortable with their leisure lifestyle and be able to identify with it on a personal and social level.

Espe-cially, if they choose to turn an activity into their work. At last, a person should possess an incomparable ethos and social world to create a base for the participation in leisure activities. All those elements should come together to provide the individual with the best possible condi-tions for their leisure life. As mentioned earlier there is not just one type of serious leisure participant. Stebbins named three in total. Firstly, the ´amateur´ who strives to turn their leisure activity into a career and uses their skills and knowledge which they developed through training, lessons, initiative and a lot of personal effort, to achieve just that. The professional counterpart is what makes a dis-tinction between ´amateur´ and ´hobbyist´. The latter does also have certain skills but only participates in the activity for themselves and their own sake; however, on a quite regular ba-sis. Some activities also fall in the category of volunteering. A ´volunteer´ can choose one or even both of the following principle motives. They either want to help others or they do it for themselves which means working for a strongly felt cause and the experience.

Casual Leisure

A sociable conversation, parties, watching TV, play, relaxa-tion and sensory stimulation such as eating, and sleeping all fall into the category of casual leisure. The activities are a lot more mundane and fleeting than those in serious leisure and are not aimed at a poten-tial career. Because of that, there is no need for special training or skills. Activities are less substantial which does not necessarily make casual leisure less important for people´s personal and social lives. The motivation behind participation is the pure enjoyment and pleasure that is given to them almost immediately.

Project-based Leisure

As the name already says, this leisure type is focused around projects which means that planning is necessary to participate in activities. Those have a clear beginning and end and are just as short-lived as they are infrequent. In the end they should result in something new or different and display imagination, skill and knowledge. Most projects are carried out in the person´s free time and continuously pursued until completed; nevertheless, in some instances activities may be interrupted for weeks, months or even years.


Participating in a leisure activity is rewarding in many ways. Some of those rewards concern the individual themselves and some of them a bigger group; nevertheless, the rewards are the reason why people make time for leisure in their lives. The following aspects are a collection of Robert A. Stebbins´ (as cited in (Haworth & Veal, 2004))Firstly, a person has the chance to gain cherished experience that influence the way they view the activity. If they enjoyed what they did and have positive memories one is more likely to participate again. Secondly, new skills, abilities and knowledge develop just as much as the individual gets to express the ones that are already there. One can learn almost anything by putting just a bit of effort in and it feels amazing if one has achieved that. Also seeing that one improves at an activity has the same rewarding effect on the individual. Furthermore, one will be more content with themselves and enhance their self-image if they enjoy the chosen leisure activity. One gets to be who they want to be. Additionally, satisfaction and happiness that lead to fun and possibly make one experience the ´flow´ are an obvious reward. Another key point is re-creation. Leisure is a great way to balance out one´s work life and stress and forget about the daily struggles.

And of course, from time to time a financial return can also be a motivating factor. Besides personal rewards other things such as the social aspect might seem attractive when thinking about joining a leisure activity. Spending time with other people in different surround-ings and getting to know the feeling of achieving something together and experiencing a sense of group accomplishment is what makes it worth it. Additionally, being needed, helping others get to a result and contributing can make individuals feel happy and important. It must be said, that rewards are not always the same. It depends on the type of leisure and activity and most importantly on the person and what they want to get out of it. For instance, a feeling of group accomplishment is not something one achieves through a one-person activity such as painting. Instead the individual gets the chance to express themselves creatively and have an outlet where they can enhance their skills. In conclusion, realizing that different activi-ties come with a different set of benefits and rewards helps in balancing out one´s leisure life-style to increase well-being and happiness.


Where there are rewards, there are also constraints that keep the individual from participating in leisure activities and put boundaries on personal freedom and own choices. Those obsta-cles are quite versatile and regard different aspects of one´s life. Edginton, Hanson and Edginton (as cited in (Edginton, Jordan, DeGraaf, & Edginton, 1992)) described ten constraints which cut back on one´s leisure lifestyle. For once, a person´s attitude influences the way they view the activity. Perceptions usually come from social or cultural norms that are firmly established in a person´s mind and lead to hesitation and non-participation. Additionally, one can lack information that are needed in order to do an activity. As Godbey (as cited in (Edginton, Jordan, DeGraaf, & Edginton, 1992))later added, the opposite is also not a rarity. Too much information can make a person feel overwhelmed with the offering. Another point is that, people who describe themselves as workaholics could have a hard time in establishing their own leisure lifestyle because of the missing balance between the latter and their work lives. In other words, they do not have enough time for participation because work does consume their whole lives. One of the main constraints, that affects the majority of leisure participants, is temporal. Some people struggle with finding the time for their leisure life, whereas others do not have a problem in doing so. How they spend their time is the individual´s choice.

Nowadays, social status does not play that big of a role anymore; at least not in developing countries. But sometimes, society or culture might stand in the way of one´s wish to participate in an activity. Individuals might not be allowed to use facilities or do certain activities. The lack of ability to purchase a service or pay for the leisure lifestyle is just as much of a boundary. Even if the will to participate exists, there is not much one can do in such situations and such economic constraints will for sure always be around. Furthermore, it is obvious that an individual´s mental and physical health is not always on the same level and does influence if, or in what way, they participate in the activities. Additionally, lack of exposure can be an obstacle. One will never find out if the something suits them if they do not try it first. A person´s own perception of a lack of skills may work as a demotivating factor as well. Thinking that one is not good enough not only negatively influences the mental state but also one´s leisure lifestyle. The final constraint is the environment, for instance the weather or infrastructure that people have no saying over. People are exposed to those and have to work with whatever comes their way.

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