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Learning to Practice What I Preach

As mentioned in the ‘Five Minute Vacation’ post, my research has looked at how leisure can be beneficial for people experiencing all sorts of life changes (see the reference list at the bottom of this post for examples of articles from this research).

Even though I believed wholeheartedly in the benefits of leisure for all aspects of health and wellbeing, in many ways I wasn’t ‘practicing what I preach’… until recently. Three years ago, I had the chance to take a promotion to be a director of a center for healthy aging on the west coast (something that I’d said I wanted for most of my adult life). But it was after some intense retrospection that I realized: (1) I needed to create a life that would give me more work-life balance, not more work; and (2) there was much about my life in Nova Scotia to love. Rather than only complaining about what was bad about my life—or living in the future—I realized I needed to spend more time focusing on making life better right now.

As part of this, I decided to do something I said I’d wanted to try for the last decade: Learning to paint! I always saw myself as a ‘creative’ person but hadn’t created outlets for this creativity in my everyday life for the last decade or so.

After some trial and error I finally found an artist—Debbie Mosher ( who offers painting classes in the basement studio in her home in Dartmouth Nova Scotia. The great thing about this for me is that it helped me overcome three things that inevitably stop me from doing what I love: self-confidence, perfectionism, and procrastination. Debbie started me exactly where I was at (knowing almost nothing about painting). Her supportive ‘coaching’ teaching style helps me put my inner critic aside while I’m painting. Finally, committing to a class helps me to overcome the ‘I’m going to stay at home and work’ inertia that has been part of my everyday life for so many years. I realize I need the structure of a class (it is highly unlikely I’ll pull out my paints instead of my computer when I’m at home, but I love it once I’m at the class and my paints are on the palette).

I am trying to actively practice what I preach and am benefiting in so many ways from this: I’m feeling a sense of accomplishment to actually do something I say matters to me, I’m getting the chance to be more creative and to learn, and I am excited about contemplating the possibilities of how I can bring painting with me into my retirement life. So, if you suffer from an overactive work ethic or if lack of confidence, perfectionism and procrastination end up being obstacles for you too, here’s my advice:

  1. Life is right now: Start now to begin to build the kind of pursuits and life you want in retirement.

  2. Create sustainable structures: For me this was signing up for a class; for you it might mean finding a friend who will hold you accountable or making it a part of your daily routine.

  3. Value the ‘process’: Appreciating the process of learning more than the product can help address the worry of not being good enough.

  4. Just ‘do it’ (like no one is watching!): Whatever ‘it’ is for you, give yourself permission to explore and learn new pursuits without judging yourself.

A Few of My Research Articles About the Benefits of Leisure:

For People Living with Health Problems or Disability

Hutchinson, S. & Nimrod, G. (2012). Leisure as a resource for successful aging by older adults with chronic health conditions. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 74(1), 41-65.

For Older Adults

Hutchinson, S.,Yarnal, C. M., Sanford-Son, J., & Kerstetter, D. (2008). Beyond fun and friendship: The Red Hat Society® as a coping resource for older women. Ageing & Society, 28(7), 979-999.

For Families Experiences Divorce and Remarriage

Hutchinson, S., Afifi, T., & Krause, S. (2007). The family that plays together fares better: Examining the contribution of shared family time to family resilience following divorce. Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 46(3/4), 21-48.

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