Join us in the “Practicing Connection” community. When you sign up you’ll receive a monthly email focused on practicing connection. The email will help us establish a shared rhythm and some shared experiences in our community.
- This event has passed.
Invest Time in Leisure, Learning and Yourself (S.5, Ep.1)
About This Episode
In this episode (Season 5, Episode 1), co-hosts Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch talk about investing time in leisure, in learning, and in yourself – one of the eight ways of cultivating community resilience identified in the “Connecting Communities in Asset-based Community Recovery” project.
“Connecting Communities in Asset-based Community Recovery” is a collection of resources developed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic presented some really difficult challenges, but it also revealed some opportunities for building better systems and communities.
Kalin Goble: Welcome to Practicing Connection, a podcast exploring the personal stories and collective practices that empower us to work together to improve our resilience and readiness in a rapidly changing world. Here to start the conversation are Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch.
Bob Bertsch: Hi, and welcome to the Practicing Connection podcast. I’m Bob Bertsch. Today, we’ll be talking about investing in leisure, in learning, and in yourself. One of the eight ways of cultivating community resilience that we identified in our Connecting Communities in Asset-Based Community Recovery project.
Jessica Beckendorf: In 2021, we worked with our colleagues Bridget Scott and Sherrill Knezel to host interactive workshops with the purpose of providing a space to share our stories of community recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants in these workshops included military family service providers, extension educators, community development professionals, and others.
Using the Asset-Based Community Recovery Framework developed by Jonathan Massimi and Heather Keam for the Tamarack Institute, we worked together to identify the interdependencies, capacities, and assets that had emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic response. The stories participants shared during the workshops helped point us toward what communities did really well in their recovery and what they could have done a little better.
Bob: As we reflected on the incredible stories we heard in these workshops, eight themes for building individual and community resilience emerged for us. We’re going to discuss each of the themes in a separate podcast episode. So far, we’ve talked about grounding yourself in your strengths and values, making intentional and deeper connections, adapt, flex, and be resilient, and applying technology to community and community to technology.
In this episode, we’re going to discuss the theme Invest Time in Leisure, in Learning, and in Yourself. There’s a growing body of research that has found both physical and social-emotional benefits from taking part in enjoyable leisure activities. Participants in the asset-based community recovery workshop shared several stories about how they used the time that was made available to them as a result of the pandemic.
Lockdowns and remote work allowed some people more free time, and they often invested that in themselves and their families. They took time to read more, to take newly available online courses, and to develop new skills like the one participant who took the time to get their ham radio license, a valuable skill that could be used during a disaster. Many others further developed their cooking skills. As one participant put it, viva la sourdough.
Jessica: Now, that was really funny. Several participants also mentioned a renewed connection with nature as socially distanced outdoor activities were among the safest to do at the time. People accessed parks and trails that they hadn’t visited before. Spending time in nature can promote mindfulness and improve our health. The time that they were able to spend resting, learning, and working on themselves was among the things gained during the pandemic that participants said they did not want to lose.
However, hanging on to that time could be difficult. We risk returning to the hectic pace many of us have experienced before the pandemic as things return to “normal”. Participants also highlighted the impact remote work has had on their work-life balance. While working from home can save time previously spent commuting, it can also blur the lines between personal time and work time. Participants both appreciated the flexibility of working at non-traditional hours and struggled with how that erased the boundaries between home and work.
Bob: I think many of us understand the importance of making time for things other than work but we’re part of a culture that values work and productivity over family and community. Let’s try to get more specific about some of the things we can think about when investing time in leisure, learning, and ourselves. Why don’t we start with the idea of taking time to get to know ourselves better. This will help us recognize what we need to feel healthy and resilient.
Jessica: This is something that I teach in some of my workshops. It seems to be something people simultaneously deeply want and also fear. The idea of getting to know ourselves better. It’s so important to understand what we might need in order to take care of ourselves, like those boundaries, the things that we need when we’re feeling different feelings. There are so many ways of knowing yourself better, ways of knowing ourselves in the moment, for example, such as knowing your emotions, but also doing the work of reflecting on where we came from, our experiences, our upbringing, and how these things affect how we navigate situations in life.
One practice that’s really powerful is digging into our personal stories. Where did you come from? What neighborhood did you live in? What socioeconomic status did you grow up with? What were some of your family and cultural norms? Then reflecting on how all of these things affect how you move through the world today. We have a whole journal we created that gets at some of these topics, and we’ll place a link to it in the show notes. This was the storytelling for cultural competence journal we did for the 2018 virtual conference.
Bob: We developed that journal with those questions as a way of helping you to tap into that cultural competence and think about diversity, equity, and inclusion, but I think they really fit here too. Knowing yourself can also help you invest time in leisure, in learning, and in yourself. The things that keep us from maybe investing time in ourselves might be things that we can discover and account for by taking the time to know ourselves better and think about as you said, Jess, the ways that we’re moving through the world and those ways might be affected by things that we are not consciously aware of.
Jessica: In fact, I’d like to move on to thinking about taking the stuff that we know about ourselves and using that to set goals for personal development. You can set goals for personal development without doing that work, but I think it really propels your goal setting when you know yourself well enough to think about your personal development and what goals you might set for it.
When we’re intentional and we set attainable goals, we’re more likely to stay on a path that includes further investment in ourselves. This one has been a little bit of a struggle for me in the past. I’m interested in so many things, and everything takes so much time to learn, it’s really easy for me to do the less intentional activity of just going down rabbit holes. It’s really enjoyable, but when I crawl back out of the rabbit hole, I’ve lost hours. I may have gained some knowledge, but at some point, I need to take some action and be intentional about setting a few goals related to the things that I want to learn and grow and do.
One of the things that’s worked for me when I feel like I’ve really lost focus is remembering a quote from Gretchen Rubin. “I can do anything I want, but I can’t do everything I want.” I think of this as highlighting that I literally don’t have enough time in the world to do everything I want, especially given the fact that I’m fascinated by and interested in so many things. I have to make choices. I think it would seem logical to just choose one thing and go all in on it for a set amount of time then switch to something else if I want to, or I could decide to keep going for another set amount of time.
One of the best tips I’ve heard about this is from a book called The Renaissance Soul, it’s to choose one to two things to focus on for the next three months, and then reevaluate that after the three months or when you think it’s not working for you, whichever is sooner. At the three month mark, you can switch to a new thing or if you’re still excited about it, you can continue on. That’s what’s worked for me because I am a person who has so many interests and I hate that feeling of like, “Oh, if I choose this one or two things, I have to stick with those the rest of my life.”
For some reason, I used to feel like goal setting was about that and really, for me, that doesn’t work. I know that there’s other people out there like this who have so many interests. For me, what has worked is picking one or two things and saying, “I’m going to go all in on these for a little bit of time and then I’m going to reevaluate. That has resulted in one to two long-term goals that I have met. I became a published poet as one of the– It was only one poem [chuckles] so it’s not like I went crazy on it, but that was a goal that I set and I accomplished from this work on myself, from setting these goals and from allowing myself the freedom to decide to stop or to keep going with it, and I kept going with it.
Jessica: Thank you.
Bob: -on the publication of your poem. It’s interesting because as you’re describing going down rabbit holes and those kinds of things, I have the opposite problem of, being able to let go of goals and expectations. I have a note that I keep for myself about reminding me to let go of those goals and expectations, and saying, “You are not reading this so you can write a book, get a job or produce an output, you’re just on a journey in process.”
I have the opposite problem where I maybe need to get away from the focus a little bit more and do more exploring. The way that I’ve dealt with that in terms of goal setting for personal development is to choose things that are a little bit foundational that maybe are going to affect more than one part of my life. Exercise practice supports all kinds of different personal development for me just by keeping me healthy and energized and things like that.
My meditation practice helps me I think foundationally, just in terms of improving my mood, being mindful of things like maybe I am stopping myself from going down a rabbit hole because I’m worried about whether it’s relevant to what my goals are right now and being able to let go and allow things to happen. Those kinds of foundational goals and practices are the things that I have my personal development goals set around.
I think also setting goals in this way can help us reframe the idea that we are doing things “for ourselves” that it’s somehow selfish, as much as people remind us. You’ve probably heard guests on the podcast remind you that self-care is super important. It’s still called self-care. There’s some of us, me included, might have a little bit of hang up about it being selfish when we’re doing things for ourselves.
If we use our personal development goals in this way and think of it not as doing things for ourselves, but practicing personal development, we know that investing time in ourselves makes our communities better. It better prepares our communities for disasters and to recover from disasters. Investing time in ourselves, makes us better service providers, better co-workers, better parents, better partners, better friends. It also helps us support our colleagues and our families and our friends in their own development journey. That in a fractal nature, as we develop ourselves and support the development of those immediately around us, that’s a way of supporting the development of our community.
Setting those goals, in fact, that can help keep us on track with that personal development, the development of people around us and the development of our community.
Jessica: I am so glad you brought that up. I’m so glad that we had two different ways that we have been affected by our various interests and the ways we approach our own personal development and our interests and our pursuits, partly because I just wanted to bring up the fact that I also had to go through I guess a level of self-acceptance that this is who I am, that I’m the person that’s not interested in focusing on one or two things and becoming a massive expert on those things, that I want to learn and do everything because I just felt often like a failure in the beginning when I was trying to do everything and I felt like, “What’s wrong with me that I can’t just stick with something?”
The truth is that I actually often come back to those things. Maybe three, four years go by, and then I’ll come back and I’ll continue learning it. I had to accept that that’s who I am and that I like that about me. I had to really explore and think about, “Wait a second, I like this about myself. I like that I have a variety of things.” I would encourage anyone else to, as you’re exploring how you do personal development and how you set your goals, also think about what your preferences are and how you prefer to approach personal development and goals and allow yourself to accept and like who you are in that regard too.
Bob: Another thing that came up in the workshops was the idea that we need to explore our boundaries to, what boundaries we need to have in place to allow us to take time for ourselves. If we don’t have boundaries in place, it might be easy to prioritize whatever needs are the most immediate in the moment like I could take time to meditate right now, but my dog is wanting to be fed, that happens frequently by the way, or I haven’t responded that to that email I received yesterday afternoon, so I can’t meditate. I have to set boundaries around that time. My early mornings is when I practice my meditation. That’s my time for prioritizing myself.
I realize using that language that I’m tapping into that thing that might sound a little bit selfish. Maybe we’ll edit that on the fly. My early mornings are the time that I dedicate to self-development and personal development. That helps me protect that time by setting that boundary. I’ve often had difficulty with boundaries because I conceived of them as physical walls as ways of keeping things out, letting nothing in. That can be helpful until you actually do let something in or let something across that boundary, and then it feels like it’s a failure, that the wall has been destroyed. I have no boundaries. What’s the point?
I really like how Heather Plett has written about boundaries as a membrane. Heather wrote about having a boundary of that sets the space for yourself, that’s around you. When you conceive it as a membrane, that means that it’s something that can change shape. It can be expanded or contracted even in particular areas to fit what we need right now. Also, a membrane can be selectively permeated. It can let some things in and not others. We might let our partner or our kids permeate a boundary that we would never let say our supervisor through. That has really helped me think of boundaries as something flexible and it’s really helped me keep my boundaries in place.
Jessica: I’ve also found that metaphor to be really helpful as I think about boundaries because it’s also been a challenge for me to think of them as these impermeable, inflexible things. I certainly don’t want to compromise my own resilience for the sake of flexibility, but also it’s helpful for me to think about the membrane as a metaphor for this moving contextual thing too.
Let’s talk a little bit about some action steps that can help you invest time in leisure learning and in yourself. First, schedule time to do something you enjoy every day if you can. Taking even a few minutes a day to do something you really enjoy can boost your resilience. Set some time aside for it and keep that appointment. If you can, savor it. If it’s something to be savored, take a moment to think about what you’re enjoying and loving about it in the moment and what’s bringing you joy about it, and just savor it for that little bit of time.
Bob: Another step that we can take, as we talked about before when we talked about goals is to set a goal for learning a new skill. Again, schedule time to practice. When you’re scheduling time, we’re setting a boundary. Practicing anything is great for resilience. It reminds us that we can always improve and give something new to work toward each day. It’s a great reminder that over time our learning varies. We might have a good day of learning, we might have a bad day of learning, but we know that we have a goal that we’re working towards.
Jessica: One that I think is really important is to practice gratitude by letting someone in your life know what you appreciate about them. It’s not just writing it in a journal, although there’s lots of research behind how helpful that is. I love this idea of connection by letting someone in your life know what you appreciate about them. Giving them the gift of gratitude helps deepen your connection with them and it helps the social support system that keeps you resilient.
Bob: I think it can also get to that idea of how we support other folks’ development because when you give that gift of gratitude, especially if you give it specifically, that could really be the thing that keeps that person going on their own personal development journey.
That’s it for this episode. I want to thank you so much for joining us. You can keep up with Practicing Connection by subscribing to the podcast in your favorite podcast app and by joining the Practicing Connection community on LinkedIn. Visit oneop.org/practicingconnection to subscribe and join.
Jessica: Finally, we’d also like to thank our co-producer, Coral Owen, our announcer, Kaelin Goebel, Hannah Hyde, Maggie Lucas, and Terry Meisenbach for their help with marketing, and Nathan Grimm, who composed and performed all the music you hear on the podcast. We hope you’ll join us again soon. In the meantime, keep practicing.
Kalin: The Practicing Connection podcast is a production of OneOp and is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Office of Military Family Readiness Policy, U.S. Department of Defense under award number 2019-48770-30366.
[00:20:47] [END OF AUDIO]