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Special Event

Millennium 2000: Leisure

Aired January 2, 2000 - 7:14 p.m. ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Taking it easy without killing yourself.


DAVE COMPTON, WESTERN LABORATORY FOR LEISURE RESEARCH: In America, we haven't learned how to engage leisure.


WOODRUFF: What different cultures can show us, and what you should teach your kids.


COMPTON: We've got to move young people away from the confrontational, win-at-all-costs mentality.


WOODRUFF: We're teaching the world how to chill out in 2000.

The many gadgets and work-saving devices that we enjoy in the developed countries were supposed to free people from drudgery and open up a world of leisure time. What recreational activities there are turn out to be an expanding universe, as Dave Mattingly tells us.


DAVE MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When you think of leisure, what comes to mind? Is it relaxing on a beach, playing golf, a night on the town or maybe just quiet time? The ancient Greek philosophers first gave serious thought to leisure as a way to restore the soul and enhance your quality of life. It was Socrates who encouraged time for personal reflection when he said, "The unexamined life is not worth living."

But the Greeks hadn't counted on 2,000 years of social, religious and economic influences placing greater and greater emphasis on work. Today technological and industrial advances make us more mobiles, more available, more productive and seemingly more pressed for time than ever before. So who has time for leisure?

In his book, "Time for Life," John Robinson (ph) of the University of Maryland details how he asked people to keep minute-by- minute diaries of how they spend their days.

JOHN ROBINSON: We have a total of close to 40 hours a week of free time.

MATTINGLY (on camera): Free time, according to Robinson, is unlike time we spend on the job or cleaning house and doing laundry. Free time is just for us, that time without requirement or obligation. We're in charge. We have complete freedom to choose what we do with it.

(voice-over): Robinson and others found that people in the U.S., Europe, Australia and Japan all have about the same amount of free time, roughly 40 hours a week. Scandinavians rated highest with 47 hours, Hungarians the lowest with 25. But the real differences emerge in how we choose to use it.

(on camera): And how much of that 40 hours are we devoting to leisure?

ROBINSON: Well, I'm not sure it's even an hour a week, in the classical sense of leisure.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Forty hours of free time a week, yet we choose to spend less than one hour on what scholars define as true leisure.

COMPTON: Its purity would be if it was utilized for self- improvement, for well-being, for, you know, a sense of comfort or joy.

MATTINGLY (on-camera): And we're not doing that.

COMPTON: We're not doing that.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Dave Compton of the Western Laboratory for Leisure Research says there are millions of people around the world who are going about leisure all wrong. It can be as simple as reading a book or as grand as a trip to the rain forest. How you do it makes all the difference. Going fishing, for example, because you get pleasure from the peace and the outdoors, is leisure. Feeling pressure to catch a fish is not. Attending adult education for the enjoyment of a new experience is leisure. Taking night classes to get a better job is not.

COMPTON: You feel this -- this very sharp focus. You feel manifest joy, a sense of joy coming from the experience itself. You're very engaged in it. Nothing matters beyond it. You've dedicated your energies to the success of this experience, and you experience it.

MATTINGLY (on-camera): That's leisure.

COMPTON: That's leisure.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Culture has a lot to do with how we approach leisure, and it's no surprise that some parts of the world are better at it than others. (on camera): A,B,C, D or F. Japan.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): In Japan, for example, Compton says, potential leisure time is often spent in work-related activities, like office social gatherings and golf outings with a business goal. When they do get away from it all, regimented group tours are popular, not exactly what Socrates had in mind for personal reflection and growth.

(on camera): Latin America.

COMPTON: Latin America -- B, B-minus.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Latin America, on the other hand, gets a better grade because of the time-honored practice of the siesta.

COMPTON: It's a very positive sort of thing, time out, time to reflect, time to restore one's soul, to get one ready again.

MATTINGLY: Compton also gives Europeans a leisure grade of B because of their tradition called the holiday. When they get away, they leave their schedules behind for up to a month at a time. They don't sample new experiences, they take time to savor them. A meal, for example, could last for hours.

(on camera): Australia.

COMPTON: A, A-minus. The Aussies are a very interesting lot.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Australians, according to Compton, are at the head of the class. The pursuit of leisure Down Under is a national pastime.

(on camera): What do they do that we don't do in other parts of the world that make them so good at leisure?

COMPTON: They educate for leisure.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Australians place an emphasis on physical education at a young age, aimed at creating an active individual lifestyle. More than organized team sports, they are encouraged to develop an exercise ethic. They are also taught in school outdoor skills like hiking and camping. Combine this with an abundance of beaches, parks and wildlife, and you have an entire country where leisure seems to come naturally.

COMPTON: In America, we haven't learned how to engage leisure. We haven't taken the richness of leisure and utilized it in ways that are meaningful to self, to family, to community and to nation.

MATTINGLY: Compton's leisure grade for the United States: C- minus to D, poor marks for the way we teach leisure to our children and for bad choices we make in using our free time.

COMPTON: This sort of narcissistic attitude that we've had toward life itself now funneled in our play experiences.

MATTINGLY: In working with children, Compton found that kids of the electronic game era are less able to play together simply for the sake of playing. We have to win. Physical education, he says, is geared more toward developing competitive and team skills, not a personal lifestyle. When American kids grow older, Compton finds them more prone to violent behavior and substance abuse.

COMPTON: We've got to move young people away from the confrontational, win-at-all-costs mentality that we have, and the entertainment diversion and amusement that is there to simply placate you or to keep you in custodial -- in a custodial context. We've got to change that, and we've got to change it very rapidly.

MATTINGLY: But for more and more Americans, the line between work and leisure is blurred because we choose to bring work into our free time. And when we do leave time for ourselves, John Robinson found, we turn to the most available source of entertainment.

ROBINSON: The main activity that, of course, is there is television, which consumes about half of that -- that 40 hours a week of free time.

MATTINGLY: Robinson also found that our free time is coming in increasingly smaller packages. That could explain why we seek out quick thrills, like those weekend getaways to amusement parks, all- inclusive resorts and cruises. But in the classic sense, experts say, this is not leisure. They are experiences packaged for convenience and intensity, not richness. And if current trends continue, historians could some day look back and determine that the leisure time of our lives was, in the end, time wasted.

COMPTON: When archaeologists excavate the suburban home 1,000 years from now, they'll open up that garage, and in the garage will be all the artifacts of leisure we thought we'd done.

MATTINGLY: David Mattingly, CNN.


WOODRUFF: And when we return, how you can make the most out of your limited time off.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Time management guru Dr. Stephen Covey joins us live. He's the best-selling author of "7 Habits of Highly Effective People."


SHAW: Now, how to be effective and get more leisure time.

WOODRUFF: Joining us from Provo, Utah, is Stephen Covey, the author of the best-selling "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and one of "Time" magazine's 25 Most Influential People.

Dr. Covey, my first question is, please define "leisure" for us? I'm thinking of a tennis game. Some people go out there on the tennis court to have fun. Other people go out there wanting to kill their opponent.

STEPHEN COVEY, "7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE": I guess my definition would be that you don't have to do it. You want to do it. It's an end in itself. And by the way, when my wife heard I was going to talk on this subject, she laughed and said, "That's an oxymoron, to have you on the subject of leisure."

WOODRUFF: So why are we talking to you?

COVEY: I don't know!


COVEY: My other kids say, "No, no. You got your life pretty well balanced."

WOODRUFF: Let me -- is leisure important in everyone's life? And I ask that because we all know people who appear never to relax.

COVEY: I think it definitely is important. The problem is, it's not urgent, and most people are driven by the urgent, not by the important, because they've never paid the price to decide what's important.

SHAW: Speaking of urgency, one group of people have a sense of urgency like no other people, and I'm thinking about "super-moms" -- taking care of children, taking care of husband, taking care of a job. How do you take work out of work for a super-mom?

COVEY: That's a tough issue, I acknowledge, particularly if they're single super-moms. And I just think that the rising need for consumption and the economic pressures on the home situation has created a cultural pressure toward urgency. And oftentimes, these super-moms or the families themself have not really decided what really matters most because we're not a product of our culture -- we don't have to be a product of our culture, we're a product of our own choice and our response to all of the different forces in our culture. And we need to really get into what I call "life leadership," rather than into time management.

WOODRUFF: But Stephen Covey, what do you say to those people who are out there listening to you right now, and they're saying, "Hey, this sounds great, but look, I've got to get up early in the morning. I've got to get my kids off to school, got to get the house in order, or I've got to run these errands," male or female, people who are saying, "I don't have time to relax"?

COVEY: Well, you know that most people are spending 20 hours a week watching television, and they say they don't have leisure. I ask people all the time, large groups of people, what percent of the time are you spending doing things that are urgent but not important. And almost everyone acknowledges 50 percent of the time. That's half the time. We're driven and addicted literally to the urgent. I have a -- I have a watch here that I use often to help teach this idea. Below this watch is a compass, and the compass illustrates your sense of direction, your sense of purpose and your values, where the watch itself essentially organizes and schedules your time. The key to life, in my judgment, is to decide really what matters most, what is terribly important. Then this sense of direction, purpose and values, guides the way you use your time.

WOODRUFF: So what you're saying is that this is not something people can just do on the spur of the moment. People have to make an orchestrated effort, if you will, to think about their life, to stand back, think about their life and then think about how they're going to relax within that framework.

COVEY: That's right, so that they really pay the price to decide what are the most important things, including time for leisure, which should be focused upon renewal and self-improvement and community service and having fun, and particularly spending time with your kids -- and with your grandkids, of which we have a brand-new one, which is our latest. I just wanted to show...


COVEY: This is little Preston (ph). I think the greatest leisure there is is just to spend time with these little children.

SHAW: Well, apart from Preston, another avenue for leisure and relaxing involves animals. How is it that animals help chill out humans?

COVEY: Well, I think that with animals, they're very accepting, and they don't judge you. They accept you as you are. And our dog, Sheldon Cornpeck (ph) -- you know, he -- no matter how good I do or how poorly I do, he always is there licking me.

WOODRUFF: Well, what do you do? You started out, Stephen Covey, saying your wife laughed when she found out you were the one talking about leisure. What...

COVEY: Well, I write books...

WOODRUFF: What does somebody like you, who's busy all the time -- how do you relax?

COVEY: I really organize by doing long-term planning so that I have good vacation times with my children. I also take special times every week to do family activities and to do things with my wife. So I think I have plenty of renewing leisure time, but my wife would disagree with that.

WOODRUFF: But look ahead with us, if you will. I mean, we're here to talk about...


WOODRUFF: ... the new millennium. We were talking about the fact that all these gadgets are supposed to free us up, but in fact, with cell phones, with pagers and all these other miraculous little pieces of electronic equipment, we're really never out of touch with the office.

COVEY: That's true. It's complicating our life enormously. That's why it is so important to realize that they are very bad masters, but good servants, and that we should use them as such. We have the power to choose our response to all of this culture, to all of this technology. And I think that anyone that feels that life leadership is not a choice are going to be constantly harassed and harried and frustrated trying to accomplish so much with such little time.

SHAW: Does it help to take a deep breath? Seriously.

COVEY: Yes, I do. I think it helps to take a deep breath and to be quiet and to have some meditation time. In fact, there are four needs in all of us. We have to live, physically. Mentally, we have to keep learning. Emotionally, our heart -- we need to keep loving people and building relationships and receiving love. And spiritually, we need to make a difference. We have to add value and to be also in harmony with our own values, so that we have personal integrity and to give a service. So I think -- I call this to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy, which represents, in my judgment, ends in themselves apart from just making a living.

WOODRUFF: So looking ahead, looking ahead to the next 50, 100 years, Stephen Covey, are people going to find it easier to relax or harder?

COVEY: I think that it all depends on their own judgment as to what they want to do. If they continue to go into this technological, digital world, I think it's going to be more difficult. If they decide to go into it with their mind made up that they know what they're about, what their direction is, their purpose and their values, I think that they can free themself for sufficient leisure and deep self-renewal and opportunities to contribute significantly to their community and to their family, to have a lot of fun. I think they'll have all that opportunity. I really do.

WOODRUFF: It's great to know. Thank you, Dr. Stephen Covey.

COVEY: Thank you.

SHAW: And in about 30 minutes, Dr. Covey will be making it over to the CNN chat room, and he will continue discussing how to be effectively in a leisurely way. You can join him on line at


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