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Need Help With Leisure Plans? They'll Work It Out for You

November 01, 1987|DAVID LARSEN | Times Staff Writer

The couple came to Dr. Bruce F. Morehouse with a problem:

The husband liked to spend his leisure time in highly competitive pursuits, such as tennis. The wife preferred spending such time in an activity with more social aspects, such as softball.

After each filled out a questionnaire, which was fed into a computer, they were presented with a solution that would allow them to spend more time together.

"I put them into volleyball, which is competitive but still social," the consultant said. "They are both happy now."

Another success for Morehouse--the Dear Abby of the Leisure-Lorn.

"A major problem in California is an abundance of leisure riches," Morehouse said. "What it amounts to is two days and too much. And because we live here, we feel we should be doing something . I've often thought that some people here feel guilty on a day off if they aren't out in the sunshine."

Celebrity Conscious

But there are so many other ways to spend the time, and so many people seeking the wrong kind of relaxation for it.

"They become celebrity conscious," Morehouse said. "When Johnny Carson was touting tennis, everybody felt they had to play tennis. Jane Fonda promotes aerobics, and that becomes the thing to do."

Not necessarily.

In March of this year, after such endeavors as advising the Navy and hospitals, and teaching in Australia, he and a business partner, Mark Jason, decided to found The Leisure Company, which offers personal counseling on how to spend your leisure time.

For a fee of $40, you fill out a questionnaire with 240 possible answers and mail it in. It is run through a computer, and you are provided with a printout. Not only does this narrow down to six possibilities what you might do, but it also deals with your attitudes toward leisure, satisfaction with your current leisure activities, and activity locations in your area.

Activities Inventory

-Section One of the questionnaire is an activities inventory--seeking the client's possible interests, be they from badminton to horseshoe throwing to yoga.

-Section Two is motivational analysis, asking why you apparently now enjoy what you do--is it to unstructure your time, to keep in shape physically, to use your imagination?

-Section Three measures your leisure activity satisfaction--is it to get away from others, to be stimulated mentally, to have a feeling of achievement?

-Section Four deals with barriers to leisure satisfaction--do you refrain from possible good experiences because you find it difficult to interact with others, because you have too many family obligations, because you feel too much daily stress?

-Section Five deals with your attitudes toward leisure--does time seem to fly when you are thusly involved, do you feel it increases your work productivity, do you feel it contributes to your health?

-Section Six probes aversions--do you dislike activities involving animals, heights, water?

Matches for Client

The answers put The Leisure Company almost in the realm of a dating service, matching the client with six from a data base of 170 activities.

"Nothing is guaranteed, but if only one or two prove to be the solution, we feel we have succeeded," Morehouse said.

So far, more than 500 Southlanders have made use of the mail service, most of them hearing about it by via word of mouth.

In addition, not to be confused with psychiatric help, personal counseling is offered for $75 an hour.

The Santa Monica office of The Leisure Company has no couch, but in among the golf clubs and weights and chess set and dart board, is a table. Clients desiring a personal touch can bring in their completed questionnaires and have them discussed with Morehouse at the table for the extra charge.

'Attitude-Changing'

"Sometimes we use the time for attitude-changing," the counselor explained. "There are people who conclude that work is right, and play is wrong, therefore they are unable to play.

"Sometimes they come back for another session to discuss how things are working out."

With leisure, different strokes for different folks.

"Take a high-strung executive," Morehouse said. "He is probably trying to climb the corporate ladder, is competing fiercely throughout his working day.

"His time off, therefore, shouldn't be spent trying to beat somebody in racquetball. He should take a walk or ride a bike or go swimming. And if he has spare time during his noon hour, he should do something like filling in a crossword puzzle."

On the other hand, someone in an office who hasn't been competing at work--like a computer programmer--can compete on his or her days off, and can be more active during a noon break. Stationary rope jumping, and not necessarily with a rope, might be in order for the lunch hour.

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