Shocking Revelation Ahead: Pleasure is Good.

Posted on Jun 21, 2010

In working with many clients, one theme has continued to emerge. As individuals and as a culture, we don’t value nor allow enough time in our lives to truly relax and mindfully enjoy pleasure. Readers of Thoughts from the Edge will recognize the lack of value in pleasure as a theme of my blog.

It’s amazing to me how motivated, driven, successful people relate their success to the ability to cope without enjoying life and experiencing pleasure. I’ve found the model with which many people identify and structure their professional endeavors focuses on postponing fun, enjoyment and pleasure until after a certain goal is attained. Often many people reach that point and simply set another goal instead of celebrating or allowing for that promised fun, enjoyment and pleasure.

Over time, I have observed the same pattern within personal relationships. This model typically plays out for couples embarking on the childbearing years. During the challenging phase of raising babies and young children, the rationale is parents must simply deny all personal indulgences and pleasure until the children can reasonably fend for themselves, perhaps even the teenage years. That’s over a decade of self-denial for the well-being of the children!

I can say with certainty that in neither case does this model produce the intended result. In the case of professional advancement, living in constant self-denial until “success” is achieved simply leads to exhaustion and imbalance. In the case of personal relationships, this model of self-denial in the name of prioritizing the children breeds resentment and undermines the foundational relationship of the family, that of the parents. Nor does it model healthy behavior.

Remarkably, fulfillment in any facet of life is maximized through balancing the work and the play, the drudgery and the fun, the mundanity and the adventure. The indulgences and pleasure center us, bring us back into our bodies and out of our heads and make the work, the drudgery and the mundanity worth it. My experience with clients has shown that we don’t need encouragement to work harder, we need encouragement to play harder.

On that note and in honor of that theme, while hanging out together on our patio, my partner deemed me the “Pleasure Advocate” due to the fact I spend so much time encouraging the integration of pleasure into people’s lives. I have happily accepted the title.

I encourage you to examine your own life for ways to incorporate more pleasure into your day-to-day. Make time to do what’s fun.

  • Take an evening stroll.
  • Serve dinner as a picnic instead of at the dinner table.
  • Ask your partner what made her/him smile today and listen carefully to the answer.
  • Play a game of kickball as a family.
  • Spend an hour doing your favorite hobby.
  • Go to bed early and exchange back rubs with your partner.
  • Have a long conversation with a great friend.
  • Visit a museum.
  • Get lost in a book for a while.

After you take some time out for pleasure, take some time out to be mindful about how you feel afterwards. Renewed? Refreshed? More connected with your partner? More loving toward your children? I find it’s rare that the experience of integrating more pleasure into one’s life results in stress or negativity. In fact, you return to your day-to-day responsibilities more relaxed and centered, perhaps more productive and certainly more at peace.

From creating a space and habit of pleasure in your life and being mindful of your experience, I hope that you cultivate valuing pleasure and acknowledge the role it plays in your personal fulfillment and balance. Work hard, but play harder!