It tastes good, feels good, quenches my burning desire. And then it's over.
The junkie started with a little taste, needed a little more, sold his possessions to keep going, and finally sold his soul just to hang on.
We know this pleasure-seeking behavior is bad and doesn't fulfill us but what's the alternative? To sell all of your worldly possessions, don a bright orange robe, and never make love, eat chocolate, or sip glass of red wine again?
Hedonism or Monkdom?
I used to believe in these two choices. It's either okay to seek and indulge in pleasure, or it's not and so you must avoid pleasure altogether.
But now I see that it's a false choice.
Pleasure for pleasure's sake is like heroine. It gives you a fix that doesn't last and its demands keep inching higher. Pleasure on its own can never fulfill you.
And avoiding pleasure is just downright absurd. To chose not to feel good, not to enjoy something, not to be lifted, it's to deny our humanity.
The Third Choice
The third choice is to recognize something I heard from Tony Robbins: that pleasure is something that comes from outside, but happiness comes from within.
That sounds nice but what does it mean? How can I apply this?
Take a look at your own actions. I bet like me you'll find yourself doing things to get a hit of pleasure, and probably multiple times throughout the day.
When you find yourself seeking pleasure:
- Pause. Take a moment to see what's really driving you. Are you trying to mask something negative: stress, anxiety, worry, depression? Or are you just feeling dead and trying to feel alive.
- Choose to be in control. Having pleasure isn't bad but seeking it is. Choose to be in control and not to be consumed by it. Stop, don't do it.
- Embrace the space. In that moment, we really do believe we need that thing. It's informative, even fun, to watch that certain feeling melt away as soon you step back from it.
- Commit to fixing yourself. Pour your energy into resolving whatever is at the core of this.
In doing this myself I've been shocked at the number of pleasure-seeking tools I've built up in my toolbox. From a well-made cappuccino and a cold, dry hard cider, to catching up on social media, to illusions of productivity like cleaning off my desk and sorting through piles in my digital and physical inboxes, and others I'm too embarrassed about to list here.
And I'm also shocked at how quickly I'm able to shift my behavior once I'm conscious of it. Instead of the hard choice of avoiding things I enjoy, I'm instead choosing just to be in control.