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The power of pleasure

Posted in the following categories: Life Lessons, Motivation

For decades, running and I shared a mutual disdain.

Despite countless attempts to sweeten the deal—with the latest podcasts, the catchiest tunes, or the most scenic routes—running hated me, and I hated running.

Then an epiphany, inspired by childhood memories of playing soccer, changed everything. A few years ago, I decided to dust off my old cleats and step back onto the soccer field.

That’s when my relationship with running transformed.

When I’m playing soccer, running isn’t just bearable. It’s electrifying. I’m no longer the reluctant jogger checking my watch or counting my miles. I’m a kid again, sprinting with abandon down the field with a giant smile on my face, completely lost in the pleasure of the moment.

This revelation runs counter to conventional self-help advice. “No pain, no gain,” we’re told repeatedly.

This drill-sergeant approach says that if something is joyless, just grit your teeth and push through it (and maybe thank the pain for making you tougher). Can’t muster the enthusiasm? Find an accountability buddy to keep you on track, or seek inspiration in motivational quotes (because nothing says “motivation” like “You have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyoncé” plastered over an Instagram sunset).

I propose a radical alternative: Instead of muscling through the disdain, ask yourself, “How can I sprinkle some pleasure into this?”

In our hustle-centric culture, pleasure is viewed more as a guilty indulgence than a legitimate guide. Pleasure somehow lands in the category of “in moderation,” as if it’s a luxury we must earn or ration.

This mindset becomes even more perplexing when we look to nature. Animals instinctively pursue pleasure, guiding them toward survival essentials like nourishment, mating, and warmth. For them, pleasure isn’t optional. It’s an essential navigation system towards well-being.

And yet, here we are, humans, with our complex brains, somehow tying ourselves in knots over enjoying . . . well, anything. It’s as if we’ve been handed a beautifully wrapped gift but feel too guilty to open it.

Pleasure is more than just a feel-good factor; it’s a profound motivator. It dismantles the myth that discipline alone drives achievement. You’re more likely to stick with something if you enjoy doing it.

My revelation on the soccer field underscores this point. Running stopped being a chore only when I made pleasure my compass. On the soccer field, when I’m riding a wave of joy, running comes naturally. I don’t need discipline.

The shortage of pleasure is often why diets unravel and new year’s resolutions fizzle out by February. When an activity becomes joyless, even the staunchest discipline eventually starts to crack. We then find ourselves sliding back into our old habits—not because we lack willpower, but because we’re humans, wired for pleasure.

No, not every task can be infused with pleasure. (Struggling to find any pleasure in an activity? It’s a strong signal that it’s not for you). And yes, there are times for postponing pleasure and sacrificing the short term in favor of the long.

But struggle was never meant to be the default mode of operation. And guilt shouldn’t be the soulmate of pleasure.

So go ahead and find your own metaphorical soccer field. The next time you find yourself in a rut, ask yourself, How can I infuse this with pleasure? Seek it out. Let it guide you.

Because where pleasure leads, discipline naturally follows.

P.S. Speaking of finding pleasure in your journey, my incredibly talented friend and drummer Dave Elitch has crafted a new gem for musicians who’re feeling stuck in their tracks.

His new online course, Staying Out of Your Own Way, isn’t just another tutorial; it’s a guide to discovering the exhilaration in every note you play. In the course, Dave delves into common physical issues that musicians face—those aches and pains that turn playing from a joy to a chore—and offers solutions that work.

Designed for musicians across the spectrum, regardless of instrument or skill level, this course is a heartfelt recommendation from me. This isn’t an affiliate link, and I don’t earn a penny from sharing it. I’m passing it along because Dave’s insights into well-being have been transformative for me personally.

If your passion for music feels blocked by physical discomfort, Dave’s course could just be the key to rekindling that flame. Sign up at this link.

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