There is an inherent connection between our capacity to feel pleasure and achieving success. While it looks different for everyone, at its core, I define success as the act of living the life that we want to live. Pleasure can be harder to define – here I want to talk more subtly about what I call “real” or “true” pleasure, beyond orgasms, specifically sexual pleasure, and other typical sources of “pleasure” that most of us habitually think of when someone says “pleasure”. I’m talking about the deep, satisfying pleasure that’s available in different forms in every moment, and what that has to do with the thread of our lives as we grow and evolve – and build towards “success”. 

The primary piece I want to talk about here is that, if we’re not finding a way to actively engage in relationship with our own pleasure – or to put it more broadly, with our sense of what feels good in life – then what commonly happens is that we unconsciously begin to create a life built from negatives. We think, “I don’t want to do that”, or “I don’t like this”, or “how can I get away from this [uncomfortable feeling]”, with our primary goal always being to move away from an experience we’re having. This energy fosters a life of avoidance, rather than a life of creation and of moving forwards with purpose and meaning. 

Moving away from emotional discomfort vs. moving towards emotional desires

The majority of the suffering we experience typically falls under the umbrella of emotional suffering, and emotional discomfort, rather than physical suffering. Even most (though not all) physical pain is not as challenging as the emotional pain we add to the physical pain – usually in the form of feeling as though something is wrong because we are feeling physical pain. 

Of course, structural limitations do exist that can cause us physical suffering in some way, such as money limitations or childcare needs, but these problems often come with emotional suffering as well.

One of the analogies I like to use here is, imagine you want to get from point A to point B, but you are unwilling to walk by a certain house that brings up painful memories, or you’re unwilling to take the freeway, or you turn around every time you see a cow or a red car. Basically, there’s something along the route that you want to avoid in some way because it causes you emotional discomfort. That is going to limit how you can get from point A to point B. You have to find a route that avoids those things, and that is probably going to inconvenience you in some way.   You can do it, it will just likely take a lot longer, require a lot more planning, and include many more twists and turns – especially when it’s something that shifts, lie avoiding red cars.

What I’m trying to get at here is that there’s a difference between the life you create for yourself when you take the avoidant approach of not wanting to see or do something, and the life you can create when you are focused on moving towards and through things – with the energy of “this is where I want to go” or “this is what I want to do”, without those thoughts being a reaction to something you don’t want to experience. That is why developing an ongoing, nuanced, and subtle relationship with our own pleasure is so important, because it actually allows us to discover how we actually want to feel, rather than only knowing what we don’t want to feel.

If you don’t have a map to show you were all the freeways are, you just start driving in what seems like the most efficient or effective way to get from point A to point B, and then as you come across an on-ramp you’re going to keep redirecting yourself and you will find yourself constantly in a state of emotional reaction to the freeway, rather than being in a forward-moving state. 

Now, this is somewhat of an oversimplification, but the truth is that if we really pay attention in our own lives, we can see the ways in which we are creating our lives in reaction to, or in avoidance of, what we don’t want. Many of the ways that we go about visioning, intention setting, and trying to create the life that we want are actually based on something we don’t want. That can sometimes be a valuable starting point, but I encourage you to try consistently developing a relationship with your own pleasure – and see what happens.

Developing a relationship with your own pleasure

When we develop a relationship with our subtle, day-to-day moments of pleasure, it allows us to more easily see when we are moving away from something versus moving towards something. However, it’s hard to know how to do that if we don’t actually know what feels good, and instead we only know what we don’t like.

When we’re creating a life based on “not this” rather than “oh yes, this”, we assume we know what pleasure is for ourselves, and we often get fixated on that without truly exploring whether it’s really what we want. The truth is, if we’re operating in reaction to “not this”, there are always infinite alternate options that are still not what we want. 

When we stop thinking about what we don’t want and we get in real relationship with the little things that feel good each moment, we start to see the infinite alternative options that actually do feel really good. These options act as steps towards what we do want, rather than steps of avoidance away from what we don’t want. 

Consciously divert away from the negative

The idea of “creating the life you want/love” is so often embarked upon in response to, or in reaction to, a negative feeling. Being willing to practice and engage with what actually feels good to you, both in the sensory realm and in the energetic or emotional realm, gives us a foundation, a deep well of an actual experience to draw on, so that when we sit down to look at how we want to create our lives, we can begin to know and see and feel and experience what it would actually be like to move towards what we want, and what feels good. It’s a much more creative and freeing space to be in. 

Most of us haven’t spent enough time delving into the exploration of what actually feels good – not just on the surface what level, but what feels deeply satisfying and nourishing on all levels.

I encourage you to spend some time really diving deeper into that, in order to know what you might want the rhythm of each day, week, month, and year to look like. Ask yourself what you are willing to let go of, what you need to create, and where you need to put your attention, your time, or your money in order for your life to to actually move into the direction of what feels deeply fulfilling. Begin to notice where you are subtly deferring to a negative emotional reaction. Allow your senses:  touch, taste, hearing, scent….to guide you forward so that you can learn about yourself in that way. 

There really is enormous power in our capacity to be in relationship with our own pleasure, and in our willingness to continuously experience and engage with that relationship. It leads us directly towards a life we truly want to live, which is intimately connected with our sense of purpose in the world, and which is, in turn, intimately connected with our sense of power. If you want to chat more about pleasure and its connection to all our other experiences in the world, feel free to reach out: 

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