Enjoyment Vs Pleasure

While I’m mostly known for making people hot as fuck, my true defining life interest is exploring the nature of optimal human experience.  I LOVE fitness, but I also LOVE the arts (specifically theater).  I believe they both have the power to transform and improve people’s lives.  While these happen to be the areas I find myself drawn to, I think seeking happiness is always the fundamental goal behind virtually any human endeavor.

As a voracious reader, I’ve spent a lot of time studying the way humans pursue happiness.  From religion to classical philosophy to contemporary self-help/personal development to the work of Abraham Maslow to metaphysics and “New Age” belief systems, there’s no shortage of paths to pursue optimal experience.  And I find them all interesting!

One of my favorite authors and experts on this subject is a fella by the name of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (I swear that’s his name, and fuck no, I can’t spell it without looking it up).  Csikszentmihalyi is a professor of psychology and a writer, and one of the most influential figures in the study of what constitutes happiness.  Although I’ve read several of his books, he’s best known for writing Flow, a book that deconstructs just what optimal human experience means.


You got a lotta consonants in your name bro

The term “flow” is now pretty well known, and often referred to in the sporting world as “in the zone.”  Flow is a state of timelessness characterized by an intense engagement with a given activity.  Have you ever been completely absorbed in a given task to the point where you lose your sense of self?  Maybe while playing an instrument, or executing your favorite part of your job, or working on your poetry (SURELY you write poetry)?  That’s flow.

While there are a multitude of applications for this concept, I think one of my favorite extrapolations is the contrast between activities that provide “enjoyment” and activities that provide “pleasure.”

Now let’s get specific here to avoid squabbling over semantics.  In this particular context, “enjoyment” refers to something that requires full engagement, but provides a return on your psychic investment: a challenging piece of art, working on a difficult but satisfying task at work, or training with kettlebells while being mindful of technique.  An activity that challenges you in an appropriate manner – not so difficult as to cause you outright anxiety and not so easy as to bore you.  “Pleasure”, on the other hand, can be defined as something a bit more hedonic: eating cake, watching reality TV, or partying your ass off with your friends.  Fun?  Hell’s yes!  But these activities are also defined by a lack of return on the investment; they are consumptive in nature.

So hopefully by this point you’ve started to ask yourself where the fuck I’m going with all this on a fitness blog.

KNOWLEDGE!  (in the form of a graph!)

I think this concept is useful and applicable to one’s choice of fitness adventure.  There’s probably an optimal balance between enjoyable and pleasurable activities.  Anyone who knows me knows that I sure do like my pleasure.  Come find me on a Saturday night, and you will find me drinking from the cup of life.  Conversely, most of my time outside my weekly indulgences is spent on “enjoyable” activities.  Writing, reading books, training folks, and basically hustling my fucking ass off to be the best I can be at turning mortals into fitness ninjas.

I believe for most people, approximately 80 to 90% of one’s time should be spent on “enjoyable” fitness activities.  This is the shit that you don’t always find “pleasurable”.  In fact, much of the time it’s downright HARD.  But when done properly, there’s a satisfaction that comes from these types of fitness activities.  Working to improve your mobility, diligently perfecting your technique on a kettlebell swing, trying to incrementally improve your 1 rep squat max without actually shitting your pants… these are “enjoyable” activities.  They take up your full attention and require complete focus.

That said, there’s always room for some fitness candy.  In this category, I would place any fitness modality that may not do much for your goals but is just plain fun.  Is pick-up basketball going to majorly help with your fitness goal of burning fat?  Maybe a little, but not as much as other choices you could make.  But sometimes “cuz it’s fun” is actually a very good reason to do something.  This could even include activities that are not necessarily easy on your body but that you just love and want to keep a part of your fitness life (Runners with shoddy knees, this is me letting you off the hook provided you’re sensible.  Please don’t use this as an excuse to fracture your pelvis!!).

Just like in life in general, many folks spend too much of their fitness time doing “pleasurable” activities and not enough time doing “enjoyable” activities.  When pursuing a life of health and hotness, make sure you are honestly assessing what you’re spending your time doing.  Don’t neglect the “hard” shit; in fact, you probably want to make the “hard” shit your focus.  Eat your veggies, and THEN you can occasionally have that dessert and know you’re still getting to live a full life with some balance.

I could go on and on about this subject, but I think you get the gist.  And while this is a fitness blog, I hope you’ll also take a moment and consider how the concept of flow can be applied to other realms of your life.  By all means, please get your fitness life together.  But don’t forget that (HOLY SHIT I’M GONNA SAY IT) there’s more to life than just being hot.   I’m not saying you should never watch Real Housewives of Wherever the Fuck.  I AM saying you would be well served by balancing that with a play once in a while.  Your mind and your heart will thank you for it!!


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