More Of What You Want and Less Of What You Like
By Sebastian MacLean
There are some days when I look at the course I’m on in my life and I think, ‘What the hell am I doing?’
It’s not that I wallow in self doubt, since that would be toxic to making progress. However, anyone that has big goals, or changes to make in life, will have moments when the size of what is in front of them can be overwhelming. I am no exception.
Some of my goals are pretty freakin’ big and I still haven’t achieved them. There are days when I see them coming into view, step by step, as I pull in the little results needed for me to get to where I want to be.
Then a few days creep in where I feel totally lost at sea and everything seems in neutral (or even goes in reverse). The right overall attitude keeps things moving forward, but I say all this because I believe it’s something many people relate to, especially those who have set up big goals for themselves.
How To Keep Moving Toward Your Goals…
Practical or not, the question for all of us becomes how to keep moving toward the goals that bring us the pleasure and fulfillment we seek in life, especially when those goals seem so big?
I was struggling with this a few weeks ago and had a conversation a Rabbi that connects with me from time to time.
The Rabbi asked me, “What is the opposite of pleasure?”
I responded, “Pain.”
He smiled. I could tell he was used to hearing the same answer from others. Then he shook his head and said, “Wrong… It’s comfort.”
“Pain” said the Rabbi, “is part of true pleasure. Think of the pleasure some people derive from playing basketball. They run, they jump, they breath hard, and get pleasure from keeping the ball in play throughout the experience of competing against each other.”
Now I was smiling. I started to sense something interesting was coming.
The Rabbi continued, “Now… Take away the ball and tell them to do the same actions. All of a sudden the experience is full of pain, via working muscles and heavy breathing, but it lacks pleasure. The pain was always part of it, but that wasn’t an issue when the ball was part of the game.
Likewise, give back the ball and tell the players to stop doing any painful actions and still there is no pleasure. The players simply stand there and avoid working anything that might make their muscles or lungs hurt. The pain was part of the pleasure and both are part of producing the desired experience.”
This made sense to me. Much of what we desire comes through pain of effort, but to suggest comfort is the opposite of pleasure… That seemed like it might be a step too far.
The Rabbi had obviously confronted skeptics on this issue in the past. Before I could even challenge him on this, he responded to my thought.
What Is True Pleasure?
“True pleasure” said the Rabbi, “comes through pain of effort. This is because true pleasure is about the fulfillment of our deepest desires (not escapism or distraction, as these are substitute for real pleasure).
So pain is not pleasure’s opposite. Pleasure’s opposite is what gets in the way of our obtaining this deep fulfillment… the things most pleasurable to us.”
The Rabbi could see I was starting to get where he was going with this. He smiled, like a man who’s just found a light switch, and proceeded to explain further,
“Now… consider that we often know what will give us ultimate pleasure, but we fail to go after that pleasure because we choose comfort instead. This makes comfort an opposing force.”
To really hit home the point, the Rabbi put this another way and said, “It’s a matter of ‘want’ vs. ‘like’…
We want the pleasure of becoming something great and fulfilling, but we like the feeling of immediate comfort.
We ‘like’ to just sit on a couch and watch TV, even though we ‘want’ the pleasure of being there for grandma in the hospital or doing some other thing of true value.”
This was a revelation to me, because as simple as it was, it put into words the very struggle that seemed to be part of my life on a regular basis.
The Choice is Between Comfort and Pleasure…
Chasing big dreams means that for me to experience the pleasure of achieving those dreams I must make a free choice between comfort and pleasure.
It’s not a random accident that has me enjoying the comfort of watching TV one day and enjoying the pleasure of amazing accomplishments the next. It is a choice I make that day.
What does this mean for you or anyone that wants a full life? What does it mean for someone that wants to change the world?…
Your power to choose between comfort or pleasure means that you can face the pain that comes with the joy of the game.
The power to experience that pleasure is yours to choose. The pleasure you ‘want’ just takes effort – it’s uncomfortable to cultivate, but you can choose it.
You can also choose to avoid excessively focusing on the comforts you ‘like’. Why?… because what is perpetually comfortable comes at the expense of what is truly pleasurable.
The take away?… Seek your true pleasure more than your comforts.
Get more of what you want by ‘choosing to do what your ‘wants’ require. Spend less time on the comfort provided by all your ‘likes’.
Sebastian has worked in the film and TV business for over 17 years, in over 35 projects. He has been seen in such TV shows such as Nikita, Suits and Lost Girl. He is also developing his own feature and TV projects
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