Monday Mornings with Madison


All the money in the world is spent on feeling good” – Ry Cooder.

Pleasure and feeling good is what keeps the economy going. It’s what allows companies to come out with new products every day, and still find customers — because people are constantly looking for ways to feel good and have pleasure. On the other hand, the drive to feel good and to have pleasure is also the cause for trouble and misery. People consistently make bad choices because “it” feels good at the moment or “it” gives us temporary pleasure.

Pleasure v. Satisfaction.

We all want happiness. But we don’t always know what happiness looks or feels like. Let’s take a deeper look at happiness by understanding the difference between pleasure and satisfaction.

Pleasure is the bliss that we feel (almost a physical sensation) when we have a positive experience. Most of us can remember a moment in time when we felt high — a rush of excitement — following unexpected good fortune or even the simple pleasure of anticipating an especially good meal or a special dessert.

Pleasure is not good or bad. It’s just a feeling that we enjoy. It makes us feel alive and well for the moment. But, pleasure alone does not last for too long. Most of the time pleasure is followed by a feeling of emptiness. It creates a space in the body that wants more.

John D. Rockefeller said, “I can think of nothing less pleasurable than a life devoted to pleasure”.

Satisfaction is a feeling of inner happiness that lasts long after the experience that caused it ends. Satisfaction will not give you the physical sensation of bliss that pleasure does. It’s a more relaxed feeling that builds up while you’re doing something that you like or that you value, such as preparing a meal with your spouse, reading a good book, giving a massage, working on a big project, etc. Satisfaction usually comes from doing things that you believe are the right things to do and that are congruent with your values in life.

We get a higher level of satisfaction from doing things that have a long-term meaning to us, such as raising our kids, charity work, etc. These are the things that might be difficult at the moment, but have a deeper and lasting value to us. We gain a deep satisfaction from them because they serve our purpose in life.

Happiness is a journey not a destination.

I once read a story that illustrates this point: A guy from Africa was visiting his brother in the United States. His brother took him on a tour to show him what the free, advanced land of America had to offer. One of the places he took him was a gym. The guy from Africa looks in the window and sees someone lifting weights. The guy was struggling, sweating and could barely breathe. The man from the United States asked his brother from Africa, “What do you think is going on there?” The guy from Africa looked puzzled and replied, “It looks like the guy is a prisoner and this is part of his punishment.” His brother smiled and said, “Let’s go inside and ask the guy, what’s going on.” And so they did.

They asked the guy in the gym why he’s doing what he’s doing. And he answered, “I am building up my muscles. I want my body to be in shape. I enjoy every minute of it, and I pay money to the gym so I can use their equipment.” The point of the story is that even though the process of lifting weights was difficult and exhausting, he enjoyed the process because he had the end goal in mind.

Happiness is not a destination that you arrive at one day when everything works out the way you want it to. Happiness is the feeling that you get from challenging yourself to do the right thing everyday in accordance with your vision and values in life.

Look at your activities for a full day. Divide them into two groups 1) pleasurable activities, and 2) satisfying activities.

After the day is over, look at the list and ask yourself, “What does this tell me?” “What would I do differently tomorrow?”

“If only we”d stop trying to be happy, we”d have a pretty good time.” Edith Wharton.

Am I ready to give up pleasure for the moment in exchange for long-term satisfaction?

© 2008 – 2012, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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