There’s a thing I noticed when talking with my coaching peeps: fun is hard for most of ’em, and enjoyment is really hard to come by. Most would rather work even harder than spend any time at all enjoying what they’ve already worked so hard to make happen.
If I ask you to work 30 more hours next week in the name of living a better life, most of you would do it. Yes, of course, I can work harder!
But if I ask you to have 30 orgasms next week in the name of having a better life — solo, partnered, whatever — most of you would shrink back and find a reason to run multiple miles in the other direction, even though you’ve only gotten as far as downloading the Couch to 5K app in your running plans.
Pleasure scares the shit out of us, as a society, and out of you, individually.
I get it, and also. FUCK THAT.
A woman in the diner Bear and I visit each morning started into a diatribe about how the girls at that booth over there had been sitting for 20 minutes, just talking to each other, when there was clearly a line and they should HURRY UP and HOW DARE THEY. Despite her attempts to become an influencer and gain more followers for her unnecessary complaints, we didn’t engage, so she turned to her partner to spend the next 10 minutes talking about the audacity of two teen girls enjoying one another’s company. Turns out, eating in public is serious business.
Some people take on the self-appointed role of the Pleasure Police. But they’re generally harmless and often hypocrites. There’s no need to fear these people. That same woman then sat for — I counted — 18 minutes at her table after finishing her food, talking to her partner while there was a line.
Life doesn’t count if you don’t enjoy it.
This concept was thrown in my face a number of years ago, when I was at a seminar and Rob Bell said this about kids: “Your first job is to enjoy them.” No one had ever said that about parenting or having children, ever, and of course my parents didn’t believe that! Your parents probably didn’t, either. ENJOY…kids? Enjoy…work? Enjoy…life?
What about striving and making and accomplishing and achieving and gold stars and moving up the ladder and changing the world and and and…?
It doesn’t count if you don’t enjoy it.
To put this another way: let’s talk about pleasure activism. In her book of the same name, adrienne maree brown says, “Pleasure activism is the work we do to reclaim our whole, happy, and satisfiable selves from the impacts, delusions, and limitations of oppression and/or supremacy. Pleasure activism asserts that we all need and deserve pleasure and that our social structures must reflect this.” Go pick up a copy of Pleasure Activism, then we’ll continue.
You can have the most beautiful home on Earth, and if you’re scrolling for ten hours a day, you’re wasting it. You can have the most magical children in the universe, and if you’re always halfway planning tomorrow’s posts or worrying about those unread emails, you’re wasting them.
Work will always be there. Today will not.
I say this not to shame you, but to make damn sure you’re enjoying what you’ve worked so hard to create.
You have worked SO HARD to find clients, to keep them happy, to get funding, to stay afloat in the midst of seventeen projects, to keep your family alive, to keep your relationships alive, to remain connected to your body, and/or to keep growing even though life lessons are absolute bullshit and no one wants them.
I see you. And it doesn’t count if you don’t enjoy it.
Enjoyment and pleasure are habits you can create starting right now, for zero dollars and only a few minutes.
Don’t freak out and tell me how busy you are and HOW DARE I tell you that you should have more orgasms. Notice that reaction — that deeply triggered or shamed reaction — because that’s exactly what we’re working to overcome.
You are not meant to live as a productivity machine, a profit machine, or even a lovely art-making machine. You are not a machine of any kind.
You deserve space in your life for beauty and pleasure.
There’s a generosity of spirit at work here that most people, particularly women, deny themselves. I have friends who earn sweet, sweet salaries at corporate jobs, but don’t take their protected-by-law one-hour lunch break. Most everyone I know views taking a nap as sheer indulgence and luxury, but somehow scrolling on Instagram for that same half hour is a-okay.
We don’t have to feed ourselves scraps and crumbs and pretend life isn’t for the enjoying in order to get ahead or prove ourselves.
WE’RE ALLOWED TO HAVE FUN, GODDAMMIT.
If you’ve lost sight of what fun and pleasure look like or how you might begin, I’ve got some places to start right now.
Notice the right here and now.
The here and now means you actively disengage from ruminating on the past or planning for the future in order to notice what IS. Go all Ram Dass and be here now. Take in the sensations of your body and breath, as well as your surroundings.
I did this exercise to write for you and noticed that I feel awake this morning, since I slept well for the first time in a few nights. I also noticed that my new sandals make foot farting sounds every time I walk, which makes me giggle; the pink trees are blossoming and I whispered ‘thank you’ to a few of them; my favorite seat in my favorite cafe is open, and I’m sitting in it; I’m lucky enough to have a car and control over my own schedule in order to be here in the first place. I’m enjoying the woman eating a scone and sipping her coffee outside in the beautiful weather, no screen in sight, and the 3-footed dog that just wandered by with her tail wagging wildly. Also the scruffy dog and the enormous dog. ALL THE DOGS.
Give yourself gold stars.
This one is for the overachievers, the straight-A students, the nerds, and the rule followers! Give. Yourself. Gold. Stars.
This is not a metaphor or euphemism: actual gold stars. You can pick them up at the office supply store and they cost next to nothing. Make a chart full of pleasurable activities and add one every time you have fun or enjoy yourself.
Somehow, this shifts everything pleasurable from being ‘forbidden’ to being something we justify for the sake of getting gold stars. They make it okay. Whether you want to take more baths, have more massages, turn your phone off for a few hours, schedule white space, meditate, sit outside, read books, make stuff, or watch shitty TV, great! Write ’em down, and then slather your life with gold stars.
Stop working when you’re done working.
This sounds like I’m being insulting if you don’t own a business, but putting an end to work is an enormous struggle for entrepreneurs. We’re taught to hustle and to use our time wisely, to maximize efficiency and productivity at the expense of all else. We somehow twist that into believing we should be on social media ‘for business’ when we finish for the day, or we should be hitting refresh on our inbox, instead of simply being done. Period.
Quit when your to-do list is done.
Quit when you run out of juice.
Quit when you start mindlessly scrolling or checking email.
Those two paragraphs took me at least four years to learn. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re in the habit of ‘working’ by sitting at a screen, but please start powering down and doing non-screen activities when you have finished for the day or when your brain runs out of juice.
Take a 1-hour lunch break.
Yes, a full hour. You can take a walk or sit in the park or make your own meal and then eat it. You can watch Netflix while you eat or talk to a friend or give yourself white space. I don’t care what you eat or how you eat it, only that you start to reclaim this built-in break to replenish yourself.
I naturally want to keep up my momentum when I’m working, but oddly enough, my body requires food. Taking a break to eat means I can catch up on a show, get myself some nutrition, and give my mind a break from workingworkingworking.
Make a list of things to do that are enjoyable but not screen-based. Then do them.
Again, you can interpret this as insulting, or you can realize that I’ve had to do this time and again to break up with my screens. I’m sharing what’s worked, not looking down on you from some weird pedestal, because this took another year or two to put into play.
I looooove reading but somehow treated reading as something that could only happen before bed. Likewise, I loooove painting. I treated painting as a treat for special occasions instead of an everyday joyful activity.
You have these types of activities, too. Guaranteed. The sewing or painting or reading or making or baking that’s only for special times or alternating Tuesdays or your birthday.
Where can you treat Being Alive as a special occasion? What would you be doing if you suddenly had all-day childcare, no to-do’s, and a whole day to yourself? Those are clues. Start doing those things now, because none of this effort counts if you don’t enjoy it.
Differentiate between rest and laziness. They are NOT the same.
No athlete on earth can train for 8 hours a day on every day of the week. Muscles need rest.
No mother on earth can love her child for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Mamas need rest.
No entrepreneur on earth can churn out amazing and wonderful work 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Makers need rest.
Rest and laziness are not the same.
You aren’t lazy if you take time to notice the flowers and trees and dogs wagging their tales instead of sticking your face in social media and ‘influencing.’ You aren’t wrong for enjoying a movie instead of knitting, clipping coupons, or keeping your hands busy as you watch. (Why do women do this? How crazy is it that we can’t enjoy 90 minutes of storytelling for its own sake? To put it another way: doesn’t the team of individuals who made that film deserve for it to be watched with our full attention?)
You aren’t lazy if you fully enjoy your weekends by unplugging and ignoring your inbox.
You aren’t lazy if you do the items on your to-do list and no more.
You aren’t lazy if you’re fighting an illness or chronically ill and have to lie down.
We spend more time working, planning for work, and thinking about work than any other humans in the history of the world while also convincing ourselves that we’re lazy and useless. Let’s give up on that asshole brain script altogether. (Or try breathwork for asshole brain!)
Make a spend-this-on-you fund. And then spend it.
Notice how these tasks are getting harder and harder? That’s on purpose.
To make a spend-this-on-you fund perfectly clear: set aside money that’s only for you. And then spend it. (All podcast gratitude money goes directly to this fund! You can leave a tip here!)
A spend-on-you fund frees you to do all the activities that you dream of but somehow never find a way to fund. Suddenly, there’s money for a massage or more books or going to a float tank or hiring a sitter to give you white space so you can do absolutely nothing for the day. There’s money for the magical outfit you pass in the street. (And those shoes look FANTASTIC on you, by the way.)
A spend-on-you fund dogears money that you would normally throw at your kids, your pets, your partner, and/or your business instead of spending on yourself. This is the easiest way I know to be sure you don’t end up earning more money than ever whilst giving yourself less and less of that income to enjoy.
Turn your phone off.
One more time, for those in the back: this is not a judgement or an insult! It’s an actual option that we modern-day humans don’t consider an option. YES, you can put your phone in airplane mode, and YES, you can set your calls to Do Not Disturb. Those two options aren’t the same as simply turning that shit off and doing something else entirely. No notifications, no buzzing, no calls, and no possibility of those things.
Your phone doesn’t have to be your default activity, and this is the first step toward making that a reality. (Need more help breaking up with your phone? Pick up Space. It starts whenever you’re ready!)
Leave your phone behind.
I’m suggesting you leave the house. Without your phone.
This might require a new wallet that doesn’t hold both items, or warning your closest peeps that you’ll be unreachable, or forwarding your phone calls to someone responsible so you don’t miss a call from the school nurse or principal.
I’m suggesting you do whatever it takes to live a day without your phone.
This was the case 100% of the time as little as 15 years ago, and we humans have been around for countless millennia, so don’t tell me it’s impossible. You’re only out of practice. (Again: if this sounds CRAZY, pick up the Space class. 21 days of emails can help you cut your phone usage by 50% or more.)
Just because you sat it down doesn’t mean you can’t pick it up again.
So much of my coaching work is helping peeps reclaim parts of themselves that they’d given up on forever. Like, ‘oh I have a degree in art, but I haven’t made a thing in years,’ or ‘I used to really love writing, but I’m too out of practice for that now.’ The things you love never really leave you.
They may go dormant or quiet for a bit, but they’re still there. You have untold talents latent within you, and you can start using them any time you choose. I suggest…now.
What would your 18-year-old self be proud of you for doing or trying today?
What would your 6-year-old self add to the agenda?
What would you like to be proud of yourself for starting twenty years from now?
What will your six-months-from-now self appreciate?
Start there, preferably with the option that scares you most.
Create a 3-hour work day twice a week.
What if, instead of working and working and working for eight to ten hours a day, you let yourself have two incredibly focused, short and distraction-free days twice a week?
This is the great experiment that might make you scoff, freak out, call me horrible names, or stop paying attention, but doing it will revolutionize your whole damn world.
If you’re anything like the clients I’ve dared to do this, you’ll get lots done, feel more satisfied with your output, and generally be surprised by your own brilliance. Instead of checking email without answering, scrolling through your usual online haunts, endlessly procrastinating, ignoring client inquiries, or planning countless activities you’re never actually going to do, you’ll get to work.
I’ve been secretly doing this for YEARS now, and no one has ever appeared in my house to tell me that I now owe The Entrepreneurial Police 10 hours a week, times 50 weeks, for the last 3 years. Instead, I’ve enjoyed those 1,500 hours in which I wasn’t wasting time trying to look busy or fill dead air with fake ‘productivity.’
Ultimately: you don’t have to ‘earn’ being alive.
As Bear stated in our last podcast, capitalism assigns a value to everything in the world, then aims to sell it. But being alive is priceless. And you’ve ALREADY GOT IT.
You don’t have to earn your next breath, and you can’t produce your way to feeling better about what your heart wants.
You. Are. Here.
P.S. One more, because it came up this weekend and I wanted to tell you about it: helping others can be a tremendous pleasure.
I didn’t add this to the regular list because if your default mode is people-pleasing or denying your own needs or some other, more complicated form of martyrdom, ignore this entirely.
I passed a sign that said a local church would be boxing 15,000 meals for those in need on Sunday afternoon, so I grabbed a friend and made her go with me. Somewhere around meal 7,000 — funnels pouring, Queen blasting, kids running around with bins and soups and sealers and scales, all of us wearing bright red hair nets that are flattering to absolutely no one — I sunk into a deep and genuine sense of gratitude and fulfillment.
I can’t fix even the smallest percentage of the world’s problems, but I can find ways to help. Standing there adding dehydrated vegetables to soup packets for the thousandth time felt better than every phone call, email, and digital petition I’ve signed in the past few years.
Pleasure is often a real, tangible thing that can only be felt in the flesh and blood life beyond our screens. And helping people is pleasurable AF.
Now get out there and feel everything, okay?
Because it doesn’t count if you don’t enjoy it.