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Pleasure vs. Happiness

Posted Apr 30 2013 8:11am

Yesterday, I watched  this amazing interview that Jonathan Fields did with best-selling author Karen Salmansohn . She is a master creator/author/entrepreneur in self-development world. Towards the end of the interview, Karen talked about Aristotle’s distinction between pleasure and happiness and it totally got my wheels turning.

Aristotle once said, “The reason why people are so unhappy is because they confuse pleasure for happiness.” Pleasure is about stimulating your ego or your body. She went to say that pleasure-filled things are the means through which we become happy, but they aren’t the sources of happiness themselves. So, for example, you might want to be more financially lucrative and that’s great. But if you’re using that money to spend, spend, spend and you’re not using that money to source your passion and to serve others, then you’re thriving off your ego. You’re thriving off pleasure. And you can’t find happiness with pleasure. It’s just not possible.

True happiness, Karen said, is about growing into your Highest Self; it’s about being your greatest potential. Aristotle put it so simply and so brilliantly: everything that happens in your life that helps you grow into your Highest Self is what makes you happy. And sometimes, there is a time delay in this. So, your ego wants you to have stuff right now – and if you don’t have it right now, then you’re a failure. Your Inner Guide, should you choose to follow its advice, will give you small action steps. Instead of focusing on the big picture, focus on the small action steps that are revealed to you in the present moment. They’re like bread crumbs…a trail leading you to success. What if you knew that, no matter what, you’d be okay in the end? And that everything would be okay? You’d just follow the bread crumbs and enjoy the present moment, because you would know the end result was already taken care of.


Another part of this is really becoming clear about your intention underneath why you want something. I want more money and I am unapologetic about the fact that I want more money. I want more money so that I can start a life together with Matty and so that we can create a space that inspires us. This will create a better work environment for me, which will then allow me to create more and give more to others. I also want more money to source a bunch of creative projects that I have brewing. These creative projects bring me joy to create them and they also bring joy to others because they will be of service to them. So, the intention is one of service.

Now, this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t have nice things. I love shopping and I love fashion – clothes are part of an expression of who I am. They amplify my inner light and are the pleasure-filled things that fuel my creativity in many ways. But they aren’t the means to an end. Happiness, as Karen said, is growing, learning, and stretching into your relationship with yourself and others. We can have those moments of bliss with others that are so effortless – and that is happiness and that is beautiful too. But happiness also comes through enduring difficult times. It comes from busting through fear and having the courage to look at your fear. It comes from embracing the journey and becoming that nonjudgmental witness to your fears, acknowledging them but doing things that bring you joy anyways.

What do you think? Are you living a pleasure-filled life of a happy life?

I definitely have some work to do. I mean, we all do. But I think that I need to focus on all the good that’s going on and really LIVE that idea of embracing each bread crumb from the Universe.

Stay lovely,

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