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Pleasure vs. Joy

Is enjoying a good meal a moment of pleasure or a joyful experience? My belief is that it can be either or, depending on the mindset of the person having the meal. If it is an experience of pleasure, there is no lasting satisfaction. Pleasure is an external stimulus that is not infinitely sustainable because overstimulation leads to death.  Drugs are an example of an unsustainable external stimulus. The addict experienced pleasure and wanted more. They begin to seek only pleasure at the expense of all else in their life. This is how many of us live our lives – seeking external stimuli for pleasure. That new house, new car, new job, more money, etc.  We distract ourselves with entertainment like Netflix or shopping on Amazon. Too often we use pleasure to distract from real and sustainable joy in life. Pleasure triggers the release of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter released by the brain when we experience pleasure. It is a motivation for us to do more of whatever triggered its release. When we buy something, dopamine is released, and we experience pleasure. The trap that leads to addiction is that dopamine goes away and with it goes the feeling of pleasure that coincided with its release.  So, we need to buy another something to trigger the feeling of pleasure.


Joy is a personal manifestation. It is an internal satisfaction or contentment with one’s life. Joy is not an expectation. It is most often truly realized when we have an opportunity to serve others. It is contributing positively without an expectation of reciprocation. Joy comes strictly from within. George Bernard Shaw described it as follows “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one;  the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little cod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” Joy is manifested through a focus on excellence. It is through the struggle of mastery in which joy resides. Joy is never to be pursued because it can only be realized through contentment. It is not to be discovered like a diamond because it is only found through contentment. Excellence and mastery are sources of great joy and are — only through effort and often struggle. Our effort to serve a purpose greater than ourselves will lead us to higher levels of joy and contentment. Joy is not to be measured or compared to the lives of others. It is a choice and a way of living. We can choose to bring joy to every encounter and every event in our lives. Leaving it all on the field brings feelings of joy and satisfaction. If you desire more joy in life here are some suggestions:


  1. Pursue excellence – The satisfaction of a job well done, or a significant effort applied to achieve a goal or mastery can contribute to greater joy in our lives.
  2.  Serve others – If we couple the pursuit of excellence with serving others we can reach a high level of Joy. Serving others is a selfish act because it feels so good!
  3. Be grateful – Contentment and joy are often manifested through gratitude. When we are grateful for the blessings in our lives we are less likely to exhaustively pursue external stimuli. Take a few minutes every day to count your blessings and your life will never be the same.
  4. Bring the joy – We have a choice every day when we awake to be joyful or not to be joyful. My mentor and Coach Brendon Burchard taught me this: your world will change when you consistently bring the joy to all situations and relationships in your life. The world will reciprocate.


There is no harm in pleasure and it is a wonderful aspect of life. However, pleasure and comfort can develop into addictions and complacency. To live a life full of joy, it is important that we are intentional in all aspects of life. These include relationships, our vocation, our community and especially ourselves. We must keep our eyes wide open to allow us to avoid the worry and strife about things we can’t affect. This is the reason I encourage everyone to avoid the news and negative social media. They are both poison to the soul and the purest way to kill the joy. Pursue excellence, serve, demonstrate gratitude, and always bring the joy. Do these 4 things every day and your life will be filled with an abundance of joy!

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