Our Boom founder, Cindy Joseph, first heard this idea in her 40s. This one message changed her life. From then on, Cindy lived according to what pleased her.
It’s a philosophy that Cindy passed on to many women in her life, including Pilar Gerasimo. This message not only had a profound effect on Pilar’s work and personal life, but it also inspired a few ideas in Pilar’s book.
In this episode of Face-to-Face, Pilar is explaining what this message means to her—and what prioritizing pleasure can do in your life.
You can also check out Pilar’s article “A Real Pleasure” from Experience Life magazine that explains what happens to our bodies when we experience pleasure.
Be sure to watch the video to hear Pilar explain what prioritizing pleasure really means.
P.S. Did you miss the first episodes of Face-to-Face? You can catch up on episode 1and episode 2any time.
Welcome back to Face-to-Face with me, Pilar.
Tonight I have the pleasure of talking about pleasure. That's the topic for this episode of Face-to-Face, and it's one of my favorites because it's another one of those topics that Cindy Joseph and I talked so much about during the course of our friendship.
It was one of the first moments that I really recognized that Cindy and I were going to be not just friends but confidants, and that Cindy would become a real mentor for me.
“I couldn't imagine living in a way that was centered around my pleasure…”
This particular day in my life... I was in Minneapolis, and Cindy was in New York. Cindy just called to check in on me and she could hear from the tone of my voice that I was not in a great place. I was really stressed out by work and I'd been doing a lot of overwork where I was, for 60, 70, 80 hours a week, working on the magazine that I'd started a few years prior.
By this time, Cindy had known me for a while. She'd observed that I was basically a workaholic and a perfectionist and that a lot of my life revolved around getting things done. She had told me on more than one occasion about the philosophy that she had followed, which was living according to what pleasured her.
Every time she would say that, there was a part of me that was like, “What?” It sounded kinda naughty and it also sounded really interesting. I couldn't really imagine living in a way that was centered around my pleasure and I didn't have any models for what that looked like. So hanging out with Cindy was really an education in following instincts and desires and pleasures of the moment. It went against everything that I had been told that I should do to be a good person and a good woman and a successful character.
So what I want to talk to you about today, this evening... I decided to come and do this in the evening where I felt like I would have more of my “free-time personality” and be more inclined to tell you the truth about what I learned from Cindy. I didn't want it to feel like work so I scheduled it after my work hours.
You can tell that, for me, working is kind of my default mode. So playing and focusing on pleasure takes a certain amount of intentionality for me, and that was something I had to learn. Cindy helped me learn that.
“This conversation with Cindy just blew my mind.”
So I want to tell you the story of the day that Cindy and I had one of our most important conversations—our first conversations about pleasure, and when she really just blew my mind.
So I had been working for hours and hours and hours and days and days and days on end, and I get on the phone with Cindy, who I was always so happy to talk with. She's like, "How are you Hon?" And I'm like, "You know, I'm okay." I sounded kind of brittle and edgy. And she said, "Really? What's really going on?"
And so then I went on, you know, about how much I'd been working and about how little I'd been playing. She asked me what it was that I felt like I wanted or needed in that moment... And I just drew a blank. I remember thinking, “I have no idea. I don't know. I don't know what I want. All I know is what I have to do.”
She said, "You need to slow down. You need to slow down in order to hear what you want. You need to just take a break." I was like, "I can't take a break. I have to do all this stuff." She said, "I'm telling you, you need to stop. Whatever you do next, you're gonna make a mistake. You're gonna cause a problem for yourself. You're gonna have an accident. You need to just ask yourself the question, what would feel good right now. It doesn't have to be something pie-in-the-sky thing, just, like, what would feel good to you right now."
I almost started crying. I was like, "Honestly, all I can think of is that I really want to go to this little coffee shop down the street.And just not bring any work with me. And just sit with a cup of coffee, and people watch, and listen to people's conversations, maybe look at the paper. Just doodle in a notebook or journal or something."
And she goes, "Do it."
I was like, "I can't, I have all these deadlines. I've got a meeting at nine, I've got to...." She goes, "Just do it. The world is not gonna fall apart. Call in sick, tell people something came up." She goes, "You need to focus on something that will actually make you happy and bring you pleasure right now."
And because Cindy was telling me to do it, I suddenly took it seriously. Some part of me recognized that she was right and that I had lost all track of what I was doing in terms of my own desires and pleasures and satisfaction. I'd just been on a forced march to produce and be productive and accomplish things.
So that was the beginning for me of an amazing day.
“I really credited Cindy Joseph with sending me on this crazy goose chase toward my own happiness.”
I'll tell you the short version of what happened was I went to that coffee shop.
I immediately met this really handsome guy who took a shine to me and asked me out and we ended up dating for, I don't know, a few months. It didn't turn out to be the right guy for me, but he was a great guy. We're still friends to this day, and it was amazing. I was like, she's psychic. I really credited Cindy Joseph with having sent me on this kind of crazy goose chase toward my own happiness.
So that also began though a really interesting period of professional research for me because I was like, she's right about something. I felt so different by the end of that day. I was like, I need to do more of this.
Also, the intellectual part of me wanted to know why it seemed to have had the magical effect that it had had on my mood, my energy, my sense of hope, even my focus.I had so much more creativity. I was able to get things done. The next day I did much more than I had done the day before when I was on a forced march. Having taken the break seemed to really help.
So it's interesting. I ended up writing about this in a series of articles in Experience Life magazine. One of them was called “A Real Pleasure,” and in it I shared a bunch of the research that I had churned up about what happens to our bodies and our minds on pleasure. And it's fascinating.
“Pleasure has a bunch of really positive effects on your physical body.”
It turns out that pleasure has a bunch of really positive effects on your physical body. It improves your immunity, it improves—obviously your energy, but your focus. And it has some interesting things like it increases the levels of certain chemicals in your body that improve your sociability.
There's prosocial chemicals. There's one called proenkephalin which is a protective chemical for your immune system.
Anyway, a whole bunch, a flood, a cascade of positive healing chemicals, anti-inflammatory chemicals, proimmune chemicals flood your body when you have pleasure, including things like oxytocin, which are great for bonding and relaxation and digestion.
So if you're interested in the science of pleasure, check out that article. It's called “A Real Pleasure” by me, Pilar Gerasimo. And it appeared probably more than a decade ago in Experience Life magazine—not too long after Cindy and I had this conversation.
I also wrote about pleasure in my book, The Healthy Deviant. This is my new book. It's called, The Healthy Deviant: A Rule Breaker's Guide to Being Healthy in an Unhealthy World. And it includes some wisdom from Cindy.
Cindy was such a source of mentorship and wise counsel in my life. Some of it was really about the lessons that... specifically around pleasure where she taught me to re-evaluate my life on the basis of how much pleasure it was bringing me.
“The Pleasure Clock is this tool for tracking the moments in my day that actually did bring me pleasure.”
So I ended up including something called a “pleasure clock” in this book. I wish I had had a chance to share this with Cindy because I know she would have just loved it. But it was this tool for tracking the moments in my day that actually did bring me pleasure.
One of the things that I realized was that I had been so focused on my productivity that I'd kind of lost track of prioritizing my pleasure or making space for it in my life. And all I ever did was worry about getting more things done.
So in my book, with the head nod to Cindy Joseph for having me pay attention, I created this thing called the pleasure clock. Here's one that hasn't been filled in yet and here's one that's been filled in.
The idea behind the pleasure clock is a tool I'm happy to share with all of my Boom friends If you're interested, I'll make a little worksheet available for you as a downloadable tool.
The idea of the pleasure clock is simply to notice the points in your day where you are having pleasure. Where something good happens. You're smelling the roses or drinking the wine or enjoying the sunset or a cuddle with your dog or your partner or being amused by something that you saw or just anything that is beautiful or lovely or pleasant or relieving.
When I started keeping track of the pleasure in my life, and I started noticing how much good pleasure there really was, I just started creating more of it for myself and I started making it a goal to have more pleasure and fun in my life… and a lot of my life has changed as the result of that.
“My offer to you is the same offer that Cindy made to me…”
So I’d just love to encourage you to think about that in your own life. Where are the sources of pleasure, and how much attention are you putting on having pleasure in your life? How does it feel when you make pleasure a priority in your life? And when you choose to live in ways that allow space for more pleasure in your life, what happens?
For me, what happened—thanks to Cindy and her wise counsel—was that my life got better. A lot better. Not only did I have more fun and more pleasure, but because I was having more fun and more pleasure, I was able to offer more—rather than less—in the ways that really mattered inside of my career and my professional life.
I think a lot of the work that I've done, including my book and the magazine and the podcast that I do called The Living Experiment, have all been informed by all of this.
So my offer to you is the same offer that Cindy made to me. What do you really think might feel good now? What could you do, even if it's a small thing, to fulfill a desire or an instinct or a calling? Maybe it's just going to get yourself a better-than-average cup of coffee... and maybe it's more.
Notice what you're wanting, Pay attention to what's bringing you pleasure and then do more of that. I think Cindy Joseph would approve.
This is the third episode in our series of Face-to-Face videos with Pilar. Want to hear more from Pilar? Watch her last video here.
Also, what do you think of this idea of prioritizing pleasure?
Does this inspire you to make pleasure more of a priority in your own life? Do you have any questions for Pilar about Cindy or anything else?
As always, we’d love to hear from you!
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