“People are happiest when they are engaged in activities that challenge them.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Hungarian Psychologist 1970
Just recently I received a photograph of me with three 12 year-old baseball players from a baseball team I had the honor to coach, the OC Aztecs. Amazingly, today all three players in the photo are in the Major Leagues playing baseball. Joe Musgrove for the Houston Astros, Zach Davies with the Milwaukee Brewers, and Austin Hedges with the San Diego Padres. Wow. What a treat!
The Best of Days
We won a lot. Today every parent says those were the best of days. Yes, it was pleasure at the max. But it didn’t come without sacrifice. Joe Musgrove’s parents had to drive 2 hours to practice at least one time per week. The practices were grueling for players, coaches and parents. There were times we worked out for an entire day, sometimes two days consecutively.
Although grueling we loved to practice and work hard because it prepared us to play well. We gave up entire weekends of family time to play baseball. It was a challenge for us all. And that challenge was unforgettable pleasure.
The Pleasure of Flow
Don’t you find the same thing when you work hard to complete a rewarding task? In fact, when you’re “into it” you find yourself in that state of “flow,” when hours pass that feel as if you have only been at it for a short while. Isn’t it the best of times?
I get the same feelings from painting and writing. What is it that provides you with an almost unimaginable joy? And how often does that joy come from work? Writing and painting are not easy. For me, they are both hard work and yet they represent some of the things I find most pleasure in life.
Challenge is Pleasurable
The happiest and most successful people don’t shy away from hard and challenging work. In fact, they embrace it. You know well, that the easy way most often brings little joy and certainly little reward.
So what is the Simple Secret to Pleasure? Mark Remy sums it up with this: “Find something you enjoy intrinsically, just for the sake of doing it, something that will challenge you but not too much.” Then experience the joy of challenging work and do it again and again until you get so good you can’t stop doing because it brings you so much pleasure.
The Best of Pleasures
Are the Result of Your Greatest Challenges
Photo courtesy of Diane Musgrove