What sets the philosophy of enjoyment apart is the will to enjoy. It’s an application of willpower to enjoyment. Willpower is normally used to deny immediate gratification for a long-term goal. We force ourselves to do things that we don’t want to do – not enjoy desert, not enjoy a drink, not spend money – or we make ourselves do things we’d rather not – run on a treadmill, work late, eat bran flakes. This will to enjoy is the opposite of that.
People think that with enough willpower they can improve their lives, but results from the American Psychological Association’s 2011 Stress in America Survey shows that a lack of willpower is the No. 1 reason for people not making healthy lifestyle changes (see: What You Need to Know About Willpower: The Psychological Science of Self-Control). People blame faulty willpower for their imperfect choices, but is willpower to blame?
What if you turned willpower on its head? Instead of willing yourself to not do things that you want to do or to do things you don’t want to do, step out of self-conflicts and will yourself to do what you want. Force yourself to enjoy! Does it take an effort to do what you want?
Enjoyment is subtle. It’s so simple people miss it. We focus on big stuff, long term goals and on more of everything when it’s actually less that we need. It’s the butterfly kiss of happiness that we miss. Less is more (more or less).
If you enjoy ice cream, does it take willpower to make yourself have some? No. It’s what you want! Be reasonable and force yourself to enjoy ice cream! Use willpower to do what you want and it doesn’t take an effort.
Optimize every scrap of enjoyment. Be enjoyment strategic. Too much ice cream isn’t enjoyable. It’ll make you sick. If you understand the fragile nature of enjoyment, you’ll know how to play it. Enjoyment is a game of strategy.
According to John P. Carse in the book Finite and Infinite Games there are two kinds of games. There are finite games where the object is to win and there are infinite games where the object is to continue playing. Make enjoyment your infinite game.
The world isn’t a friendly place. It doesn’t owe you happiness. What does it mean to force yourself to enjoy? It means to make a choice to enjoy and to use willpower to generate a fighting spirit. With a fighting spirit, take every annoyance, every pain, every discomfort, every sickness, every humiliation, every horror, every fear as all in a day’s work in the infinite game of living. Play to continue playing. Enjoy to continue enjoying.
Picture unhappiness as a woman determined to be unhappy. She’s your personal antagonist and her breath is not good. Now, imagine playing a game of Snakes and Ladders (aka Chutes and Ladders) with her. Will it be enjoyable? Most people would think not, but for a philosopher of enjoyment, it’s a challenge.
The game is considered by some as a metaphor for life. On the board of Snakes and Ladders there’s a grid of numbered squares with pictures of snakes and ladders each connecting two board squares. The object of the game is to navigate your piece according to die rolls from the bottom to the top helped by ladders and hindered by snakes.
Historically, the ladders represented virtues (positive emotions) – they take you up – and the snakes represented vices (negative emotions) – they take you down. The trick to winning is to get lucky and have more virtues than vices.
If you are going to enjoy the game with a sad halitosis friend, you have to roll with what happens. It’s beyond your control anyway. Accept what you get. Look for ladders and avoid snakes. Enjoy both the ups and downs. Have a conversation with yourself. Encourage yourself to enjoy. Be a good companion to yourself and kind to your unhappy friend. Offer her a mint and your own enjoyment. Enjoyment is like laughter, it’s contagious.
The only thing you control is the way you think. Win or lose, it doesn’t matter. Enjoy Snakes and Ladders like you’re ten years old and it’s 1927. Imagine the enjoyment and you have it! Play the music and fly baby fly! Help others by helping yourself. When you defy depression and enjoy yourself, you win even when you lose.
Roll the die before it’s you.