Balance Rx for DaVincis: Simple Pleasures

by Liisa Kyle, Ph.D. on 02/24/2011

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You’re a creative, multi-talented person.  To what extent are you enjoying your life?  If you’re feeling more burdened or stressed than delighted these days, ask yourself:  what simple pleasures can you give yourself?  And when was the last time you did so?

As creative people, we have the imagination to find creative ways to deny ourselves simple pleasures.  You should hear the convoluted excuses my uber-talented coaching clients devise as to why they couldn’t possibly, say, sit outside watching clouds for half an hour.  It’d be funny if it weren’t so sad that they are denying themselves such basic human treats.

Even though I know better, sometimes I catch myself doing the same thing.  (“Oh no, I can’t go for a rollerblade this morning…it’s a workday!”)

Why do we do it?  Sometimes it’s guilt, sometimes it’s low self-esteem (a sense that you don’t ‘deserve’ a treat), sometimes it’s because you put everyone else’s needs first.  Sometimes it’s a societal dictum or an unhealthy belief like, ‘I have to work hard and earn X before I deserve a treat.”

Whatever the reason, the truth is that not only do you deserve to treat yourself to simple pleasures – it’s essential for your health, well-being and creativity.

Right now, take a moment to list ten simple pleasures you love.  Forget about cost or time or practicalities.  What are ten simple pleasures that give you joy?

It might be particular activities like walking on the beach or reading outside.  Perhaps you’re craving certain visual treats found at an art gallery or garden center.  It could be a particular food – something from your childhood or something you just plain adore.  Maybe it would be a treat to take a few hours and daydream…or do nothing at all.    What are YOUR simple pleasures?

(If you’re completely stuck, here are some more examples).

Next question:  How often do you treat yourself to these simple pleasures?

Go down your list and write down, beside each item, the last time you indulged in this simple pleasures.

If it’s been a while, you owe it to yourself to work some simple pleasures into your life.  Starting today.

But Liisa, I hear you say, I can’t possibly.  I have too much to do.  I don’t have enough time.

I don’t believe you.

Ask yourself this:  what do you spend time doing that you really don’t enjoy – and that you really don’t have to be doing?  What isn’t particularly healthy or helpful?  What could you be doing less of, if you were honest with yourself?

Maybe you’re a workaholic spending many more hours on the job than is really required.  Perhaps you spend time worrying or stressing or complaining.  It could be you’re running errands you really don’t need to be doing. Maybe clutter is making basic tasks take twice as long as they would, if your space was more organized.  Maybe you’re wasting your evenings watching television programs you don’t really like.

Whatever your day is like, you have an opportunity to do less of what you don’t want – and more of what you do want.

So what’s stopping you?

Have you got into a rut?  Have you developed habits that need to be disrupted?

Are you treating yourself strictly out of some need to punish yourself for something?

Do you believe you have to work hard to earn X before you deserve a treat?

Whatever’s going on I promise that if you work some simple pleasures into your day and your week, every day and every week, you’ll be happier, healthier, less stressed, more productive and more creative.

Now it could be you’re completely convinced and have already stopped reading to head to the beach.  (Wouldn’t that be wonderful?).

But if that’s not the case — if you’re having difficulty indulging in some simple pleasures, it may be helpful to dig deeper – to examine why you are treating yourself the way you are.  There may be unhelpful, false beliefs underlying your behavior.  Why are you being so hard on yourself?

For example, I have a coaching client who spends hours every day surfing the internet…checking her email and Facebook news feed…reading multiple versions of the same news.  Does she need to spend hours doing this?  No.  Does she enjoy spending hours doing this?  No.  She feels awful.  Stressed out and guilty.  Are there other things she’d rather be doing?  Yes!  She’d rather be writing or making crafts or taking classes or working out or doing twenty other things. So what’s stopping her from doing any of this?

Well for one thing, surfing the internet gives the illusion of being busy and active…and worthwhile.

When we dig deeper, she realizes that she is punishing herself for not making more money.  Her underlying belief is that she doesn’t deserve to have fun because she hasn’t earned it. Note the irony:  rather than devoting time to entrepreneurial activities that would actually generate income, she fritters away hours a day on an unproductive, unhealthy habit…as punishment for not earning enough.

How about you?  What’s really going on?

Whatever it is, I invite you to address it and to look for opportunities to indulge in regular simple pleasures.


Activity: What simple pleasures do you enjoy?  List as many as you can, as quickly as you can.

Activity: Re-read your answers.  For each, identify the last time you experienced this simple pleasure.

Activity: This week, make a point of experiencing at least one simple pleasure every day.

Activity: Schedule an appointment for one week from today.  When that time comes, review how many days during the past week  you experienced at least one simple pleasure.  If you did so seven days out of seven, pat yourself on the back and carry on doling out regular treats.  If you didn’t, ask yourself, why not?


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