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Self Sabotage 101: Are You A Hedonist?

Instant gratification. Feels good now, but what is the long term cost?

Marble Greek statue of a woman behind a realistic bar with cocktails

A Feel Good Message

We all like to feel good. So what’s the harm in pursuing whatever will give us those nice feelings ASAP? The philosophical approach of hedonism would posit that pleasure and happiness should be our priorities above all else. However, in a world concerned with the dangers of instant gratification, even more questions arise around the hedonist, mainly...

Does hedonism sabotage someone’s chances of meeting future goals? How do we find the middle ground between the pursuit of immediate pleasure and the virtue of delayed gratification? In their on self sabotage, Jen Long (ACC), Jerome LeDuff (MCPC), Anthony Lopez (MCPC), Kyle Rodriguez (MCPC), Brooke Adair Walters (ACC) and Lisa Finck (MCC) of CLCI Live explore the potential pitfalls of unchecked hedonism. 

The pursuit of pleasure can tie into an expectation for instant gratification, a tendency to splurge and make decisions spontaneously, and can lead to struggling to meet a goal due to procrastination, impulsivity, disappointment, distractions and more. Coaching a hedonist can empower the client to make conscious choices that align with their broader aspirations and lead to more sustainable success and satisfaction.

The Sole Good In Life?

The word “hedonism” became tied into its current concept through the language of ancient Greek, where it meant “pleasure”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy writes that “Psychological or motivational hedonism claims that only pleasure or pain motivates us.” To compound this, Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines hedonism as “the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life.”

A biopsychological perspective review, published by the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, writes that “We expect to obtain pleasurable experiences fast and easily.” On a physiological level, we experience pleasure through our little friends serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine and acetylcholine. These act as the biological ‘motivators’ for a pursuit of hedonism. The article explains that pleasure can be viewed as a “learning signal” that “reinforces” the relevant behavior which led to the release of these chemicals. 

And being reinforced to seek out a behavior that will let us feel ‘good’ leads to that societal expectation for fast and easy pleasure. Research Julia F. Christensen uses this article to posit there is a problem with this approach: “with this type of pleasure-maximizing choice behaviour we may be turning ourselves into mindless pleasure junkies, handing over our free will for the next dopamine shoot.”

Immediate Gratification VS Long Term Hopes

Hedonism often prioritizes short-term rewards, which can pose unique challenges for coaching clients. Individuals leaning towards hedonistic tendencies might set ambitious long-term objectives, like financial independence or career advancement, yet struggle with the daily discipline required to achieve these goals. They might find themselves frequently opting for instant gratification—whether that's spending on luxuries or engaging in leisure activities—which can derail their financial and time management plans. Consequently, they seek coaching to navigate these conflicting desires effectively, learning to balance the thrill of the moment with the necessity of future planning.

On the other hand, Hedonism isn't solely about short-term thrills; it also underscores the value of personal happiness and contentment and the reduction of suffering, which are vital components of a fulfilling life. Embracing moments of joy doesn't always detract from long-term ambitions; rather, it can enhance overall well-being and satisfaction. This perspective can be particularly beneficial for coaching clients, as it encourages them not to overlook the importance of present happiness while pursuing future goals. Finding a balance between enjoying life's pleasures and working towards personal achievements can prevent burnout and increase life satisfaction, thereby supporting a healthier, more sustainable approach to personal development

Coaching the Hedonist

In coaching clients with a hedonistic bent, it's crucial to approach them without judgment, recognizing that the pursuit of pleasure is a legitimate aspect of human experience. Hedonism, when understood and harnessed effectively, can actually be a powerful motivational tool, rather than a barrier to success.

The key to coaching a pleasure-focused client is to help them find a balance that leverages their hedonistic tendencies to their advantage while ensuring they don’t derail their long-term goals. Here are some strategies to guide this process:

  • Acknowledge the Positive Aspects of Happiness: Grant the client's desire for pleasure and be curious. Ask into how positive feelings and satisfaction can enhance mental health and overall well-being. It's important to understand that seeking happiness isn't inherently wrong, but it can be optimized.

  • Introduce the Concept of Delayed Gratification: Ask the client about the timing of the gratification—not as a denial of pleasure, but as a strategic choice that can lead to even greater rewards. Asking when a client rewards themselves can be more powerful than asking if they should.

  • Realistic SMART Goals: Work with the client to set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals that incorporate both short-term rewards and long-term aspirations. Help them see how smaller, pleasure-driven actions can contribute to larger outcomes, creating a link between immediate satisfaction and future benefits.

  • Develop Self-Awareness: Ask the client about what may trigger the desire for instant gratification and to understand their underlying needs.

  • Explore Meaningful Activities: Identify with the client activities that provide deep, lasting satisfaction and not just transient pleasure.

By utilizing these strategies, a coach can assist hedonistic clients in using their disposition towards rewards as a catalyst for achieving a balanced and fulfilling life. We want to not only validate our client's natural tendencies but also steers them towards a path where pleasure and productivity coexist harmoniously.


Thank you,

Jen Long (ACC), Jerome LeDuff (MCPC), Anthony Lopez (MCPC), Kyle Rodriguez (MCPC), Brooke Adair Walters (ACC) and Lisa Finck (MCC)!

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