The odd thing about pleasure is that if you try to pursue it you won’t get it as much as you could if weren’t trying. This is what the philosophers call the “paradox of hedonism”: that best way to get pleasure is by not trying to get pleasure.
Here is an example from my own life. I booked to go on a Canopy Tour and I was expecting to be in the Forest Canopy exploring nature. Instead the tour turned out to be zip lining above the trees across a valley. Not even attempting to connect with nature. It was too late to back out. It turned out to be very memorable and enjoyable experience. Had I concentrated on having pleasure I would have started by being disappointed that I wasn’t going to be on a real Forest Canopy, then I would have thought I am not in a mood for this titillating activity, I could be having more pleasure by doing something else. I may even have worried about the fear factor too; all because, I waned to pursue pleasure.
Luckily I didn’t worry about pursuing pleasure, I didn’t even worry about the fear factor, I was strangely calm and accepting. The zip lining activity forces you to be in the present by having to focus and concentrate what you are doing for safety and the awesomeness of the surrounding natural beauty. It turned out to be the most pleasurable day yet.
The pleasure of having done this activity will be with me for a while. Here are some pictures of the fun stuff.
This same principle applies to pursing respect or wanting to do something meaningful. You have to be engaged in activity which will earn you respect or give meaning to life. If pursued directly you will limit the rewards.
The Best Things in Life, by Thomas Hurka.