A move toward the pleasant is natural.
What is rarely clearly defined is what pleasure is.
I remember that I didn’t like coffee as a kid. Neither did I like smoking.
My taste changed.
I still don’t like smoking, but I got used to coffee.
With coffee there was a simple explanation, the adults drank coffee and I wanted to become like them. I followed the trend. That is until I decided that there are times when espresso, latte macchiato, or cappuccino are better alternatives for me.
Nowadays, my choices are even more specific. I’ll evaluate the environment as well as my desire and will make my choices accordingly and within a broader set of choices, sometimes leaving coffee aside.
Pleasant depends on the way we frame it. And it depends on our ability to pay attention to our choices and learn about them. It is a matter of experimenting, remembering results, and betting on how they will contribute to the next experiences.
What I’m describing here is how we will in a very natural way transform something unpleasant into something pleasant when there is enough reason for it.
The Epicureans paid attention to what pleasant could be. For them, pleasure was “the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul.” And the path to reach this state was to care about one’s health, deal with the beliefs leading to impulse taking over, and integrate those virtues into one’s lifestyle that would contribute most to the Epicurean definition of pleasure. These were prudence, honor, and justice.
They paid attention to creating the circumstances within which pleasure would be most probable.
Stoics had a slightly different approach, as their approach meant learning to deal with hardship and learn from it. When obstacles came up, when hardship occurred, or when the unexpected appeared they would look for ways to lean in. Either they would seek to learn from something that repelled them, or they would search for ways to welcome the unexpected and incorporate it into their plans. They didn’t want to waste the experience and they trained themselves to deal with their natural resistance. It allowed them to become used to the uncertain and unexpected. And it kept them curious.
Stoics knew that change was constantly present and sought to create the circumstances within which the unpleasant would become natural and thus become less dominant.
What both had in common, was that they knew that impulse only creates a short instance of pleasure. One that will soon need to be replaced by another impulse to seek pleasure.
Leading is a choice of either following Epicureans or Stoics to establish circumstances within which success becomes possible. It doesn’t focus on success itself.