A correlation exists between a person’s ability to be a good teammate and his or her understanding of the difference between pleasure and happiness. Many of us confuse pleasure and happiness and fail to recognize that the two entities are not one and the same.

Dysfunctional teams are almost always comprised of teammates seeking pleasure, instead of happiness.

Dr. Robert Lustig, author of The Hacking of the American Mind, identifies seven differences between happiness and pleasure:

  1. Pleasure is short-lived; happiness is long-lived.
  2. Pleasure is visceral; happiness is ethereal.
  3. Pleasure is taking; happiness is giving.
  4. Pleasure can be achieved with substances; happiness cannot be achieved with substances.
  5. Pleasure is experienced alone; happiness is experienced in social groups.
  6. The extremes of pleasure all lead to addiction, whether they be substances or behaviors. Yet, scientifically, there’s no such thing as being addicted to too much happiness.
  7. Pleasure is tied to dopamine; happiness is tied to serotonin.

In the spirit of full disclosure, when I initially saw Dr. Lustig’s list, I didn’t know what the words visceral and ethereal meant, nor did I know the difference between dopamine and serotonin. I had to look it up.

In layman’s terms, visceral means having a “gut feeling.” You might not have a rational explanation for intuitively feeling a certain way, you just know you do. Ethereal means very spiritual, almost celestial. It’s a state of mind.

While the biochemicals dopamine and serotonin affect many of the same bodily functions, they do so in slightly different ways. They also respond to stimuli in different ways.

Dopamine comes from the rush we get from receiving rewards. It is the “pleasure” neurotransmitter. Serotonin, on the other hand, is the “happiness” neurotransmitter. It’s the biochemical related to the regulation of our mood.

Dopamine and Serotonin both have value, but too much dopamine can lead to addictions and can rob us of our happiness. Dopamine can suppress serotonin. As Dr. Lustig points out, “The more pleasure we seek, the more unhappy we get.”

In sports, teammates who seek pleasure covet individual accolades. They are the ones who try to score all of the points and rush to the scorer’s table immediately after the game to check their stats. They play reckless and don’t consider how their risks affect the other members of the team.

In business, they are the ones who obsess over quotas and bonuses. They prioritize personal goals over company goals. They compartmentalize their duties and never hesitate to point out to others when something is “not my responsibility.” They crave the short bursts of pleasure so much that they resent anything or anyone who interferes with them obtaining pleasure.

Teammates who seek pleasure erode the team’s culture, because they put ME ahead of WE.

It’s worth pointing out that you don’t really seek pleasure. You chase it. Whatever you might acquire is fleeting. It’s never enough. You always need more. You inevitably find yourself engaged in an endless game of one-upmanship, where you are constantly chasing “bigger” and “better.” That’s how dopamine works, and that is what causes your chase to become a detriment to your team’s overall well-being.

Good teammates understand that individual accolades aren’t the endgame. Individual accolades are simply a bi-product of investing in the team. Happiness comes from the journey, not the destination.

If you want to be a better teammate, ask yourself: Am I pursuing happiness, or am I just chasing pleasure? Your answer may be the key to your team’s success.

As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.

Lance Loya is a leading authority on the good teammate mindset. He is a college basketball coach turned author, blogger, and professional speaker, who inspires TEAMBUSTERS to become TEAMMATES. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or through his weekly Teammate Tuesday blog.


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