• Nadja Eriksson

Can pleasure make us more profitable?

Updated: Jan 13




It’s a question I ask myself a lot.


What if a more feminine (read: pleasure-filled) approach to life and business could lead to increased productivity and profitability?


For years, I’d scoff at pleasure, thinking it’s a self-indulgent waste of time.


I’d buy into the rigid push-push mentality.


Whatever project I was involved in, I’d push through and keep going long after my body told me she needed a break.


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As a result, I’d often feel resentful and angry, projecting these feelings onto my creative partners instead of taking responsibility for my own needs and boundaries.


Even when I learned to slow down and incorporate more self-care into my daily routine, I could still feel guilty if I wasn’t working at least 6-8 hours a day.


Then two things happened--


First, I started writing for brilliant tantra teachers, yoginis, and modern mystics, all women who had found personal empowerment through the power of pleasure.


Their work touches me deeply and gives me new imprints of being in the world as a highly sensitive woman, writer, and entrepreneur.


These incredible clients have taught me (and are still teaching me!) that women can have successful lives and businesses without working themselves into burnout.


Second, I went into therapy.


I realized I carried way more childhood trauma than I had allowed myself to see.


Unearthing hidden layers of my psyche was so painful at times that my nervous system got exhausted to the point where I was physically unable to work.


In the midst of the pandemic, I was fighting my own inner demons.


Even though I’m able to work from home, I was forced to slow down because my body commanded rest and integration.


In all this, pleasure helped me cope.


The knowledge of the power of pleasure had been with me for years. I even spoke about it in front of over 80 women at a bi-curious mixer in NYC….


But at the time, I knew very little about the healing powers of pleasure. Or how it could make us more productive.


If I did, I would have taken a stand for pleasure during that women-only networking breakfast in the summer of 2016…


Female entrepreneurs are rising strong


It’s 9 am on a hot July day. It’s still morning but I’ve already sweated through my underwear while waiting for the train that will take me from Prospect Avenue in Brooklyn to Midtown Manhattan.


The NYC summer heat is unbearable.


Crammed into a crowded subway car with equally sweaty people, I wonder if I made the right decision to go into the City that day. I could have relaxed in Prospect Park...


As soon as I exit the subway, I get lost in the frenzy of Times Square. Navigating early morning traffic, waves of tourists, and construction sites makes me anxious. When I finally find the right address, I’m 10 minutes late.


So. Embarrassing.


A friendly woman with giant glasses ushers me into a light-filled room home to a long conference table.


For a moment, everyone’s looking at me. Forcing an apologetic smile, I sink into a vacant chair.


The view from this 15th-floor midtown skyscraper makes me think I’m an extra on the set of The Wolf of Wall Street, only a bit further north.


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The lovely Karin Bellantoni had invited me to this female-only networking breakfast.


I was expecting an intimate group of soft-spoken entrepreneurs sharing about their career journeys. But this is not the West Village, and these ladies are not novelists or freelance copy editors.


I feel strangely exposed, like a 5th grader who found out cheating on a math test.


The main speaker, an Asian-American woman in her mid-30s, talks about how much money her start-up had brought in during a recent funding round, how much weight she’d gained working 16+ hours a day (Founders’ 40 is a thing), and how she’s planning to take her company public next year.


How does she handle all this stress?


These women are so driven and accomplished, yet their faces carry an expression of sadness and exhaustion.


When a red-haired woman with pale skin asks the speaker about self-care, the founder explains that she’s now incorporated an hour of cardio into her routine, spending her evenings on the treadmill.


I attended numerous networking events like this one, and I met hundreds of smart and driven ladies.


The City is full of them, and their numbers are growing.


The proof is in the data.


In 2017, 17% of all U.S.-based companies were founded by women.


In 2019, this figure had grown to 20% (compared to only 10% in 2009).


An analysis of PitchBook data says,


"Female-founded companies are raising venture capital at significantly higher levels than at any point in the last decade. Late-stage deals in 2021 have topped $20 billion. They’re easily on pace to nearly double the total for all of 2020. This shatters 2019's decade high of nearly $12 billion."

Female founders are hungry for growth.


Do women make more empathetic entrepreneurs?


A burning desire for positive change, paired with feminine qualities like empathy and intuition, make women great leaders.


The tend-and-befriend way of the feminine makes us nurturing. We’re not the lonesome heroes out to win battles alone.


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Women are good at collaborating. We take everyone’s feelings into account, seeking harmony and understanding first. It’s in our nature.


Research published in the Journal of Entrepreneurship & Organization Management backs this up:


“Women-led businesses are more likely to emphasize on creating good relationships with their employees and making a positive social impact.”

And as a report by 10 Years First Round puts it,


“Companies with [at least one] female founder performed 63% better than our investments with all-male founding teams.”

Could this be--at least in part--due to our feminine intuition telling us when something is off, like a team member who doesn’t feel seen, or a gut instinct alerting us that this deal is not profitable?


Possibly.


But wait, there’s more.


The 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report surveyed 2694 high and "ultra-high" net worth entrepreneurs from 18 countries. From Generation Y, born between 1980 and 1995, women stand out by creating an increased number of companies, both in the new economy and traditional sectors.


Among that generation,


"Women are slightly more successful than man."

And research from the Boston Consulting Group found that...


"If female entrepreneurs received as much support as their male counterparts, the global economy could experience up to a $5 trillion boost."

If you're excited by this research, you're not alone.


I was blown away by all the driven ladies back in NYC... But reading these reports really made my jaw drop.


With such great reward, however, also comes greater risk.


Women are also at a higher risk of burn-out


Let’s not sugar-coat it--


Working in such high-pressure environments is exhausting. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. For everyone. Especially for humans with female bodies.


Our beings and psyches are not linear.


Feminine nature is cyclical.


Like the phases of the moon, we need times of rest and recovery as well as days where we go full throttle.


Unfortunately, most of us ignore the signals of our bodies.


We don’t heed the call for rest and recovery.


We learned that if we want to succeed, we have to adapt.


We need to become more like men to “make it” in a man's world. And so we push on, ignoring our bodies’ needs for stillness and nourishment.


We overwork because it’s the only way we know how to function.


It makes us feel valuable, worthy of love and approval.


But when this motivation to push through comes from a place of psychological wounding, we neglect our health and well-being to the point of exhaustion.


As a result, stories of burn-out and exhaustion depression are widespread.


Our nervous systems can only tolerate this much pressure before we crash.


Your feminine essence needs nourishment


Relationship expert David Deida argues that the majority of women have a feminine essence, meaning we need more time to recharge our batteries than men do.


This is not about gender stereotypes, as in all women are intuitive and nurturing and all men are goal-oriented and analytical.


On the contrary. Deida talks about masculine and feminine energy.


Men can also be intuitive and women goal-oriented.


When a woman writes a business plan or negotiates a deal, she uses her masculine energy. When she nurtures her team members or consults her heart and belly when making decisions, she taps into her feminine energy.


Both men and women can access either energy during the day.


Most women have a feminine essence (meaning they have 70% or more feminine energy), whereas most men have a masculine essence.


Some people are 50/50, but that’s rarer.


Overall, women with a feminine essence benefit from spending more time recharging in the feminine. This can happen through massages, hot baths, self-pleasuring, or time spent relaxing with other women or in nature.


When we don’t allow ourselves the things we need to recharge, we get depleted.


Burn-out is a natural consequence of overriding our needs for too long.


The pandemic heightened burn-out in women even more


During Covid-19, burnout rates among women have increased by 10%.


42% of women say that they have been often or almost always burned out in 2021, compared to 32% only a year ago.

Female leaders have worked even harder to keep their staff employed and businesses running.


McKinsey's 2021 Women in the Workplace report says,


"Burnout is escalating faster among women: only 35% of men got burned out in 2021, compared to 42% of women.
As a result, one in three women considered downshifting their career or leaving the workforce altogether in 2021, compared to one in four who said this a few months into the pandemic."

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If so many women are considering leaving the workforce due to burnout, what can we do to reverse this trend?


Self-care is gaining in popularity


These statistics make it glaringly obvious that the patriarchal work harder-and-faster approach is no longer working.


We’re all overwhelmed.


As a result, self-care is trending.


Female leaders are adopting a new affinity towards health and wellness.


Mindfulness practices such as Yoga, meditation, and exercise, paired with gratitude journaling and prayer help entrepreneurs maintain their mental and physical health.


Knowing the benefits of meditation firsthand (I’ve attended several week-long silent meditation retreats, which have always brought me back to my center no matter how exhausted I felt), I’m excited about this shift towards more mindfulness.


And although meditation and exercise have proven benefits when it comes to reducing stress and boosting well-being, there is so much more female entrepreneurs can do to refuel their batteries and prevent burn-out, no matter the state of the world.


Enter pleasure.


Pleasure is NOT superficial or selfish


Merriam-Webster defines pleasure as “a state of gratification and a source of delight and joy.”


Often, people automatically think of sex when they hear pleasure. But sex is just one aspect on a wide spectrum of pleasure.


Why limit your experience of pleasure to a few hours in the bedroom when you can let pleasure elevate every moment of your day?


Sensual pleasure can come from anything--watching a sunrise, cuddling with your cat, or savoring a cup of hot chocolate are just a few.


My awesome client Alice Hong, a Tantric Yogini and teacher of sacred embodiment, recommends to...


"Take pleasure in all things: the smell of freshly roasted coffee, the way your clothes drape your skin, your salty tears flowing down your face."

It is in these moments, when we become so present to our bodily sensations, feeling and welcoming everything, that we become most aware of how supportive pleasure is for our nervous systems.


Opening to pleasure at any moment also includes being fully present when another woman is speaking at a meeting. Rather than zoning out and secretly checking your email, notice how this woman’s words are affecting you. What can you learn from her voice, her facial expressions, the way she carries herself?


There can be so much joy in being present and fully taking in another human being--even in a boring meeting.


Talking of meetings...


My badass client Sarrah Rose never misses an opportunity for pleasure. Even during a strategy call with her business coach, she finds pleasure from playing with her Macbook’s charging cable--while still remaining fully focused on the conversation.


Sarrah (and all my other awesome clients) embody the truth that took me years to discover (and I still have a long way to fully live it):


Sensual pleasure is a woman’s ultimate source of happiness and empowerment


When I share delicious lovemaking with my partner, for example, I’m much happier than when I sign a big contract or receive a wonderful testimonial from a client.


There’s nothing more satisfying on a soul level than the embodiment of female pleasure.


And I’m not alone in my experience.


Experts agree that pleasure is our most potent resource for overcoming stress, accessing unlimited energy, and carrying ourselves with confidence.


Plus, it makes us more creative and productive.


Sally Fox, a copywriter for sustainable and ethical businesses, writes in an essay on LinkedIn:


“When we experience pleasure, our bodies produce dopamine. Dopamine gives us our drive, focus, motivation, energy and assertiveness ­– all key to the creative process. In other words, the curiosity, playfulness and confidence we need to have our best creative ideas.”

Nicole Syverson, a Personal Freedom Coach who assists women with their emotional and sensual liberation, explains:


“Pleasure is a feeling or byproduct of what we’re doing. It can come from traveling, taking a luxurious bath, or giving ourselves a breast massage. Pleasure is a feeling state, a way of being in the world. When women experience pleasure, it creates a sense of safety and security in our nervous systems, and it allows us to be in our feminine essence.”

Sofia Sundari, a transformational leader with a focus on spirituality, relationships, and sexuality writes,


“Pleasure is always here. It is the way the sun is kissing my skin. It is the way the waves are whispering in my ears. It is the way the soft cashmere of my sweater is embracing my body. It is the way my breath is caressing me from inside. It is in how I prioritize myself and do things that are good for my Soul. Every single day. We have to be non-compromising in our commitment to ourselves and our pleasure. And from that--everyone benefits.”


Pleasure has helped me prevent burn-out in difficult times


When I was going through a difficult time in my marriage, spending months and tens of thousands of dollars on therapy (best investment ever!), pleasure was my savior.


I often felt so exhausted from the intense feelings that came up in this brutal process that I could barely focus on my work.


I sat with the deepest grief I’ve ever faced. It took everything to not escape the pain.


But instead of trying to avoid the intense fear and sadness by overeating on sugary treats or trying to regulate the discomfort by pleasing and overriding my boundaries, I let the pain break my heart open, so that love could heal me from within.


In the weeks and months when I felt most down, I was also the least productive.


All I wanted to do then was curl up under the covers and cry. But I had to continue working so I could keep a roof over my head.


These were the moments when pleasure got me through.


On mornings when I felt particularly despondent and covered in brain fog, sensual nourishment became my savior.


Instead of listlessly staring at my computer screen, I would follow the advice of my therapist Aleah Ava --I can't recommend her enough!-- and listen to my body.


I trusted that my female animal knew what I needed.


Sometimes, it was more sleep or gazing out the window watching nature. Other times, it could be a slow morning spent reading a novel with a cup (or two) of hot chocolate in hand. Or, 30 minutes of prayerful Yin Yoga followed by a few rounds of Pranayama.


At first, slowing down wasn’t easy.


My initial default reaction was to override my needs and push through, getting up at 6 am every morning to hit the gym and be at my desk at 9.30 at the latest.


It’s the German drill-sergeant way of performing no matter how I feel. I knew this tactic very well--I grew up with it.


If I don’t work at least 8-9 hours every day, I’m useless. Worthless, even.


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I now know that this is all based on trauma and psychological wounding.


But my body could no longer keep up with this well-guarded routine. I needed a softer, more feminine approach to life and work.


I knew that if I kept on pushing, I would drown.


Whatever my nervous system needed, I would provide.


Surprisingly, following my body’s need for nourishment through sensual pleasure did not make me less productive. On the contrary.


After an hour or two of nursing myself back to life, I would often feel new inspiration, and I could spend an entire afternoon editing a website or writing emails.


This deep listening to my body’s innate wisdom has guided me through.


I was on the brink of burnout several times this year.


I still marvel at how I managed to keep serving my copywriting clients while frequently falling apart on the inside. (Aleah didn’t work at all during the first six months of her own process.)


Doing the opposite of what my sad old conditioning told me feels liberating.


I’m learning a new, softer way of working. Incorporating pleasure into my day helps recharge from the inside.


Pleasure can make you more productive


Once I’d recharged with pleasure, I actually got more done in less time.


Instead of mindlessly scrolling through online shopping sites when I’d lost my focus, I would prioritize spaciousness: a gentle walk in the woods, gazing at the trees changing leaves from my desk window, running my fingers through Hemingway’s soft white fur as he lay purring on the sheepskins covering the kitchen sofa.


It all helped.


Pleasure has not only prevented me from burning out while going through intense therapy and still running my freelance copywriting business--it also makes me happier, more fulfilled, and as a result, more productive.


The Swedish sex toy brand Lelo found this to be true as well. In 2018, they published a comprehensive report exploring how pleasure boosts productivity at work.


Rosanna Spero, the author of The Economy of Orgasms report, said:


“Researching the link between productivity and happiness and then linking this to the effects of an orgasm on our body and brain has been fascinating. When you unpick the figures and discover if we had more of them, the UK’s GDP could rise by as much as £90 billion. It is very rare that something free can be so effective.”

Lelo now gives employees four days a year off for self-pleasure!


How to incorporate more pleasure into your day


Pleasure has the power to boost your happiness and creativity, prevent burnout by nourishing feminine energy, and make you more productive and profitable.


So how can you incorporate more pleasure into your day?


Look for pleasure everywhere. It can be found at almost any moment.


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There are countless sources of pleasure to explore, from extended lovemaking to savoring a delicious meal of creamy pumpkin soup with capers.


It’s all about taking the time to be present with your sensations, fully receiving the gift without rushing on to the next thing in your mind.


I encourage you to explore what brings you the most pleasure.


Write a list of things that bring you pleasure, and incorporate at least one of your list items into your day. On the weekends, you might even take a day (or half-day) to indulge in 3 or more practices from your list.


The point is to nourish your feminine essence with pleasure, so you can feel good, do your best work, and create a life and business you love.


Here are a few examples of things that bring me pleasure.


  • Enjoy slow mornings. Have pleasure-filled mornings that include embodiment (dance, yoga, or light exercise), mindfulness, and beauty. Read poetry, write in your journal, make love, or give yourself a warm oil massage. Go slow and savor that quiet time.


  • Savor delicious food and drinks. Cook meals that delight your senses. And when you sit down to have that hot chocolate, be fully present with the sensations in your body. This is just for you.


  • Listen to your favorite music while working. I put on my noise-canceling headphones before I sit down to write. Often, I pick instrumental music like quiet piano tunes to soothe my nervous system and keep me focused on the task at hand. Sometimes, I play Rhianna and get up to dance if the energy stagnates.


  • Check in with your body. If you’re sitting hunched over, breathing shallow or shoulders bent forward, take a moment to readjust. How can you make yourself more comfortable?


  • Take afternoons off. Or schedule easy tasks... I do all my hardest tasks before lunch because I know that after 2 pm, I lose focus. If you can, take 5-20 mins to lean back in your chair, close your eyes, and doze. It’ll give you more energy than coffee.


  • Explore tactile pleasure. Wrapping yourself in a luxurious cashmere scarf, petting a soft kitten, or running your fingers through your hair. How much pleasure can you experience in your hands?


  • Schedule a self-love day. Take one day a month (or per season) just for you. Do whatever brings you pleasure. Recharge your batteries at a Korean Spa, get a massage, walk on the beach, attend a tantra workshop, practice yoga…


  • Invite spaciousness and stillness. Take a long walk in the middle of your workday, rest on your yoga mat and breathe, or practice Yoga Nidra before going to sleep. Take time to be present with yourself, and notice what’s moving in you.


Turn up your pleasure