How To Find Activities You Enjoy With a Pleasure-Predicting Sheet



“Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.” — Hebbel

We’re not very good at predicting which activities will bring us pleasure and which ones won’t.

A tool to help identify activities we truly enjoy is the Pleasure-Predicting Sheet.

This can help us defeat “Do Nothingism” or when we get stuck in a rut.

Record Your Expected Pleasure Against Your Actual Pleasure

The Pleasure Predicting Sheet helps us test our beliefs that some activities will be boring or not worth doing, when in fact, they might turn out to be a surprising source of enjoyment, satisfaction, or pleasure.

The Pleasure-Predicting Sheet is a technique you can use to reveal how much you actually enjoy the activities that you do.  It works by recording your estimated expected pleasure against your actual pleasure.

Test Your Belief that There’s No Point in Doing Anything

You schedule a set of activities that contain a potential for personal growth or satisfaction. You do some of them by yourself and some with others. You predict your pleasure before the activities, and then record the actual results, after the events.

In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, David Burns writes about a technique for testing your belief that there is no point in doing anything. It’s a Pleasure-Predicting Sheet.

Overview of the Pleasure-Predicting Sheet

Here are are the keys to the Pleasure-Predicting Sheet:

  • Identify the activities to do for pleasure.  This is where you simply identify what you’ll be doing for pleasure.
  • Predict your satisfaction.  The key so the process is predicting what will bring you the most pleasure.
  • Evaluate your actual satisfaction.  When you assess your actual satisfaction, you get feedback on how well you’re predicting what will make you happy or bring you pleasure.

Summary of Steps

According to Burns, you can use the following steps to create a Pleasure-Predicting Sheet:

  • Step 1. Create the Pleasure Predicting Sheet.
  • Step 2. Write down your pleasure activities.
  • Step 3. Predict your satisfaction.
  • Step 4. Record your actual satisfaction.

Step 1. Create the Pleasure Predicting Sheet.

According to Burns, to create the Pleasure Predicting Sheet:

  1. Draw four lines down the center of a piece of paper to divide it into five columns.
  2. Label the columns: Data, Activity for Satisfaction, Who You Did This With, Predicted Satisfaction (0-100%), Actual Satisfaction(0-100%)

Step 2. Write down your pleasure activities.

According to Burns, write down the activities, the date, and who you will do them with. If alone, then specify self.

Step 3. Predict your satisfaction.

According to Burns, write down your prediction of how much satisfaction you’ll get on a scale from 0 to 100%.

Step 4. Record your actual satisfaction.

According to Burns, after you perform the activities, write down your actual satisfaction.

Example Pleasure-Predicting Sheet

Burns include an example Pleasure-Predicting Sheet:

Date Activity for Satisfaction Who You Did This With Predicted Satisfaction(0-100%) Actual Satisfaction(0-100%)
8/2/99 Reading (1 hour) self 50% 60%
8/3/99 Dinner + bar w/Ben Ben 80% 90%
8/4/99 Susan’s party self 80% 85%
8/5/99 N.Y.C. and Aunt Helen parents and grandma 40% 30%
8/5/99 Nancy’s House Nancy and Joelle 75% 65%
8/6/99 Dinner at Nancy’s 12 people 60% 80%
9/6/99 Lucy’s party Lucy + 5 people 70% 70%
8/7/99 Jogging self 60% 90%
8/8/99 Theater Luci 80% 70%
8/9/99 Harry’s Harry, Jack, Ben and Jim 60% 85%
8/10/99 Jogging self 70% 80%
8/10/99 Phillies game. Dad 50% 70%
8/11/99 Dinner. Susan and Ben 70% 70%
8/12/99 Art museum self 60% 70%
8/12/99 Peabody’s Fred 80% 85%
8/13/99 Jogging self 70% 80%


What I like most about this technique is it’s test-driven. By recording your expected pleasure against your results, you get a quick reality check of potentially self-limiting behavior or thoughts.

It’s one thing to think you will or won’t enjoy something. It’s another thing to take action and measure the results.

Maybe some of the things you think “should” bring you pleasure, actually don’t. On the other hand, maybe some of the things you think you won’t enjoy as much, bring you more satisfaction than you expected.

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