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Pain vs. Pleasure: What You Need To Know For Success

When all is said and done, every single one of us has unique factors that motivate us or put us off. In your quest for peak performance, it helps to know what your unique “buttons” are and how they can be tapped for your own benefit. Cue in, the pain vs. pleasure principle. What is it and how can you tap it to supercharge your progress?

To understand the pain vs. pleasure principle, let us look at the key rules that underpin this principle, and then we will explore how you can leverage this principle to become unstoppable.

#1: Everything we do touches on avoiding pain or seeking pleasure

Every human action ultimately boils down to either avoiding pain or seeking pleasure. It is that simple. You go to the gym to avoid the pain of being unfit and sluggish or with low energy levels. Or you do it to experience the pleasure of looking great.

Or, you work hard to meet your sales targets in order to enjoy the sales commissions that will come your way, or to avoid the pain of potentially being fired for not meeting your targets (or the pain of not being able to pay your bills at the end of the month). It is all about seeking pleasure or avoiding pain. Period!

#2: We are more likely to overexert in order to avoid pain than overexert to get pleasure

Now this is an interesting one, and a major insight. From time immemorial, humans have been hardwired to go all the way (do everything possible) to avoid pain, but not exert the same effort in seeking pleasure. It is in our DNA.

Think about it this way. Our ancestors had to be alert to the risk of being mauled by a wild animal, so their psyche was hardwired to enable them to quickly flee or make a bold stand against whichever animal was threatening their safety. This is the instinct to survive, often called the fight or flight instinct.

Today, you are unlikely to suddenly come face to face with a raging lion or spitting cobra as you turn the corner on the next block, but this aversion to pain is still strong. Think about this; if there is a bag full of money in front of you and a tiger prowls towards that bag, would you be more motivated to snatch the bag (pleasure-seeking) or flee the scene as quickly as you can (pain avoidance)? The answer is obvious, isn’t it? Pain avoidance is a stronger motivator than seeking pleasure.

#3: Time is paramount in pain vs. pleasure

Time plays a major modulating factor in our perception of pain or pleasure, and the actions we take thereafter. In order to survive, we are wired to prioritize taking steps to avoid immediate danger/pain (running away from the saber-toothed tiger, for example). In the same vein, immediate pleasure will most certainly triumph over future pleasure.

This is why people seek immediate gratification, and many find it hard to save for their retirement (that pleasure in the distant future isn’t as appealing as the immediate gratification from a wild night out!)

#4: Emotion is king on matters of pain vs. pleasure

This rule stipulates that our emotions will always exert a stronger influence than our logic when decisions involving pain or pleasure have to be made.

For example, if you are on a 20-day diet to lose some weight and you see tantalizing cookies in the pantry on Day 8 of your diet, logic will tell you to stay clear of the cookies, but your taste buds and desire to enjoy “just one cookie” will throw logic aside. And that is how your good intentions will fall by the wayside due to the emotions driving you to seek immediate gratification.

#5: Your perception/awareness of pain or pleasure is your reality

You see, we don’t always make decisions based on concrete, verifiable facts. Many times, we predict or forecast what could happen, and this informs the decisions we make. Those perceptions take on the force of fact in our mind.

This can be good or work against us. For example, if your first date went horribly, you tend to perceive dating in bad light, and that can hold you back from meeting great people.

Think about perceptions of pain vs. pleasure. The same hold true. We will treat as real our perceptions of impending danger or anticipated pleasure, and our decisions will be made accordingly.

How to Use Pain vs. Pleasure to Your Advantage

As you may have noticed from the discussion above, avoiding pain tends to be a more powerful motivator compared to seeking pleasure, at least most of the time. This isn’t to say that seeking pleasure isn’t a strong motivator; it is, and we want to exploit both forces to our advantage. How? Glad you asked!

First, set a goal you would like to accomplish, say improving your public-speaking skills. We know lots of Americans struggle with this, don’t we?

Next, work out your WHY for desiring to achieve that goal. This is where we want to bring pain avoidance into the picture, and your emotions too. Think back five years; what has your inability to speak to groups cost you? How have those lost opportunities made you feel? What did you recently miss out on due to your fear of public speaking? How do you feel about yourself as a result of knowing you have this shortcoming that seems to be ruling over your life? Next, project 5-10 years from now and write down what you stand to lose, how terrible you will feel, and so on.

In the questions above, we wanted you to get all the painful reasons why you should act NOW to change the status quo. Next, let’s get the pleasure in as well. Can you imagine how your career, business, relationships, self-esteem, and so on will improve once you become a competent public speaker? List down how much transformation you will enjoy in your life.

Do you see how this method can energize you to take the needed action steps to attain your goal? We started by triggering your desire to avoid pain, and you were (hopefully) fired up. Then, we introduced “the carrot” to motivate you further that pleasure awaits you along the journey to attaining your goal. And that is a practical way to use the pain vs. pleasure principle to supercharge your progress.

Marketers or salespersons use this all the time. They emphasize your pain points, and then dangle a solution that will make your pain go away, thereby bringing pleasure into your life. It works, which is why it is used all the time.

Starting today, use this same approach to become unstoppable in all spheres of your life. You have been given the keys; will you take and use them?