Blog Post We are motivated by pain and pleasure

We are motivated by pain and pleasure



We are motivated by pain and pleasure


What are you motivated by? When I ask this question at seminars there are usually five or six things that get mentioned: money, success, power, winning, love and even hate on occasions. Everybody is different and each occasion is different so it’s hard to tie it down to one thing or another. When we explore this issue deeper, however each of the above drivers can be tied down to two things;  The avoidance of pain or desire for pleasure.

Everything we do, we do to gain long or short term pleasure, or to avoid long or short term pain. I will give you some examples and as you are reading through try to fit them to your lifestyle and see how this principle works.

If you have a late night it’s painful to get up at 05:30 the following morning but you do so to avoid the greater pain of being late for work.

It’s painful to train but there is a greater pleasure in staying fit.

It’s a great pleasure to eat chocolates and cream cakes but it may cause you long term pain from being over weight or unhealthy if you do.

You may put off completing your paperwork because it causes you pain, until the deadline when you do them because failure to complete the paperwork will cause greater pain.

When you give of yourself it may cause pain but the pleasure of giving is greater.

Pain and pleasure both for you or for your company are the only true motivators and you can use them to motivate yourself.

If you want to make a decision of any sort you start by preparing yourself for making the decision, defining the objectives and listing the criteria on which the decision is to be taken. Now go back to those three things and consider how the motivators of pain and pleasure can assist in this process.

When you are preparing yourself for making the decision focus your mind in the pain of not making the decision and the pleasure that a correct decision could bring you. When you are defining the objectives and listing the criteria of the decision you will find that they fit into two categories. The reduction of pain or the increase of pleasure.

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decide in scrabble letters

As I said earlier, this pain / pleasure principle works just as well in your company as in your personal life. Company pain could include a reduction of profits, decrease in competitive advantage or loss of a valued employee, while company pleasure could be increase in staff moral, a drop in interest rates or a national industry award.

Having identified the areas of your decision making where this pain /pleasure principle can work, let us consider how it can work in making the decision stick.

Some decisions are tough and they can get tougher before they are through so you may need to keep re-enforcing the reasons why you took the decision in the first place. This is where the principle can help. Be aware of the painful reasons why you took the decision and the pleasure you will receive when the decision works out. When times get tough remind yourself of these things. Write them down if necessary and keep them in your pocket to glance at from time to time. This may sound odd but I can tell you they really work. If you don’t believe me try it for yourself.

This principle can also work in other ways. If you have made a tough decision where you have to stop doing something that really gives you pleasure to make the decision work, like cutting back on your food or giving up smoking, try artificially replacing that pleasure with something that you really like to do. By doing this you effectively reward yourself for sticking to the decision.

This principle of pain and pleasure works in many ways if you put your mind to it and can be useful to motivate yourself to do what ever you set out to do.


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