The Pleasure – Pain Principle and the Real Reason Nothing Changes in Our Lives


The pleasure – pain principle is simply that humans recoil from pain and run toward pleasure. That makes sense obviously. This principle is the primary reason we don’t work on our behaviors that we know we need in order to improve ourselves in all areas of life from weight loss, relationships, work, even our prayer life. The rewards of making a behavioral change are way, way, WAY out in the future while the implementation of the change in behavior causes an immediate disruption to our lives in the form of discomfort to our comfortable routine and the real possibility of “blood, sweat and tears”. The effect is the same whether we’re trying to implement an annual strategic plan in our business or eliminating donuts from our diet. The plan sits on the shelf in the office and the car automatically pulls into a donut shop. This happens day after day, which turns into weeks, months, and years.

Want to Reach Any Goal?

We must first change our lifestyle and daily habits that keep us from reaching that goal. That requires courage, discipline, grit, and determination

We humans are not very good at self-improvement. It’s why the personal development is a multi-billion dollar industry ($9.6 billion by one estimate) fueled by our very human pattern of “try it a little bit, succumb to temptation, give up”. Then sometime in the future get annoyed, tell self “I can do this” and repeat the cycle.

Break The Cycle

If we are not willing to make the changes to our life, to our business, to our faith life that a specific goal requires then its relative importance in your life is irrelevant. Sometimes life itself can help you out by introducing scenarios that make the pain of keeping the status-quo greater than making a permanent and needed change in your life. Most often that’s not the case and we float along in life. Only a dead fish goes with the flow.

  1.  A goal has to be relevant, it has to be important to you. If it’s a business goal, it has to be communicated in a way that it becomes important to your employees too. If you are unwilling to pay the price for achieving excellence don’t mislead those around you including lying to yourself with superfluous demoralizing attempts to convince anyone that you are really committed to pursue and achieve your goal when, deep down inside, you are not. Start with being brutally honest with yourself.
  2. Decided what changes need to be made in yourself or in your business to achieve your goals. Recognize upfront that it’s going to be a slug-fest. Make the change in incremental, small steps toward the goal. A person can’t wake up one day and decide to run a marathon that same day. It takes training and time. As in all new ventures – the mantra should be first crawl, then walk, then jog, then run.
  3. Make your goal public. The best way to cheat and move the goal posts is to not tell anyone your goals. If you are accountable to just yourself, you are accountable to no one. Find an accountability partner. Allow them to communicate the truth to you when you are cutting yourself a break.
  4. Don’t set a goal then establish other goals, behaviors or rules that are contrary to achieving it.
  5. Ask yourself periodically, “Am I in it for the long-haul and why?”


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