The pain and pleasure cycles of your life

-A A +A

 By Linda Arnold


Have you heard of the pain/pleasure principle?

Research shows it lies at the core of everything you do. The decisions you make —  and the actions you take — are all based on this principle, whether you’re consciously aware of it or not.

It’s human nature to gravitate towards pleasure and away from pain. Well, duh …

There are layers of complexity to this, though. Before every decision you unconsciously ask yourself:

·      What does this mean?

·      Will it lead to pain or pleasure?

·      What should I do about it?

Over the years you’ve had a variety of experiences. Some have been painful and led to the emotions of anger, hurt, stress, anxiety and depression. Other experiences induce pleasurable emotions of joy, enthusiasm, curiosity, excitement and love. These experiences represent your filter.

Researchers at the IQ Matrix organization (iqmatrix.com) work with consumers to do mind mapping and provide resources for working through obstacles to achieve goals. According to Adam Sicinski, author of “How to Use the Pain and Pleasure Principle to Achieve a Goal,” all your decisions lead to one or more of the following:

·      Short-term pain

·      Short-term pleasure

·      Long-term pain

·      Long-term pleasure


Staying the course

Let’s say you have a weight-loss goal. Reaching this goal will bring you long-term pleasure because you will feel better, look better and have more energy. However, getting to this point won’t be easy, and you’ll need to go through a lot of short-term pain.

So, you have the tug of the long-term goal of weight loss vs. the temptation of the short-term pull of chocolate and potato chips. While the long-term goal is a pleasurable one, it’s a painful experience in the short term. That’s why the chips and chocolate often win out — at least temporarily.


Trick or treat: The key

Now hear this: The trick is to associate pain to NOT DOING what you need to do — and pleasure to DOING what you need to do. So, lifting those weights or walking those miles actually begin to feel pleasurable over time, rather than just representing a means to an end.




Procrastination is when you associate pain to doing something. You likely associate more pleasure to watching TV or surfing social media than cleaning out the closet or organizing the garage. The only problem with this is you don’t make progress toward your goals — and then you end up with pain.

So, you need to begin to associate pain with sitting around watching TV — and pleasure to the action steps associated with your goal. While this is easier said than done, it can open a whole new way of looking at your world.


Instant gratification

On the flipside, there’s a good chance you’ll fall into the instant gratification trap. This is where short-term pleasure has more influence on your decision-making process than long-term pleasure or short-term pain.

That’s why it’s so important to keep images of your long-term goals all around you — pictures, vision boards, etc. Your brain thinks in pictures.

Set up your support system before you launch headlong into lofty goals:

·      Put some short-term pleasure in the mix.

·      Give yourself little rewards along the way.

·      Plan for setbacks — and then get back up on that diving board.

It all comes down to how much pain and pleasure you associate to achieving — and not achieving — your goals. And not beating yourself up repeatedly.


Setups for success

Your behaviors didn’t fall into place overnight, and they can’t be flipped like a light switch. Preparing for change is a critical part of the process, according to author Sicinski. Take some time to ask yourself:

·      What limiting habits are holding me back?

·      What emotions or beliefs are tied to these behaviors?

·      What patterns pop up?

·      When did this behavior originate in my life?

·      Why am I letting it continue?

·      What is this costing me — physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually or financially?

·      What am I missing out on by continuing this behavior?

·      How has this behavior sabotaged me over and over again?

·      How has this affected my relationships – and my state of mind?

·      What are five challenges I face with pulling this off?

·      What beliefs and habits do I need to let go?

·      What resources do I need?

·      What — and who — are my support systems?

·      How can I make this a priority?

·      What regrets will I have over the next five years if I continue down this path?


Defining yourself

After digging deep, “try on” a new thought process:

·      My new behavior is …

·      How do I feel — physically, mentally and emotionally?

·      How do I think about myself?

·      How do I act around others?

·      How has this change positively affected other areas of my life?


A new direction

Over time you can begin to “anchor in” new approaches to your challenges. These checklists can be used time and time again to set your compass.

It all depends on where you want to go in your life — and what you’re willing to do to get there.


©2017, “Linda Arnold Living Well,” all rights reserved.

Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a syndicated columnist, author and speaker with a home in Ocean Isle Beach. For more information on her books from the Live Life Fully collection, go to lindaarnold.org or amazon.com. Reader comments are welcome at linda@lindaarnold.org.