Silly question, right? Who isn’t? Pleasure eff’ing ROCKS.
Let’s play through a quick little scenario. How many times have you:
Made a decision about what you want your life to look and feel like.
Set a goal designed to get you closer to said ideal life circumstances.
Felt super psyched, focused, and motivated to do the things you need to do to make it happen.
Done the things for a couple of days or weeks.
Decided that it’s too hard, you’re too busy, you’ll start again tomorrow, or [insert self-sabotaging statement here] and reverted back to your old habits.
I’m guessing it’s probably happened more than once, eh? Welcome to the freakin’ club! Member count: the entire world.
This vicious cycle starts for lots of people on January 1st. Great intentions, eyes on the prize, resolve to make changes for real this time, and theeen a slow regression back to the way things were – the status quo, if you will. It’s a comfy place, we’ve been here before – a little spot we can burrow and hide from the discomfort that inevitably comes from making real changes in our lives.
We come up with a bazillion (legit-sounding) reasons why we can’t keep going – we convince ourselves that these reasons are the truth – and most of us never stop to dig down to what’s really creating the roadblock between our actions and our goals.
Why does this same thing happen every time we’re working towards something that would up-level our lives?
Since you know I love simplicity – my absolute favorite way of breaking down what unconsciously happens in brains during this type of goal-reaching traffic jam is from Tony Robbins (to be honest, I’m having a bit of a Tony moment right now, you guys).
At its essence, it’s this: every single thing we do is motivated by our desire to either experience pleasure, or avoid pain.
In this sense, pain can be equated with discomfort – basically, it’s anything that’s not immediately pleasurable. And we’re programmed to avoid pain as a survival instinct, so we come by it honestly.
Also, it’s important to note that every person has their own personal definition of what’s painful and what’s pleasurable, these are formed over a lifetime of having experiences, feeling their outcomes, and registering them deeply in our psyche.
Let’s illustrate the pain and pleasure concept with a goal many people can relate to: getting in shape/losing weight.
You set a goal to change your body, because you believe achieving that goal will make you feel a certain way. Seeking long-term pleasure.
You make it through your first week or two of your new eating plan and/or exercise routine with you eye on the prize. Seeking long-term pleasure.
You start falling off the wagon a little bit – skipping a workout here and there, or eating unhealthy meals – assuring yourself that you’ll get back on track tomorrow. Avoiding short-term pain.
Getting back on track feels too hard. You decide to completely abandon your goal, and justify your decision with a bunch of excuses to help legitimize your decision in your mind. You revert back to the way you were living before. Avoiding short-term pain.
This rollercoaster of action and inaction, motivation and excuses, victories and defeats is all too familiar to most. And you’ll notice in the above, it’s all because of where you’re focusing your energy – either on seeking long-term pleasure (which creates productive actions), or avoiding short-term pain (which creates unproductive actions).
The kicker is that every time we avoid short-term pain, we inevitably experience short-term pleasure – like eating a piece of cake as a snack instead of the apple that was sitting right next to it on the table, or having an extra hour to veg out on the couch because we skipped the gym – so we get an immediate little reward for doing something that’s getting us further away from our goal. But as a result of it, we inevitably experience long-term pain because of our self-sabotaging behaviors.
What we need to remember is this – we don’t abandon our goals because we aren’t able to do the things we need to do to achieve them (we’re fully able) – we abandon our goals because we lose sight of our reason for starting in the first place, we let our motivation get lost in the shuffle of everyday life and old habits and temptations.
And here’s where the secret sauce comes in – in order to keep on keepin’ on when it comes to working towards our goals, we have to flip the freakin’ pleasure/pain script!
This is what Tony calls “leverage” – which means: associating massive pleasure with making those challenging short-term changes, and associating massive pain with not making those challenging short-term changes.
To create long-term, lasting change we need to create entirely new associations and default patterns in our brain.
We need to consciously redefine what pain and pleasure mean to us.
We also need to constantly reinforce the long-term pleasure that we’ll experience from achieving our goal (and all of the small steps in-between).
So, in these new patterns pain is the motivator instead of the detractor – we have to consistently take action and move through the pain to experience pleasure. Now pain is a hurdle we can jump over, instead of a roadblock that stops us in our tracks.
If we view the hurdle as temporary, and something that we can jump over – we’ll experience pleasure as soon as we have the courage to make the leap. And if we decide to look at the hurdle as permanent, and something that stops us in our tracks – we’ll stop in front of it instead of jumping over it – and we’ll experience pain.
Each painful leap we take to get closer to our goals = MASSIVE PLEASURE. How fun does that make the goal-achieving process? If we do this consistently – we actually create new neural pathways in our brain that make us default to moving through uncomfortable situations, because we know the reward is always on the other side of them.
Tony gives three different types of questions to help work through this principle – a little self-coaching, if you will (some examples below):
- What will this cost you / the people you love?
- How has this cost you in the past?
Questions that identify inconsistencies in what’s important to you:
- How is snacking on cake instead of apples keeping you from overcoming your autoimmune issues / feeling your best / shying away from romantic relationships / etc.?
- How can snacking on cake make you feel good when you fall into a shame spiral as soon as you’re done eating it?
- If you change this now, how will your life improve? What will you gain?
- What will it mean for the people you love?
Before I go – one last thing on goal setting – make sure that you always create your goals from a place of LOVE vs. a place of FEAR. It’s the only way they’ll be achievable, and frankly, the only way they’ll be worth achieving.
So, if you want to lose weight/get in shape, create that goal because you freakin’ LOVE yourself and you want to feel your absolute best – and because you want to treat your body like the temple that it is so it can carry you healthfully and comfortably through life. That’s a goal with SOUL, and the soul is strong.
Don’t create that goal because you think your cellulite looks gross, or because that extra few inches around your belly doesn’t look like the chicks in the magazines, i.e. from a place of FEAR. That’s a goal with EGO, and the ego is incredibly fragile.
If your goal isn’t rooted in love and pleasure from the start, there’s no point in taking any action towards it – because the long-term pleasure just isn’t going to be real for you. Your soul can carry you through the painful times, but your ego is going to hop the first bus outta town, leaving you abandoned on the side of the road.
If you’re making decisions based on fear – you first need to address where those thoughts and motivations are stemming from, and address your limiting beliefs about yourself from the source.
Then find a way to reframe them lovingly, in a way that resonates with your soul deep down.
That’s when your goals become non-negotiable, and the pain is simply a hurdle in the road. Soon you’ll be an Olympic-level hurdler on a mission to get that gold.