Everyone has the power to choose. 99% of what happens in our life can be traced back to some kind of decision we’ve made.
Almost all the choices we make in our daily life are influenced by two powerful forces. These forces are the reason some of us procrastinate, sleep in, overeat, don’t exercise, overwork, etc.
What drives those decisions?
Every choice we make in life is either done in order to experience pleasure or in order to avoid pain and discomfort.
We procrastinate in order to avoid the pain of having to do a certain task.
We overeat in order to satisfy the pleasure our taste buds and brain seek.
We hit the snooze button in order to avoid the pain of getting up and starting the day.
We overwork out of fear of possibly getting fired and not having money.
The decision for either pain or pleasure is a response to our perception of where the action will lead.
Most of this happens subconsciously.
Knowing how to use pain and pleasure to your advantage can have a dramatic influence on your health, your relationships, your work and your passions.
Willpower and logic will sometimes try to step in and take part in the decision making process, but it’s often short lived. Here are a few examples:
Almost every cigarette smoker knows that smoking is a bad habit. His logical mind knows he’s better off without it. A non smoker can’t understand why people smoke because just the thought of smoking creates discomfort (pain) to them. The smoker on the other hand has anchored deep emotional attachments to the activity. More specifically, he’s associated smoking with pleasure and quitting with pain.
The only way to change is to reverse the anchor. Anchor pain to habit and pleasure to quitting. Now, to be fair there are other steps a smoker would need to take in order to help better his chance of quitting, but I believe starting with the emotional re-conditioning of the mind is the first step.
Another example: Suppose you had a long day at work and you didn’t get a chance to eat all day. You’re starving! You get home and there is a plate full of warm chocolate chip cookies (replace this with your favorite treat if cookies are not your thing). You tell yourself you’re on a diet and won’t do it (logic and willpower in action), you open the refrigerator to look for something healthier, but you can’t get the cookies off your mind. A minute later, you find yourself scarfing down three gigantic cookies!
Pleasure seeking moments come from previous conditioning. If you love cookies, it’s because you’ve had them before and it gives you pleasure. Pretty straightforward–you’ve associated strong pleasure feelings with it.
When that happens, there is massive focus on the cookies until you eat them. Whatever you focus on, expands!
In order to begin to change your habits, you have to be aware of where you’re attaching your emotions and your focus. You have to find out why you’re reaching for that wine at the end of the day. Or why you’re eating that bacon cheeseburger and fries during lunch.
Sometimes pleasure won’t get us to our goals, yet sometimes they do. Take for example nutrition –if you’re able to find healthy foods that you’re able to eat consistently, you’ll make the process of shifting your emotional anchors a lot easier.
Most of the time, the feeling of guilt (pain) soon follows those weak moments. So, what if you could reverse and shift your focus towards the future? Imagine how you’d feel eating the salad or having some bubbly water with lemon instead of the wine.
A small mindshift can help you take control of your emotions and generate significant positive outcomes.
Here’s a true fact–nobody likes to exercise. It’s true–physiologically, exercise is very stressful on the body. Cortisol levels rise up, adrenaline shoots up, blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and your temperature also start to rise. Your body is constantly trying to get it back to homeostasis mode (normal functions), and back to comfort. This is one of the many reasons exercise is also amazing for you—it actually trains your body to better handle stress!
The after effect of exercise is what people become addicted to. They are after the serotonin, dopamine and other positive hormones that you get after exercise. The sense of accomplishment also inspires them to keep doing it. Momentum creates motivation.
The biggest difference in those people that are able to maintain an exercise program and those that don’t is the simple fact that people that are consistent with exercise have linked pleasure with the after effect of exercise. They focus on the end results. For many of us that have been exercising all our lives, this happens subconsciously.
Those that can’t keep a regular regimen have linked pain to the exercise and haven’t been able to “see ahead” to the pleasure.
Whatever you focus on is what you get. Where focus goes, energy flows.
Focus on the end product, the results (the pleasure) and you’ll be able to go through a little “pain” to get there. Focus only on the pain and you won’t move.
Also, the more emotionally compelling your end product or vision is, the higher the chances of you staying focused on it. Getting in shape in order to get “bikini ready” for a vacation is not as compelling as getting in shape in order to keep up with your kids (or grandkids). There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose a few pounds and look good in your swimsuit—just make sure you do it for the long term reasons.
Create a mindshift and learn to focus on what you ultimately want. Don’t sacrifice a little pain for a temporary pleasure that will only create more pain in the near future.
Now, let me ask you–what are some habits you’d like to change? Stop to think about why you’re not making it happen. Are you linking pain or pleasure to the process?