Is this really the kind of life you want? Or do you dream of something better?
What is preventing you from achieving your dream goals and feeling successful and fulfilled?
Anthony Robbins says that the secret to success is learning how to use pain and pleasure, instead of having pain and pleasure use you.
How can we use the pain-pleasure principle to transform stress and challenges into wellbeing, growth, and happiness?
Believe it or not, the pain-pleasure principle lies at the core of everything we do and of how we show up in life. Our beliefs, values and psychological rules are all built upon this principle. The decisions we make, the actions we take, and the habits we indulge in, are all based on this principle. In fact, every part of our psyche is influenced in some way by the pain-pleasure principle.
Before every decision we make, we unconsciously ask ourselves a question: “Will this decision lead to pain or pleasure?” The decision we choose to make will depend on how we interpret pain and pleasure in our life and on how we interpret pain and pleasure depends on our past experiences of pain and pleasure.
You are who you are today because of how you have interpreted and acted upon the experience of pain and pleasure in your life and the decisions you made based on that. Over the years you have had a variety of personal experiences that have touched your life. Some of these experiences have been painful and have consequently led to the emotions of anger, hurt, stress, anxiety, overwhelm, frustration, depression. Other experiences have been pleasurable and have consequently led to the emotions of happiness, joy, enthusiasm, curiosity, love, gratitude, excitement.
Emotions are neither good nor bad; they are neither harmful nor helpful. They are what they are as a result of how you interpreted these experiences at the time. Therefore your experiences of pain and pleasure are nothing more than personal interpretations based on your perspectives at the time.
All of these experiences you have had come in the form of memories that you store in your brain. The memories you have collected come through your five senses and get processed by your brain at a cognitive level and at a subconscious level. When similar memories are collected about certain things, that is when patterns and beliefs start to form. Then as more and more memories are collected about something over time, the stronger the beliefs. As beliefs take shape, they begin to guide every decision you make and the actions you take. Furthermore, these beliefs influence your values, your sense of self, your psychological reactions and your subconscious ones.
These memories you collect come in the form of pain and pleasure experiences. Some of them are taken from the real world, while others are created in your imagination based on the emotional story you attached to the experience. As a result of these emotional experiences, you subsequently learn more about what brings you pain and what brings you pleasure. And these are the factors that influence literally every decision you make throughout the day.
Whether you are consciously aware of it or not, you make these pleasure-pain decisions every single day without even realizing it. They are a part of you, they are a part of your life. The pain-pleasure principle creates the foundations of your motivation and is a fundamental part of your decision-making process.
Understanding this principle will help you develop what I call the superpower of grit. Grit is the attitude you use to commit yourself to your goals with passion and perseverance. Grit is the superpower that will support you in attaining your goals and build your rock-solid habits of wellbeing.
How can you use the pain-pleasure principle to grow grit and hack it for your personal growth?
It’s intuitive that human nature is to gravitate towards pleasure and to seek to avoid pain. In other words, you will make most of your decisions based on acquiring pleasure while at the same time trying to avoiding pain. This works well at times, however, at other times, it will actually work against the goals and objectives you are trying to achieve.
Let’s take an example. You might, for instance, have a goal that you would like to achieve. However, in order to achieve this goal that will bring you a great deal of pleasure, you will need to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable — something that leads to the experience of pain. You think about the decision for a moment and weigh the consequences of taking and of not taking action.
In this particular instance let’s say that you decide to forgo your goal for the time being. You make this decision based on the intensity of the pain that you are likely to experience while pursuing this goal. In this case, the pain of undertaking a specific task required to achieve this goal is far stronger than the pleasure you would experience by achieving your goal and you are simply not willing to go through the pain in order to attain your goal. As a result, you might fall into two possible traps:
The trap of procrastination where you put off doing your goal for another day or more or possibly forever.
The trap of instant gratification where you will choose to indulge in something pleasurable in the short-term in order to avoid short-term pain or because the experience of long-term pleasure just isn’t motivating enough to influence your decision-making process.
I always use the example of dieting to explain the concept of instant gratification. Let’s say that you want to lose weight to feel better and healthier and to obtain this goal you will need to be on a diet plan. You start the diet and after day 10 you just can’t resist the urge of the temptations hiding in your pantry, and you decide to indulge yourself by scoffing down a packet of chips or that ice-cream in the freezer. In this scenario, you chose short-term pleasure because the pain of going through another 20 days of this diet was just too unbearable.
On the contrary, to develop grit and rise up and create an extraordinary life filled with meaning you will need to grow and practice the habit of delayed gratification.
The power of delayed gratification
Delayed gratification is a habit where you forgo short-term pleasure in order to gain significant long-term pleasure and future rewards. In other words, you ward off short-term temptations that might distract you from your long-term goals and instead focus on what you need to do to achieve your desired goal.
This might, of course, result in short-term pain. However, this pain is only temporary and necessary as it helps you get to your ultimate destination.
Getting into the habit of delaying gratification gives you more control over your life, decisions, and actions. The act of delaying gratification helps to strengthen your mind and shape your self-control and willpower skills. This is the one habit that determines how successful you will become and how much you will ultimately achieve.
Any type of change you make in your life requires you to do certain things. Most of the great achievements in life require one thing: Practice practice practice.
This means stop thinking about the things that you want to change in your life because there is no way you’re going to get there by dreaming about it.
Instead, commit to working towards a specific result or a specific outcome.
That means building a series of steps that you will live your life by, day in and day out, on your journey towards your goal. Or better said with the words of the actor, martial artist and great philosopher Bruce Lee “Fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times”.
As you take these steps, day after day, you will continue to get better and grow.
In her book, Grit, my brilliant colleague Angela Duckworth, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, who studied grit in thousands of different contexts, showed that the secret to outstanding growth and achievement is based on cultivating tenacity, a positive state of mind of continuously looking forward and wanting to grow and do better.
In her book, she talks about a specific type of practice called deliberate practice.
Deliberate practice is how experts practice. There are 4 basic requirements for deliberate practice. Each of them by itself is unremarkable, but using them together will be what makes the difference.
Step 1 is to clearly define a stretch goal, meaning that you need to focus on improving something in your life that is a challenge for you, or that represents a weakness, your Achille’s heel that needs problem-solving.
Step 2 is full concentration. That means putting forth an effort in an undivided and intentional amount of time per day, every day.
Step 3 is immediate and informative feedback. In order to grow, you will need to reflect on yourself or ask someone who is helping you in your training. To avoid falling into the instant gratification trap, it’s paramount that you build a strong support network. That means asking yourself or your mentor or your expert companion that supports you through your change “what did I do wrong that I can fix next time I practice?” or “what can I improve?” Doing this consistently and thoughtfully will allow you to make adjustments daily, which will speed up your growth.
Step 4: Start all over again with a new stretch goal followed by reflection and refinement. The change you just achieved helped you clarify your limits and what kind of resources you might need on your journey so write these lessons down, set clear boundaries in your next endeavor and start all over again! We never cease to evolve and grow!
What is the personal growth goal that you want to achieve?
You may want to stop reacting with anger when someone irritates you because you believe in kindness. It could be that – like me – you want to learn to stop your mind from ruminating when you are anxious. It could be that you want to stop the feelings of jealousy towards your loved one because you want to trust more. Your goal might be self-healing and self-compassion. You might want to learn how to tune into your intuition, your gut feelings and becoming aware of your body’s signals. Or maybe your goal is to stop being lazy and procrastinating because you want a more productive and dynamic life.
It is very important to be very specific and crystal clear about your goal.
What do you want to experience in your life?
What is the area or areas that you want to grow in your life?
What is the contribution, the impact that you want to bring into the world with your life?
How are these experiences going to change who you are and
who do you need to become to reach those goals?
Look in your heart and be honest with yourself. Remember that true meaning fuels consistency and persistence.
Your meaning is very important because if you know exactly what you want to prioritize in your life, you are going to be able to overcome obstacles when things get tough.
You will be able to maximize the amount of your limited willpower.
The key point is to start doing. You need to start physically moving in the direction of your growth. By doing so, you are going to unlock a reserve of energy that you have never experienced before and you will gain momentum and confidence and discover strengths and powers you never knew you had.
You need to take full responsibility for the well-being that you experience (or don’t) in your life and for the quality of your life.
You need to start taking care of yourself as the adult person that you are and stop blaming others, your parents, your kids, and your partner or your boss and what happened in your past or what’s happening at work, for the stress in your life… you need to stop giving up your power to others.
We all get the same 24 hours in a day and you are in charge of your life and only you have the power to take care of yourself.
Finally, take the time to reward yourself for your tiniest little progress. And remember that you have the power to harness growth, health, and happiness to become your most glorious self!