How to Use Pain & Pleasure To Ignite Your Motivation


Many people think that motivation is external.

They think that motivation is getting hyped up by some passionate speakers who yell quotes at you. They think that motivation happens when you are scolded by the basketball coach and get punished by the daredevil trainer. They think that motivation is an elusive magical phenomenon that happens automatically to them.

While motivation can come from the outside, a much stronger form of motivation comes when it’s generated from within.

One of the most effective ways to be self-motivated is to utilize the power of pain & pleasure.

Nearly everything we do in our lives is driven by our fundamental need to avoid pain and our desire to gain pleasure.

If we try to touch the boiling kettle, we will get burned and the pain will teach us not to touch it again. On the other hand, if we get good academic results and earn recognition from our parents, teachers and friends, we will feel awesome and want that experience again.

However, these controlling forces are not created equal.

We humans have a loss aversion bias where we have twice as much tendency to avoid losses than to acquire gains. This is why most people prefer to settle for an average mediocre life instead of proactively creating a wonderful life.

They’d rather stay in a painful, unhealthy, unfulfilling relationship than to break up with someone and seek a new partner.

They’d rather not lose $100 they already have than to take calculated risks to gain an additional $100.

They’d rather continue to be overweight for the rest of their lives rather than “losing” their excess fat that’s killing their health.

Knowing this interesting psychological phenomenon, how should you motivate yourself to overcome painful challenges?

#1 Realize What’s Stopping You

Whenever you procrastinate, you are associating that the pain of taking action is greater than the pain of doing nothing.

So go figure out what’s the short-term pain you’re trying to avoid?

Is it the pain of boredom? Is it the pain of having to research how to do certain things? Is it the pain of mundane repetitive work you don’t like?

On the other hand, figure out what’s the short-term pleasure you’re gaining when you procrastinate.

Is it the dopamine spike when you watch funny YouTube videos? Is it the validation you gain when you reply WhatsApp messages? Is it the colorful sweet strawberry cheesecake ice-cream that gives you a sugar high?

#2 Flip The Motivational Switch

Wherever your focus goes, energy flows. Your reality is based on where you put your focus on.

Thus, if you want that motivation to take action again, you must focus your attention on:

  • How not taking action will be more painful than taking action in the long-term AND
  • How taking action will bring you more, bigger, greater pleasure in the long-term

If you take action to do the work right now, how much more money, control and freedom can you enjoy to do whatever you want?

If you take action and say hi to that woman right now, how much more likely you’re not going to spend another lonely, boring, isolated Friday night watching Netflix?

If you take action and just pick up your sneakers and go for a 20 mins walk, how much more likely you’re going to lose that belly fat that’s killing every organ in your body?

Controlling your attention is one of the fundamentals of gaining control of your life. To change your behaviors, you must learn how to use pain and pleasure to your advantage.

Next time you need to summon your motivation, start linking taking action with the long-term pleasure while amplifying the long-term pain with inaction.

Master this skill and start dominating your day!