What drives our decisions and actions?


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To quote Anthony Robbins, “Everything we do in life can be attributed to two things; to avoid pain or to gain pleasure.”  Is it really that simple? In my opinion, yes it is!

If you think about it, even the most minor or mundane things that you do in your life fall into these two actions.  You wake up in the morning and brush your teeth, why? To avoid the pain of cavities and going to the dentist, or perhaps to gain the pleasure of having clean teeth and fresh breathe.  You go to work every day, why? To gain the pleasure of having money, or perhaps you get a lot of satisfaction from your job, or is it because you want to avoid the pain of not having money to meet your needs?

So why is this thought process important?

Well, for starters, many people procrastinate in life and taking the task at hand and putting it into these two categories can help you in breaking the procrastination cycle.  For example, lets say you have a project due by this Friday and today is Monday.  You know you have to finish the project but knowing you have 4 days ahead of you, it is easy to put it off until tomorrow or the next day.  You need to evaluate which internal power is stronger; gaining pleasure or avoiding pain.

Lets break it down

To Gain Pleasure… Think about what pleasure you can get from finishing the project early. First, getting it done will relax you and take that nagging feeling away from the back of your mind, that elephant will be off your back.  You will also have the rest of the week to work on other projects that interest you.  Or maybe you can take a day off or just simply not be as stressed for the rest of the week.  Your boss, co-workers, and/or client might be impressed that you finished early, and a compliment from another person is always a form of pleasure.  And don’t forget about the personal satisfaction that you get from completing a task.

To Avoid Pain… Think about the pain involved in waiting until the last minute to get that project done.  You will have that nagging pain in the back of your mind, which will make it hard to concentrate on other things that you want/need to do because this project is not complete.  Maybe waiting until the last minute leaves you with no (or little) time to make changes or adjustments to make your company/client happy. And then there always the possibility of something happening out of your control that will make it next to impossible to complete, like getting sick or a storm that causes you to lose power. And ultimately there is the pain which would come from you losing the job or client if you cannot come through on time.

So what do you do?

I cannot tell you what to do.  You have to weight these pain/pleasure emotions in your mind and decide which one has more influence. I can say that from my personal experience, I love the pleasure that comes from not having something undone and weighing on my mind.   Either way there are a consequence to both, however, there is definitely less pain associated with the consequences of getting the project or task done sooner than later.

As you move through life and are faced with major or important decision and tasks, you might find thinking about the principals of pain versus pleasure will help you come to a decision faster and will make you more productive in all areas of your life.

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