If you break motivation down into it’s simplest form, we are motivated to either seek pleasure or avoid pain. Now I know many of you are rejecting that, saying that you are much more complex than that but stick with me for a minute. Pleasure can include everything from a taste of a delicious juicy hamburger with tempura fried bacon on it (yes, tempura fried bacon exists, I’ve had it and I’m obsessed) to love. Pleasure includes security and peace. Pleasure can also include spirituality. Pain on the other hand isn’t just limited to physical pain. It can include fear, embarrassment, social rejection, insecurity, hungry, loneliness, etc. The list can go on quite a while.
Unfortunately, the world isn’t so simple as that. How do you stack up pleasure that will happen six months from now vs. pain happening today, for example dieting and exercising for six months so that you can look good for the upcoming high school reunion? How do trade off one pain vs. another, for example my back hurts right now and I know 30 minutes of stretching will help…..but I don’t really like the stretching either? How do you exchange one pleasure for one pain, for example spending on a big celebration when money is tight?
It is ok to allow our subconsciousness to handle these decisions of which pleasure to seek and which pain to avoid as long as we are ok with the outcomes. Really, your subconscious is making hundreds of decisions a day and you don’t want to get stuck in trying to analyze each and everyone. When you are not happy with your situation, whether it be financial, relationship, health, etc., stop and consider which decisions are leading you in the wrong direction and why you are making that decision. It might be helpful to try to frame those decisions in a trade off between pleasures and pain. You might have to ask yourself “why” a few times because most people are slow to admit what is really going on in their decision making. Once you understand the tradeoffs, then work to enhance different pleasures, minimize different pains and (frequently) work to pull future pleasure into the moment.
Examples help. I was telling the truth, my back is killing me right now. It is a chronic issue that comes back a few times a year. This one is as bad as it has gotten in probably the last five years. Nothing to do but stretches. My wife has a yoga video that does wonders for my back…….but I really don’t enjoy it. So I have a literal pain, my back. Seems like I should be able to jump up and fire up that video. Why aren’t I? Well, I know from experience the yoga tape won’t make my back feel better right away. So the pain avoidance isn’t really an immediate pay off. I find yoga to be pretty boring. I know my yoga loving friends tell me I’m not doing it right if I’m not loving it but I don’t love it. There is a certain level of mental pain that comes along with doing yoga for me.
So how do I motivate myself to go do those stretches, well in this case I brought in another pain, social embarrassment. By writing and posting this, I sort of have to go do the yoga. If I don’t, I’ll be a bit embarrassed that I let my laziness and procrastination let me sit here in pain. Alright. I’m going to go do some downward dogs.
Comment if you need some help affecting change. Please share. Imagine the pleasure you’ll get if this helps someone you know.