The Pain and Pleasure Principle in Practice

Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of how pain and pleasure influences every decision you make and action you take, it’s time to move through an eight step process that will allow you to use this pain-pleasure principle to help you successfully transform unhelpful habits, behaviors and emotions. Moreover, you can use this process to help develop the motivation you need to achieve your goals and objectives.

As you work through this process, keep in mind that you are in control of the direction of your life. You have the ability to assign the weight of pain and pleasure to every decision you make. This will successfully allow you to “tip the scales” in one direction or another that supports the goals that you would like to achieve or the changes you would like to make in your life.

Step 1: Prepare Yourself

As you work through this process, it’s important that you have a goal in mind. This is something that you would like to accomplish in the future. This is the “carrot on the stick” that you will use to lay down a solid path moving forward as you work though this process. Ask yourself:

What goal would I like to achieve?

Now consider what is preventing you from achieving this goal. These are things that are standing in your way and preventing you from moving forward. You might for instance have a set of limiting behaviors, emotions, questions, beliefs, habits, unhelpful thoughts, etc. These are your internal patterns of self-sabotage that are currently holding you back. Have a good think about these things by asking yourself:

What limiting behaviors/habits might be holding me back?

What unhelpful thoughts, questions, emotions and beliefs are tied to these behaviors?

How are these thoughts, questions, emotions and beliefs holding me back from achieving my goal?

What patterns are evident?

What you are attempting to do here is identify patterns that might help you to better understand your limiting behaviors. The better you understand these patterns, the easier it will be to work through these limiting behaviors and habits-of-mind successfully as you move through the remaining steps of this process.

Having now pinpointed the things that are holding you back, take time now to identify the origins of this behavior. Do this by asking yourself the following set of questions:

When did this behavior originate in my life?

What was the specific cause? How did it come into my life?

What does this behavior mean to me?

Why am I allowing this behavior to continue?

The key question here is, why you are allowing this behavior to continue? And the answer to this question will most likely be: that you simply don’t have enough reasons to make a change. In other words you don’t have the necessary inspiration (pleasure) or desperation (pain) to eliminate this behavior from your life.

To make the desired changes to this behavior you will need to find the necessary “inspiration” to change or the necessary “desperation” to change.

When you’re “inspired” you make decisions based on the principle of pleasure. This “inspiration” can either come from within in the form of passion and a sense of purpose, or it can come from external sources when you are for instance inspired to do something because of the respect you might receive from others if you successfully make a change.

When you’re doing things out of “desperation”, you are at that moment making decisions based on the principle of pain. This “desperation” can come from within when you feel an obligation within yourself to make a change, or it can come from external sources when you are for instance motivated by the consequences of some kind of fear that will befall you if you don’t make this change.

Both forces of “inspiration” and “desperation” are required to help you make the necessary changes to your behavior. These forces work because when properly balanced they will help you to create the sense of urgency you need to take positive action towards the attainment of your desired objectives.

Step 2: Stir Up the Pain

Step One was a preparation step. Step Two is where all the fun begins. This is where you begin stirring up some painful emotions that will hopefully create a sense of desperation that will allow you to pursue your goals with a little more urgency.

Within this step you will be asking yourself a set of questions that might be very painful to think about. And that’s okay. In this instance, emotional pain is a good thing, and will provide you with the necessary leverage you need to start making positive changes in your life.

The questioning process you will be going through has three distinct stages. The first set of questions will focus on the present moment. The second set of questions will explore the past. And the third set of questions will attempt to predict the future over a period of 5, 10 and 20 years.

As you go through each of these questions, pause and have a good think about your answers. Use your imagination to reflect on each of your responses while fully immersing yourself within your experience using all five of your senses. In fact, the more you immerse yourself emotionally, the better this process will work for you and the more urgency you will be able to create to help you make the necessary changes to your life.

It’s now time to delve into this questioning process. As you work through these questions keep in mind the things you identified earlier that are holding you back from attaining your goal. These are the unhelpful behaviors, habits, emotions, beliefs, etc, that you would like to change. For the purpose of this questioning process we will refer to these things as “behaviors”. However, while asking these questions yourself, feel free to make them more specific to your situation.

Think about your current life and circumstances and ask yourself the following set of questions:

What is this behavior costing me physically? Emotionally? Mentally? Financially? Spiritually?

What is this behavior costing me when it comes to my career prospects?

What is this behavior costing me when it comes to my relationships with others?

What is this behavior costing me in terms of the goals that I would like to achieve?

What am I missing out on as a result of indulging in this behavior?

How is this behavior affecting other people?

How is this behavior affecting how I spend my time?

How is this behavior influencing how I talk to myself and how I talk to others? How is this bad?

While indulging in this behavior, how do I tend to use my physiology? Why is this bad?

How is this behavior clearly not working for me in the present moment?

Now, take yourself back into the past and ask yourself the following set of questions:

What has this behavior cost me in the past?

How has it cost me physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, and spiritually?

What has it cost me in terms of my career choices and within my relationships with others?

How has it denied me the chance to attain my goals and objectives?

What opportunities has it denied me? How many of these opportunities might I never get back?

What have I missed out on as a result of indulging in this behavior?

How has this behavior affected other people? How is it made them feel?

How has this behavior affected how I spend my time?

How has this behavior affected my state-of-mind?

What regrets do I have as a result of this behavior?

How has this behavior sabotaged me over-and-over again? How did that make me feel?

How has this behavior clearly not worked for me in the past?

Now, take yourself into the future by five years, and ask yourself:

What will continuing to indulge in this behavior cost me in five years time?

How will it cost me physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, and spiritually?

How will it cost me in terms of my career opportunities?

How will it cost me in terms of my relationships?

How will it prevent me from attaining my desired goals and objectives?

What will I miss out on over the next five years if I continue to indulge in this behavior?

How will this behavior continue to affect other people in a negative way?

How will this behavior influence how I spend my time over the next five years of my life?

How much precious time will this behavior potentially waste?

How will this behavior affect my state-of-mind over the next five years? Why is this bad?

What regrets will I have over the next five years if I continue to indulge in this behavior?

How will this behavior clearly not work for me over the next five years of my life?

Finally, ask yourself the same set of questions but change the timescale from five years to ten years, and then to twenty years and beyond. Fully immerse yourself within the consequences of indulging in this behavior on a long-term timescale. Envision your life using full sensory awareness, and wherever possible emotionalize your experience. Remember, that the more pain you create, the more desperation will come through every decision you make and action you take. And the more desperate you become, the more urgency you will create to make positive changes to your life.

Congratulations, you have now completed one side of the equation. You should now be able to work from a state of desperation. However, a state of desperation can get quite tiring very quickly. You will thusly need to also complete the other side of the equation that will help you work from a state of inspiration. But more about this in Step Five of this process.

Step 3: Break Your Unhelpful Pattern

It’s important to now develop a means of interrupting your unhelpful behavior. What this basically means is that you do something that will help you break the pattern of this behavior.

This “pattern interrupt” can come in the form of a question, a specific thought, an action you take, or even another behavior that successfully takes you out of your unhelpful state-of-mind, and into a more empowering and receptive state of mind that opens the door to a new and more helpful behavior that is aligned with the goals and objectives you would like to achieve.

This “pattern interrupt” can come in the form of a specific set of words you say to yourself such as “Stop it, right now!”; it can be in the form of an “action” of beating your chest with your fist, or simply spinning around in a circle for a few seconds. It can also be as simple as singing something to yourself or reading a quote that helps you stay focused on what’s most important. Finally, it could come in the form of a question that snaps you out of your current state-of-mind. It really doesn’t matter what it is. The purpose is that it breaks your pattern and immediately interrupts the behavior you are indulging in.

Once you have developed and tested your “pattern interrupt”, you are ready to move onto the next step of this process.

Step 4: Select a New Empowering Behavior

It’s now time to select a new, more helpful, and more empowering behavior that is aligned with the goals and objectives that you would like to achieve. This new behavior will replace your old unhelpful behavior. However, there are a couple of things you need to consider.

Firstly, your old behavior has a positive intention. It has remained a part of your life because it protects you in some way. This positive intention might of course be misguided and based on certain unproven assumptions you have made. However, the intention is certainly there, and therefore your behavior only has your best interests in mind. It’s therefore not something that is trying to work against you. It’s rather something that is attempting to work in your favor in a misguided way. As such, it’s important that you clear up any assumptions that you might be making first and foremost. Ask yourself:

What positive intention does my unhelpful behavior have for me?

Is this positive intention helping me or hurting me at this moment?

Am I possibly making certain assumptions that are creating confusion and leading to this behavior?

What assumptions might I be making?

What concrete facts support these assumptions?

How are these assumptions false or inaccurate?

How are these assumptions hurting me?

What other more helpful assumptions could I potentially make that are more aligned with my goals and objectives?

How would my behavior change if I was to believe these assumptions to be true?

How would this shift my perspective about my behavior, about my goals, and about my circumstances?

It’s by all means possible that as your assumptions change, so will your behavior, and this will thusly help clarify in your mind how you must do things differently moving forward.

Secondly, your old behavior provided you with some value or benefit. In other words, you gained something by indulging in this behavior. You must identify these benefits and make sure that your new behavior provides you with similar benefits in return. Doing this will make it easier to condition the new behavior into your psyche — especially important if you have some major conflicting beliefs that may prevent you from making this change successfully. Ask yourself:

What value have I been gaining from my unhelpful behavior?

What benefits have I derived from indulging in my unhelpful behavior?

Having clarified your intentions and the benefits that the unhelpful behavior provided you with, it’s now time to choose a new behavior you will indulge in that is aligned with the goals and objectives you would like to achieve. To help you with this process, it’s helpful to pose “what if” scenarios:

What if I already achieved my goal…?

How would I think about myself, others and circumstances?

How would I talk to myself, to others, and about circumstances?

What would I believe about myself, others and about circumstances?

What decisions would I make?

What actions would I take?

How would I behave?

How would I define myself?

How would I define this new behavior that has made this goal possible?

My new behavior is…

Answering these questions will help provide you with the “recipe” for your new helpful behavior.

Once your new behavior has been defined, take time now to consider how this new behavior can enjoy the benefits of your old behavior. Ask yourself:

How can the benefits I gained from my old behavior be transferred onto my new behavior?

What specifically must change?

How will I go about making these changes?

This new helpful behavior creates the necessary leverage you need to make the process of change easier to work with. You are no longer focused on trying to overcome your old unhelpful behavior. You are instead focused on installing a new more empowering behavior that supports the goals and objectives you are working towards.

Step 5: Inspire Within Yourself Proactive Action

Within this step, you will be asking yourself a set of questions that will hopefully lead to “inspiration”. These are pleasure-focused questions that will provide you with the inspiration you need to make positive changes in your life.

The questioning process you will be going through has three distinct stages. The first set of questions will focus on the present moment. The second set of questions will explore the past. And the third set of questions will attempt to predict the future over a period of 5, 10 and 20 years.

As you go through each of these questions, pause and have a good think about your answers. Use your imagination to reflect on each of your responses while fully immersing yourself within your experience using all five of your senses. In fact, the more you immerse yourself emotionally, the better this process will work for you and the more inspired you will be to make the necessary changes to your life.

While asking yourself these questions keep in mind the new helpful behavior that you identified within Step Four of this process. This is the behavior that you will be focusing on as you work through the remaining steps; this is the behavior that will help you to achieve your goals and objectives.

Think about your current life and circumstances and ask yourself the following set of questions:

How am I gaining by indulging in this new helpful behavior in the present moment?

How am I gaining physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, and spiritually?

How has this new behavior expanded my career opportunities?

How has this new behavior transformed my relationships with others in a positive way?

How have others been affected specifically by this change?

What do other people say about me and how I have changed?

How do I now tend to spend my time as a result of making this change?

How has making this changed helped me in the pursuit of my goals?

How do I now talk to myself?

How does this change positively influence my physiology and state-of-mind?

Now, take yourself back into the past and ask yourself the following set of questions:

What if I had made this change years ago?

How would I have gained physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, and spiritually?

What career and relationship opportunities could I have had access to?

How would others have been affected by these changes in a positive way?

What would people have been saying about me? How would that make me feel?

How would I have been spending my time if I had made this change in the past?

At what point in my life would I be at right now in terms of the goals I desire to achieve?

What fond memories would I have?

How would I be talking to myself?

How would all this make me feel?

Now, take yourself into the future by five years, and ask yourself:

What benefits have I derived from making this change over the course of five years?

How have things changed for the better physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, and spiritually?

How have my career prospects improved?

How have my relationship prospects improved?

How am I now thinking about my life, about others and about my goals in a new way?

What have I been able to accomplish over this period of time? How does that make me feel?

How am I now spending my time as a result of these accomplishments? How does that make me feel?

How has this change affected other areas of my life in surprisingly positive ways?

As a result of all this, what additional positive expectations do I have about the future?

Finally, ask yourself the same set of questions but change the timescale from five years to ten years, and then to twenty years and beyond. Fully immerse yourself within the benefits of indulging within this empowering behavior on a long-term timescale. Envision your life using full sensory awareness, and wherever possible emotionalize your experience. Remember, that the more pleasure you create, the more inspiration you will derive from this process. And the more inspiration you can muster, the more reasons you will have to follow-through with these changes. As such, it’s important to ask yourself one final question:

Given all this, why is it important that I follow through with making this change?

You will get to know this in the next part of this write up.

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