The Pain and Pleasure Challenge – Proven Way to Help You Take Action

pain and pleasure - change growAre you stuck?   Do you want something badly at work (e.g., promotion, work life balance, better boss, challenging assignment) but somehow can’t seem to take any action toward making it happen?  You are not alone.  Inertia, the inability to do something different from our routine, happens to all of us.  How do you do overcome it? Take this pain and pleasure challenge!

  • Read this article and story below
  • At the bottom, do the challenge and share your learning in the comment below.

First a story:  My alarm rang sharply.  It was 5:30am.   I have been trying for six months to shift my yoga schedule from evenings to early mornings so I can spend more time with my kids and still work out   So far, I have only made it to this class 4 times.   Every Tuesday morning, I ask myself the same question after the alarm goes off – “Should I go to class today?”   Today was no exception.  My inner dialogue began to battle.

  • “It’s pouring rain outside.  Maybe they won’t even have class today.”
  • “The bed feels so warm”
  • “Will it be dangerous to drive in the pouring rain?”
  • “I am up already, might as well call and go if they are open.”
  • “Maybe I am too tired to go.  I don’t want to be too tired at work afterwards.”

All these thoughts exploded in my head within a minute.  Did I end up going?  What do you think?

This article is not about my work-out habits.  It’s about how to take action in areas that are uncomfortable, but needed to achieve something you want.   For example,

  • You want to speak up more at work, but somehow you haven’t tried
  • You want to get promoted, but somehow you haven’t taken much action toward increasing your chances
  • You want to have more work life balance, yet you are still going home late and skipping vacations

Why?   There is a single principle that explains it all – the Pain & Pleasure principle.   You didn’t make a change because you were trying to avoid pain or gain pleasure or both.     You may say, wait a minute, getting promoted is pleasurable, why would I not do anything?

The answer is logical – while you would like to be promoted, you FOCUSED more on the pain of the actions you have to take to help increase your chances of promotion.  As human beings, we do more to avoid pain than seek pleasure especially if the pain is more immediate and the pleasure is further away.

  • Pain – discomfort of doing something new: “I don’t know how to ask my boss for a promotion.”
  • Pain – fear of rejection: “What if I asked and my manager say I am far from ready.  Maybe in a few years.  What then?”
  • Pain – potential embarrassment: “I don’t know how to self-promote.  What if I sound too braggy?”
  • Pain – frustration: “My manager told me I need to be a better team player.  I just don’t know how to learn to work better with others….”

These are just some of the potential thoughts in our heads that would “convince” us not to take any action.   Sound familiar?  Let’s try another one – You want to have work life balance but you still go home late and skip vacations.  There is so much pleasure in spending more time with your spouse and kids, having time for yourself to enjoy a hobby, or laying on the beach in Mexico sipping Margaritas.  Why wouldn’t you take action to get a better work life balance?  Here is why

  • Pain – fear of disappointing someone:  “I don’t know how to say no at work and if I don’t finish this, someone will not be happy with me in the morning.”
  • Pleasure – feeling indispensable at work – boosts our ego to be needed:  “It’s such an important project.  I can’t go on vacation now when the launch is this weekend.  They need me!”
  • Pain – self criticism.  “I am not doing a good enough job.  I need to put in more hours.”
  • Pleasure – reduce stress. ” If I go home at 5, I will just worry about my work at home.  I won’t be able to stop thinking about it.  It will add more stress.  I might as well just put in the hours.”

Does any of this sound familiar?  When we “believe” these thoughts and focus on them, we will “logically” not make any changes.    All thoughts are just thoughts – many are not real.   We can choose to focus on thoughts that keeps us from making any changes.  We can always convince ourselves to do the same thing we do today.

If you change what you focus on, then you can make a different decision and action.  For example, for those who want work life balance, what if you focused on these types of thoughts while you are deciding whether to go home now or work another 2 hours.

  • Pleasure: “The work will be here tomorrow.  It’s good for my health and sanity to let go.  I need to be healthy to be effective at work
  • Pain: “My kids have been asking to spend more time with me.  I miss them and feel so bad that I have been working so much.  No one ever on their death bed say I wished I worked more.”
  • Pain: “I am exhausted and sleep deprived.  I need to give myself a rest.”
  • Pleasure: “I deserve a rest as I know I am good at my job.”
  • Pain: “My wife and I have been fighting constantly.  I know it’s partly because I come home so exhausted and in a bad mood.  What if she divorces me?  Is this job really more important than my family and my relationship with her?”

If you focused on this instead of your need to work, will you take a different action?  As for my yoga example, I did go to yoga that day.  While I had all the thoughts and reasons why I should not go.  I ended up focusing my thoughts on the pleasure of going to Yoga and the pain I can avoid by going.

  • Pain – guilt and self criticism: “I will feel regretful if I don’t go.  I like building up a habit to go every Tuesday”
  • Pleasure – efficiency: “I am already up.  I might as well go.  Who knows if I can fall asleep again?”
  • Pleasure – feeling of accomplishment “Just think how great I will feel after class.  I will feel so accomplished.  Everything else that day will be bonus.”

What do you think?  Still not sure how to do this.   I am adding Tony Robbins to help.  Watch this 6 min video by Tony to understand how he helps people take a different action using the Pain and Pleasure principle.

Your Challenge:   

  1. State one thing you want, but cannot seem to take any action to help yourself get there
  2. List 1-3 actions you MUST take but haven’t.
  3. Answer the question for yourself – Why MUST you take action today?   What are the pains you can avoid and pleasure you can gain, if you took this action.  Focus on it, really feel the pain you can avoid and the pleasure you can gain from take this action.
  4. Decide on one action you will do differently today as a result and go DO IT!
  5. Repeat step 2-4 every day.     Start with taking a new action 3 times in a row –  it can big or small.  You don’t have to do it perfectly.  On the contrary, expect it will be imperfect each time.  The important thing is to DO it.
  6. Once you have done this 3 times, strive for 7 times, then 10, then 21 times.

You can do it and get the life and work you want.

Your comments: I look forward to hearing what you are working on and how it’s going in the comment section below.   Let me know any questions.  Best wishes,

Like this article: then help me share it on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and via email

New to my site: Start here – Soft Skills – How to Succeed Like an Executive


Leave a Reply