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Show Me Your Habits and I’ll Show You Your Future

Pain And Pleasure Principle: The Maker Or Breaker Of Bad Habits

Sigmund Freud in Scientific Psychology of 1895 establishes the underlying motive for everything we do, or do not do, is to gain pleasure or avoid pain. I am going somewhere with this so stay with me. Could we not apply this concept to maximize our success and minimize failure in achieving goals and simply navigating through life?

If you are falling behind on your New Year resolutions and it is only mid–February, you are not alone. Even with realistic goals, we sometimes fall short of achieving our objectives. Seemingly impervious to change, the same-old bad habits we commit in perpetuity to rid ourselves of without yielding measurable success, can lead to feelings of self-doubt and discontent.

Instead of focusing on the ‘what’, perhaps we should instead work to address the ‘how.’ “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” ― <> F. Matthias Alexander

We see this in addicts and, in actuality, we are all addicts of sorts when it comes to our inability to stop certain behaviors that are unproductive and even self-destructive. As humans we seek to avoid pain and gain pleasure, yet avoiding pain seems to be the greater motivator. Consider that when the motivation of obtaining the pleasure of goal achievement outweighs the motivation of avoiding the pain of what it takes to get there, only then are we likely to realize success in such endeavors.

Bad habits typically involve either a.) choosing to value instant gratification and pleasure over the potential future pain the habit may cause, or b.) choosing to avoid the pain and fear associated with not doing the habit, rather than reap the pleasure that could be experienced with proper discipline.

It gets a little more complex: It is not the literal pain or the pleasure that influences choices, but rather the cognitive perception of it. This perception of pain ‘in the moment’ is a more powerful influence than future pain, meaning short term trumps long term pain and pleasure in most cases, unless future pain or pleasure perceived is monumental.

Emotion versus logic is an ongoing internal battle we all experience. For example, you tell yourself you should not eat that dark chocolate bar because logically it is caloric, high in sugar etc. Emotionally, however, you want and ‘need’ it (can virtually taste the deliciousness) and in the moment, this is likely to be the most compelling option. Pain and pleasure, relevant to the chocolate bar example, are rooted into our subconscious because of our brain’s primal nature, nudging us to act now in the present rather than taking the time to contemplate a more obscure, future consequence. Immediacy and emotion can work against your conscious discipline and redirect your focus on immediate gratification rather that what is best.

Tony Robbins said “The secret to success is to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you.” Knowing that your brain is conditioned to make choices based on pain and pleasure in the present, consider finding ways to make future pain or pleasure seem more real in the moment.  

By identifying the subconscious thought process perhaps, we can begin reprogramming our minds and be accountable to the process rather than our perceptions. By visualizing and contrasting what we want long term and what we want presently, we may truly find more success in accomplishing goals and implementing mindful change when it is needed.

I hope that in understanding what drives our underlying motives, we can use it in an impactful way to regulate our habits, patterns and tendencies to mold a better, brighter future.

No pain no gain…… just saying. 🙂


About the Author – Madison DeCamillis

Madison DeCamillis is a 22 year old UF alumna with a bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications: Media and Society, specializing in both English and Spanish. She is an advocate for creative living, which she expresses through her writing and art. Madison is inspired by her travels around the world, surfing and yoga, as well as leading a healthy and balanced lifestyle to inspire others.




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