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Pleasure and pain

The truth is that we can learn to condition our minds, bodies, and emotions to link pain or pleasure to whatever we choose. By changing what we link pain and pleasure to, we will instantly change our behaviors.
– Anthony Robbins

My definition of success is to live your life in a way that causes you to feel a ton of pleasure and very little pain – and because of your lifestyle, have the people around you feel a lot more pleasure than they do pain.
– Anthony Robbins

Anthony Robbins talks a lot about the pleasure/pain principle. What is it? Simply put, it's the means by which we run our lives. Various activities that we engage in cause us either pleasure or pain (and I'm talking mostly emotional pain here). We continue to do those things that predominantly give us pleasure, and try to avoid those things that give us pain.

Take exercising for example. Many people experience pain during exercise, but this pain is outweighed by the pleasure they feel at achieving good health and fitness, of looking and feeling good, etc etc. The pleasure associated with exercising outweighs the pain of actually doing it.

Relationships are another good example of the pleasure/pain principle. Being with people we love or like gives us pleasure, for various reasons associated with those people. Being with people we don't like gives us pain; mainly emotional but it could be physical pain too. However, relationships are never perfect. There will always be both pleasure and pain in a relationship, and so we need to accept that sometimes, the pain is worth the pleasure.

But there are also varying degrees of pain. If doing one thing is painful, but doing something different is perceived as being MORE painful, then we will continue doing whatever we are doing. Changing something becomes more painful than continuing something.

Why do so many people stay in a relationship where the pain outweighs the pleasure? Because they perceive the possible separation as being more painful than being together, and so they choose the less painful option of remaining.

When the pain of being together overwhelms the pain of being apart, then being apart may seem pleasurable in relation to it. And so they will choose to separate.

The feelings we have with something equate to pleasure or pain, and those feelings affect the choices we make. Will choosing something cause pleasure or pain? How we interpret the possible results of our choices in this way will determine what we will end up doing. We will obviously try to choose something that will cause us the most pleasure, in relation to our needs, goals and dreams. If all choices are perceived to be result in pain, then we will either choose to make no choice at all, or that which gives us the least amount of pain.

What we need to do is understand how this principle affects us. When we look at those things in our lives that cause us pleasure and pain, we can begin to look at their effects on our lives. We can write them down as 'pros and cons' of our life, or of the decisions we need to make.

Logic is often used as a determining factor in our decision-making processes. However, logic doesn't take into account the pleasure and pain associated with the results of our decisions. Logic might suggest doing something is the best thing for us, but if it causes pain, is it really logical?

My car mechanic, recently working on my car's engine, struggled for an hour to remove the starter motor. Finally he succeeded in removing it, and looked triumphant at it in his hands. I looked at the blood dripping from the painful looking scrapes and cuts on his hands, and the grease marks all over his arms. I asked him if he actually enjoyed his job. He looked at me as if I was crazy. 'Of course I don't,' he said. 'I hate it.' So why did he do it, I asked. He had a wife and two kids he needed to support, to pay the bills. 'It's ironic though,' he said. 'The bitch kicked me out last night.'

Logic determined that he needed to do a job he hated in order to pay the bills. That job caused him a lot of pain, emotionaly and even physically. And yet the pain of not having the job and being unable to support his family outweighed the pain of having it.

I said to him, 'It's a funny thing that if you work out what you really want to do and do it, everything else will fall into place. If you were happy in your job, that happiness might have passed to other areas of your life, including your family. Things might have been different.' He agreed, and said that he'll know better from now on.

How many people do what they think is right, without regard to their own pleasure and pain?

We have to start choosing things that bring us pleasure. Start doing an internal 'balance sheet' of things in your life. Weigh up the pleasure against the pain. Work out which is greatest, and start making decisions based on this.

Remember as well, one thing that gives you pleasure may outweigh ten things that give you pain. Or one thing that causes pain may outweigh ten things that cause pleasure. You have to make the decisions in your life which will ultimately give you more pleasure than pain, and you are the only one who can understand where your pleasure and pain is.

So remember the pleasure/pain principle as you live your life, and follow the path of least resistance – follow the pleasure. (Golden Rule: causing pain to others through action or inaction does NOT equal pleasure for yourself! It will come back to you, one way or another, and that only leads to pain.)

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