Pleasure and Pain – The Ultimate Motivators

Many of us are probably unaware that two of our main motivations in life are the avoidance of discomfort or pain and the pursuit of happiness, pleasure or comfort. If you think about it for just a moment you will realize that almost every action you take is either pleasure-seeking or pain-avoiding

When it comes to fitness and weight loss, I find that many people focus on the perceived “pain” that they’ll have to endure to get meaningful results: torturous training sessions followed by starvation diets where they are force-fed endless amounts of broccoli and spinach. With this perception, it’s no wonder that many people would choose to stay in the comfort zone of junk food and low-intensity exercise.

If these thoughts have crossed your mind when considering a healthy exercise and nutrition regime, it would probably make more sense for you to focus on the increased pleasure you will receive from having a healthier lifestyle: you will look and feel better, have more mental and physical energy, and will feel much more self-confident.

However, the pain principle can also be used as positive motivation. You could remind yourself of the fact that obesity has been linked to all major diseases including cancer, heart disease, joint pain and diabetes.

In the first instance you increase the pleasure of attaining your goal and in the second you increase your discomfort/pain levels by thinking of what will happen if you continue with your current unhealthy lifestyle. Hopefully, by using a combination of both, you will get to the point where starting to exercise regularly and make better food choices becomes a no-brainer

However, once you make the decision to get moving, you must be careful where you focus your attention. Many people, including me, subscribe to the Law of Attraction which states that you get more of what you focus on. This potentially sets you up for failure if you state your goals in terms of what you don’t want: “I don’t want to be fat/unhealthy/poor”, because although you don’t want these conditions you are still concentrating on them.

Research has shown that you will have a far higher success rate in achieving your goals when you state them in the positive and also in the present tense, believing that you are already in the process of achieving them i.e. “I enjoy exercising 4 times a week, which is helping me lose 2% body fat by next month” or “I eat healthy, nutritious food which helps increase my energy levels and allows me to lose 5 lbs”

So although it may be the pain/discomfort of your current lifestyle which initially motivates you to a course of action, it will be the pleasure/comfort/reward of your ultimate achievement – as well as the smaller successes along the way- that will help you reach that goal.

To begin with there will be a certain amount of discomfort and self-discipline involved in the process of change but research has shown that new habits can be formed anywhere between 3 and 8 weeks.

That means that if you can tough it out for only one or two months, you are well on the way to improving your whole life, because at this point you will have formed a habit whereby you exercise regularly and eat healthy nutritious food automatically.

When this happens, life becomes so much easier because you no longer have the internal debate of “I want to go to the gym but it’s too cold/wet/ I’m tired/ I can’t find my runners”. Instead you just go and train.

When you have finally reached this point you can achieve any goal you set your mind to, because you now control your thoughts, rather than having them control you.

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