Pain and Pleasure, Part One of Many
No, this isn’t the JW take on 50 shades. Go scrub that dirty mind! Actually, don’t, it’s an admirable quality in a person. Stay dirty, friends.
Pain and Pleasure is a concept I’ll talk about a lot because it’s directly tied to human motivation...which ties back into creating fulfillment and self love (everything does, really). I’ll bet you the last Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookie that there is some area of your life where you’re stuck or blocked from moving forward, be it big or small, and it’s because of this.
Imma ‘bout to drop some truth bombs.
Our actions are motivated to seek pleasure or to avoid pain. Whichever association is stronger, wins. End of story.
If we unconsciously associate too much pain with doing a Thing, we won’t do the Thing. We’ll avoid the Thing. We’ll feel stuck because we’re not doing the Thing. We’ll tell ourselves we SHOULD (oh, how I hate “shoulding” on ourselves) do the Thing. But we still don’t do the Thing. Then we feel bad and tell a story that we’re lazy shits for not doing the Thing. We spend more time agonizing over not doing the Thing than it would take to just do the Thing. This is a common human condition.
The Thing could be:
Organizing your cabinets
Paying a bill
Making an overdue doctors appointment
Getting your oil changed (I mean what’s the worst that could happen if...why is there smoke coming from my hood?)
Cleaning out a storage unit
Having a vulnerable conversation with your partner
Quitting a job you hate or actively look for a new one
Starting a workout program (“tomorrow” is a popular day for this activity…)
Saving for college
Dealing with a work problem
Finally taking a look at your finances (wait, those little rectangular plastic things magically take care of themselves, right?)
Sorting out that 2016 tax nonsense from the IRS...even though you’ve sent them a million letters with documentation to prove this was their mistake, and why does it take 60 snail mail cycles and 700 years to resolve a simple issue. Also, it figures it would be from 2016. Because 366 days of 2016’s nonsense wasn’t enough?? And of course you were a Leap Year, because you needed one extra day to be a jerk. Die, already! Oh sorry, my shit, not yours. Where was I...
David Allen calls these “open loops”. In coaching, I call these “Energy Drainers”. They are those outstanding to-dos of whatever shape or flavor that are creating a low level of tension in your life and therefore contributing to an undercurrent of psychological distress of which you may be completely unaware. But it’s there. So the first step in doing the Thing, is understanding why you haven't done the Thing.
We don’t do the Thing because on some level, we associate more pain with doing it than we associate pleasure.
“Yeah right, Jen, like putting off making my dentist’s appointment is contributing to something negative in my life!”
Then, my non-believers, I’ll issue a challenge.
First, list the Things. All the Things you’ve been putting off, from changing the cat litter to talking to your parents about their living will.
Then, look at why you aren’t doing the Things through the lens of Pain vs Pleasure. And I mean, REALLY look at why you haven’t done the Things.
For making a doctor’s appointment, it could be the effort of having to call the doctor’s office. Or having to take time off work. And underneath that, it could be that you’re actually afraid they’ll find something wrong…and there’s massive pain associated with that.
If it’s a vulnerable conversation with your partner, it could the pain of a possible rejection or past negative patterns in a relationship.
Talking to your parents about setting up a living will inherently means admitting they're getting older and some day, you'll be without them. Massive pain.
For dealing with the IRS…well, it’s the IRS. Draw your own conclusions.
The good news is, once we become aware of the Things and dive into the real “why” behind not doing them, we can start to turn down the pain and turn up the pleasure enough to do the Thing.
More on the "how" soon. In the meantime, make your lists of the Things. Contemplate what pain you’ve been consciously or unconsciously associating with doing the Things. Go back and count how many times I said "Thing(s)".
Sparkle on, friends…