Established, since 1997, leading UK based training provider.
Celebrating 25 years in business! CPD Member - The CPD Certification Service ilm Recognised Provider

How to Use the Pleasure/Pain Principle

How to Use the Pleasure/Pain Principle

How to Use the Pleasure/Pain Principle

This grid holds the secret to understanding why people do strange things:

Personal Effectiveness : How to Use the Pleasure/Pain Principle

Many people eat too much, drink too much, take drugs that they know will destroy them, drive motorbikes at 100mph on crowded motorways, and generally act in a manner likely to take them to an early grave.

The big question is; WHY?

Because its pleasurable!

The human brain is programmed by two factors: pleasure and pain.

The human brain is a pleasure-seeking organ, it is always looking for things that it thinks will bring it pleasure.

It is also a pain avoiding mechanism. It wants to avoid things it finds painful. Therefore:

  • We eat cream cakes rather than fish, because cream cakes are more pleasurable.
  • We drink wine rather than water, because wine is more pleasurable.
  • We lie in bed too long and don't run around the block, because lying in bed is more pleasurable.

Annoyingly, bad habits tend to be more pleasurable than good habits. But only if you assume a short-term perspective.

If you look at the long-term consequences of a particular habit, then the pleasure pain consequences often switch places!

  • What was pleasurable becomes painful.
  • What was painful becomes pleasurable.

For instance:

  1. Cream cakes are pleasurable in the short term, when you eat them. But what are the painful long-term consequences you will suffer if you overeat on cream cakes? Fish is not as pleasurable as cream cakes, but what are the pleasurable long-term consequences you will enjoy if you eat a fish-based diet?
  2. Lying in bed for too long is pleasurable short term, but what are the painful long-term consequences you will suffer if you lie around and never exercise? Hard Running is not pleasurable, but what are the pleasurable long-term consequences you will enjoy if you train hard three times per week for three months?

Wisdom is the art of thinking long range.

Judging actions by considering the short-term consequences, tends to produce bad decisions.

Judging actions by considering the long-term consequences, tends to produce wise decisions.

When you are trying to change a behaviour, or a bad habit, keep asking the following two long-term consequence questions and try to get as many answers as you can.

  1. What is the long-term painful consequences you will suffer if you keep doing what you are doing?
  2. What is the long-term pleasurable benefits you will enjoy, if you do make a change?

Memorise these two questions and use them on yourself and other people, in order to make them re-evaluate their current behaviour and induce them to consider making a change.

For example: What are the long-term painful consequences you will suffer if you keep procrastinating on that job you don't want to do? And what are the long-term pleasurable benefits you will enjoy, if you just bite the bullet and get the job done?

"The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain." Aristotle

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

Blogs by Email

Do you want to receive an email whenever we post a new blog? The blogs contain article 5-10 minutes long - ideal for reading during your coffee break!

Further Reading in Personal Effectiveness

  • How can I stop feeling so tired all the time?
    Are you wondering why you are feeling tired all the time? Would you like to have more get up and go? Instead of giving in to the lack of energy and that sluggish feeling, fight back with these top tips.
    Read Article >
  • Four Personal Effectiveness Training Skills
    Four Personal effectiveness training skills In order to get the best from yourself and others what are the skills and knowledge you need to develop? There are many skills relating to personal effectiveness. But we will focus on four essential skills. Four essential personal effectiveness skills. There are four major...
    Read Article >
  • How to Lift My Mood
    Do you feel as optimistic and positive as you would like to be, or are you constantly feeling downhearted about life? Find out what makes your mind tick. Learn how to change how you feel, by giving your brain exposure to the right stimuli.
    Read Article >
  • What is self discipline?
    What is self discipline? Self-discipline is the act of mentally overriding your own mood, or momentary desire, and making yourself do what you think you should do, as opposed to doing what you feel like doing. In the sixties and seventies, and even today, Self-Discipline, is not a particularly popular idea...
    Read Article >
  • How Can I Improve My Performance at Work?
    If you want your career to progress, you need to improve your performance at work. Find ways to add more value to more people, and you will succeed.
    Read Article >

Looking for Personal Development Training?

If you're looking to develop your Personal Effectiveness Skills, you may find this Personal Development Training Course beneficial:

Open Training Course Pricing and Availability

9 - 10 October
Online - Teams
£900 +VAT
16 - 17 October
London - Central
£900 +VAT
25 - 26 October
Manchester City
£900 +VAT
15 - 16 November
London - Central
£900 +VAT
More dates and locations available
Save £100 on this course

Next Open Course Starts in 9 days, Online - Teams, places available Book Now >