The pain and pleasure principle, also known as the pleasure principal, is universal. It guides us in virtually everything we do, whether we are aware of it or not. Simply put, the pleasure principle states that people are driven to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. In other words, we are willing to do things that will bring us pleasure and we are unwilling to do things that will cause us pain. Sounds pretty obvious doesn’t it?
It seems however that the two forces are out of balance. The avoidance of pain often wins over the desire to seek pleasure. Perhaps in the case of physical pain this seems logical, at least to a certain extent. But in most cases, we’re not talking about physical pain. Most often, people choose to do things — or rather not to do certain things — in order to avoid emotional pain, even at the expense of doing what it takes to gain pleasure.
People may know very well that in order to achieve the results they desire, something needs to be done. They may even have a high degree of certainty that doing that particular “something” will indeed produce the desired result. But if that “something” makes them feel even slightly uncomfortable, they’re out. Of course, logically, this doesn’t make any sense. Rationally, we know that we can get to C if we just put A and B together. But the fact is, we are not as rational as we sometimes claim to be. Human beings are mainly emotional creatures. We make decisions emotionally and then we try to manipulate the logic to support those emotional decisions.
Most people would agree that the drive to avoid pain is stronger than the drive to seek pleasure. One of the reasons why this drive is so strong is because it is built into our biological survival system. Physical pain will cause people to automatically withdraw from what they perceive to be the source of their pain. Rationally, we know that physical and emotional pain are not the same, but since the human brain has difficulty distinguishing real pain from perceived pain, most people react to it in exactly the same way.
“So why is this relevant for my business?” you might say. Well, first of all, if this is true for most people, it’s probably true for you too. You may not realize it, but you’ve probably fallen into this trap more than once. More importantly, if you remain unaware of this, you will continue to do so. And regardless of what business you’re in, that will hurt your bottom line. If you’re in a business where you’re dealing with other people, you should be aware that they are subject to the same exact principle. Understanding this principle and applying it will prove to be crucial to your business success. Some of you may already be using it without even knowing it, as it is the foundation for many successful business books and coaching programs.
Many times, we try to move people into action by getting them to focus on the pleasure they can receive by purchasing our product or service. Although this can be very successful, there are many times when your prospect just doesn’t seem to get excited about the potential rewards. You may have banged your head against the wall a couple of times with people like these. Perhaps you have mentally labeled your prospect as one of those poor unfortunate folks that “just don’t get it”; one of those people that aren’t the least bit interested in improving the quality of their life. Over time, you will probably run into a couple of those, but the majority of people you meet will not fall into that category. Most people really do want a better quality of life; they want more free time, more money, more respect and more success. What’s holding them back is fear. They fear change and associate pain with taking the necessary actions to make it happen. Obviously, they perceive taking action as more painful than staying where they’re at right now. And thus, they choose not to take the necessary actions.
In order to successfully move people into action, you will have to apply the pain and pleasure principle on at least two levels. First, you must apply it to yourself. Look closely at the way you conduct your business and you will inevitably find that there are many things you should begin doing, or do differently. For example, you know you should be prospecting, presenting and duplicating and you also know that you have to be a strong leader to your people (employees and clients). But why aren’t you? Simple answer: You associate pain with either one of those steps. In order to change this, it will help if you start associating pain with not doing all those things. Think of how it will hurt you in the long run if you continue not taking action. You will find that when the pain of not doing it gets worse than the pain of doing it, you will decide to do whatever it is that needs to be done.
The second step is to apply this principle to your people. Help them become aware that it is their fear and perception that is holding them back. Help them see that they are simply trying to avoid pain and that they obviously perceive taking action as painful. Then help them associate even more pain to not taking action, and continue this up to the point where taking action becomes the only alternative.
Ultimately, if you master this concept yourself, you will become a role model for those around you. You will find that your people begin to follow your lead because they subconsciously want to be like you and attain the things you’ve attained. When you later discuss these concepts with them, in their eyes, you will be giving them a great gift — sharing the secrets of your success — not just adding another task to their to do list. They will see you “walking the walk,” and it is much easier to convince someone with action than with words alone.