“Why do we do the things we do?” Although human behavior is extremely complex, one of the reasons we do know is to avoid pain and/or to gain pleasure. This age-old concept recently popularized by success author Anthony Robbins, is just as true today as it was thousands of years ago. Understanding this principle is like unlocking the secrets to human behavior and will allow you to take more control over your own life and help others to regain control over theirs.
Why do people smoke cigarettes? As a non-smoker, you may even go as far as seeing smokers as “less than human.” I mean, how could human beings do that to themselves? The fact is, smokers are every bit as human as the rest of us; smokers just associate more pleasure with smoking than they do pain and/or associate more pain to not smoking than they do pleasure. Understanding this principle will allow you to be more empathetic to others’ actions and behaviors.
Understanding this principle is only the first step. To change a behavior, we need to associate more pain with the behavior and more pleasure with changing the behavior. Once that is done, the behavior is likely to change. It is that powerful. Think of it as an old-fashioned scale, where we have the reasons for change on one side and reasons not to change on the other. Even though it is better to think in positive terms, the need to avoid pain is generally a greater motivator than the need to gain pleasure. So in order to change the behavior, we need to tip our scale to the reasons for change.
At this point, you may be saying to yourself that it can’t be that easy. Well it is, and it isn’t. The key is to make the associations strong enough in your mind, so you are convinced, without question, the behavior must change. Let’s go through this process with the example of biting fingernails.
Reasons NOT to change behavior (cons)
Now for the reasons to change (pros), do more than just write them down. Vividly imagine each reason with your eyes closed if needed. You can’t just read and write the words, you have to paint a clear mental picture.
Reasons TO change behavior (pros)
At this point, you should be convinced without question that changing the behavior is a MUST. If not, go back to step 3 and get more facts. Talk to people who have changed the behavior and add their successful reasons for change to your pros list. If you ever “fall off the wagon,” it is very likely that you still associate more pleasure with the behavior than pain, or more pain to quitting than pleasure.
The pain and pleasure principle is simple yet so powerful. Understanding this principle makes it clear that not only is changing a behavior possible, but with enough reasons on your side, change of the behavior is inevitable.
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