Are you motivated by Pain or motivated by Gain?

Pain or Gain?

There are two fundamental drives to human action:

  1. Avoidance of Pain
  2. Seeking of Gain.

This is how we work.

There are no other external causes of action.

We take action when we truly believe:

  1. It will avoid a Pain, or
  2. We truly believe it will deliver a Gain.

If I am not taking action, it is often because I do not truly believe that the action will achieve the end goal of pain avoidance, or deliver the gain.

The Pain Avoidance Driven Life

There are a set of things we do because we “have” to.  These tend to be actions driven by pain avoidance.

  • It is not hard to get a sick person to take painkillers.  They directly remove a current, real pain.
  • It is not hard to get a hungry person to eat.  The food directly removes a current, real pain.
  • It is not hard to get a scuba diver to come to the surface when they run out of air.
  • It is not hard to get myself to sleep when I am tired.
  • It is not hard to get myself to go to the toilet when I need to pee.

I don’t need any boss or discipline to do these tasks because the environment will just ramp up the pain steadily until I have no choice but to take action.

An entirely pain-avoidance driven life will inevitably leave a growing feeling of overwhelm.

The Gain Driven Life

“The things that will bring you the greatest results in your life don’t have a deadline.” Steve McClatchy

Perhaps the greatest positive of gain driven action is that it is entirely discretionary.  It is driven by choice.  It is the tool by which I change my fate.  It is the set of actions that define what type of human being I have chosen to be.

There is no need to take these actions.

In many cases, I live an internal fantasy life based on “I could do this, I could do that” that allows me to feel like I am the type of person I intend to be…  but only in my own inner life.  Not to the world.  Not in any meaningful way.

Anybody could write a blog post.

Anybody could go for a walk.

Anybody could eat 10% less calories for lunch today.

…and the fact that I know that I could is often my own barrier to actually doing.  I can maintain my inner image of myself as the highest potential version of me…  without seeing that my daily actions are not reaching this potential.

 

Resources

http://www.farnamstreetblog.com/2014/07/steve-mcclatchy-gain-and-preventing-pain/

Author: Conor Neill

Hi, I’m Conor Neill, an Entrepreneur and Teacher at IESE Business School. I speak about Moving People to Action. View all posts by Conor Neill