If you look at your own life, you will see that every single one of your day to day decisions branches out in two directions: You’re either moving towards perceived pleasure or away from perceived pain.
This behavior in human beings is what’s known as the pleasure principle. And in the book “Civilizations and Its Discontents,” Sigmund Freud says that our behavior is largely dominated by this principle.
When you wake up in the morning for example, the pleasure of staying in bed is a lot greater than the “pain” of getting up, so as a result most people will stay in bed.
However, sometimes we have something we have to do in the morning like go to school or go to work and although the pleasure of staying in bed is still high, the pain of not going to school or work is far greater. So as a result, most people get up.
Unfortunately, most of the time this principle works against us. The problem with the pleasure principle is it miscalculates long term pain and pleasure and only focuses on the short term aim of seeking pleasure and eliminating discomfort.
For example, it’s difficult to get up and go exercise because why would anyone ever move away from the pleasure of staying in bed and move towards the pain of exercising when you don’t have to?
This is why most people don’t change their behavior until they have to. As Dr. Henry Cloud once said,
“We will change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences gives us the pain that motivates us to change.”
But don’t wait for the consequences to start making good decisions and building good habits.