If I asked you what your goal in life is, what would you answer? Well, the answer would be as diversified as people are.
Many will answer that making money is the primary goal. This is especially true for us in northern America. Some might say success is what they want to achieve, others will focus their goals on relationship related topics like family, love etc.
Whatever the answers are, most of them will describe something that is nothing but a means to an end.
Let's take money. If you belief that your goal in life is making lots of money, do you really want to collect pieces of green paper with the faces of dead notables printed on them? I doubt it.
What you really want is what you imagine money could give you. Freedom, fun, independence you name it. We do not strive for money, good relationships, success and so forth but for the feeling that we link to having it.
Does that sound a little bit trivial to you? Maybe it does, at least when I heard the concept first I was kind of annoyed. The thought that all my high ideals where eventually a means to make me feel good seemed too ordinary.
But when I got deeper into the idea, and I quickly did as I am pretty curious, I found the principle not only holds true but is a strong foundation to eventually achieve all those high ideals and goals I dreamed of achieving one day.
So don't be upset by the idea and give it a serious consideration. Think it through and decide by yourself if it makes sense and, even more important, if it helps you achieve the outcome you want to achieve.
Here is the basic theorem. All humans are steered by two mighty forces. Pleasure and pain. At the very bottom every human emotion is either pleasurable or painful. We basically feel good or bad. The range of our feelings might be indefinite but they all are located somewhere in between the two poles called absolute pain and absolute pleasure.
If you are in an emotional state you like, that state is pleasurable. If you are in an emotional state you dislike that state is painful.
How come pain and pleasure are the driving forces in human life? The answer is that all life is determined to grow. Everything we call life, without any exception, has one thing in common, its strive for growth.
Think about it a moment, all life tries to expand. It does so by two ways, growth and reproduction. There is no life form that does not follow the path of growth and reproduction.
And, sure enough that basic goal of life is inherent within us too. The day we where born (probably even sooner) we start to learn, encounter, memorize, achieve new skills in short we start growing. Most of us join a relationship ? or even more than one- and one of the reasons for doing that is to produce offspring. But, aren't children a way to extend oneself into the future? Sure they are. Life goes on even if you as a person dies, life continues and grows further through your children. It is the ultimate snowball system. Life at its very basis is expansion, growth.
Now, what does that has to do with pleasure and pain. Look, the basic function of your brain is to coordinate all your various organs and processes, like breathing, digesting, moving and so forth as well as gathering and evaluating information from outside. Your brain is responsible for your growth. If you don't breath you die which means no more growth. If you don't eat and digest, conveying the energy needed to your body cells, you die which means no more growth. If you do silly movements, like jumping from a cliff, you probably die which means no more growth.
Pain and pleasure are the indicators your brain uses to know if you are on the right track or, if it needs to make course correction to get back on track. And again for your brain, the right track is always survive and growth.
Pain signals a deviation from the track and forces the brain to act in some way to get back on course. Let's look at some sort of pain and find out if that theory holds true.
Fear is pretty close to ultimate pain. Would you agree? Now what happens if you fear something? First you produce a strong emotional state, your body reacts, maybe your stomach hurts, you become fully alert, adrenalin is produced and floods your blood system and at least for a moment most of the time for a pretty long moment, your rational thinking is taken away from you. We call this state panic.
Your brain immediately tries to answer the basic question "fight or flight" and prepares yourself to act on whatever it decides by taking away your rationality.
As you can see pain is a very useful function. Another example. Say you eat something that was rotten or in some way would poison you. Agreed in the age of McDonalds this is something that happens less often than at the time man used to collect its food as hunters and gatherers. But still the brain knows what to do. If it detects poisonous food it does so because pain (nausea for example) arises and it reacts in the best way to get rid of what you eat by forcing you to vomit.
Pain is a signal that something is wrong and needs correction. Pleasure on the other hand signals that all is ok and no threats are at hand ? at least that is what the brain beliefs and acts upon.
Does that make sense to you? Whatever happens inside our outside of our body your brain constantly evaluates whether this means pain or pleasure.
Feeling good signals our brain that we are at top condition. We are on course so to speak and we can focus on our final goal, growth.
Feeling bad signals that we are off course, the intensity is often a measure for how far we are off course, and that our brains needs to make adjustments to get us back on course.
Compare it to a flight from maybe Boston to San Diego. The pilot will check if everything is working and in place, start the engines and take off. If he detects he is heading north, he will make adjustments, because he knows San Diego is south west of his current location. During the whole flight the airplane is 90% off course, meaning it constantly needs corrections, yet, 99% of the time the plane will reach the San Diego runway at exactly the position it is used to.
Our life is similar. It is a journey with constant course corrections signaled by pain and phases where we head straight towards the goal signaled by lots of pleasure. The more pain we feel the further off course we are and the bigger has the course correction to be. The milder the pain is and the lesser it occurs the more we are on course and lesser course corrections are needed to reach the goal.
I like to invite you to think about this a little. Try to find out what is holding you back from pleasure once you feel pain.
Do you get the idea why feeling good is at the base of all we want in life?
Think of it. If you said your goal is making money, what is it that makes you feel good about that? Maybe you imagine the freedom that you would have. What makes you feel good about the freedom? At the end of the road, whatever your goal is there is something that you link massive pleasure to. This something is your real goal.
Now, how can you use this? First, you can use this to evaluate your goals. Imagine you reached your goal, see it, hear what you would hear and feel what you would feel. Does that give you massive pleasure?
Second, if you know how you like to feel, maybe you can find other goals that can provide you with the same amount of pleasure. Think about how that would increase your choices. All of a sudden various goals can provide you with the same pleasure.
Third, you can use your pain as an indicator that you are off course and try to find out what to do to get you back on track.
Fourth you understand that pleasure is something we can have every day and not only after a long journey. Remember the less course corrections you have to make, the more pleasure you feel.
Fifth, understanding that feeling good are emotional states that you, and only you, produce you have the power to make you feel good at every moment you choose to. Once you done your course correction you automatically will feel good and that is a very powerful tool to help you achieve your goal. Doing what has to be done is only possible if you have pleasure while doing it, else your brain will start to avoid what you do to prevent you from pain ? this is the reason for procrastinating and many other virtues.
I there is one thing I like you to remember it is that at every moment in time your brain will do everything to avoid pain and to gain pleasure. Knowing that gives you powerful control over your emotions and life.
Let me end with a quote that is worth thinking about for some moments.
" The secret of success is to learn how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you're in control of your life. If you don't, life controls you."-
This article may published freely only in its whole including all appendices.
? 2005 by Norbert Haag
Online Business Coach (http://www.onlinebusinesscoach.com)
Norbert Haag is a business consultant, entrepreneur and sought after speaker for more than 20 years. His company - Online Business Coach http://www.onlinebusinesscoach.com - provides information and services for online businesses, small business owners and freelancers.
You can reach Norbert at firstname.lastname@example.org.