6 Reasons Why People Don’t Take Action

Ever notice your good intentions falling through no matter how much you wanted to achieve them? Maybe you set goals for yourself or make New Year’s resolutions and they fall by the wayside in just a matter of weeks. There are six reasons why you don’t take the action you should or you do things you shouldn’t:

Reason 1 – People want to gain pleasure and avoid pain

Reason 2 – People will do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure

Reason 3 – Perception of the pain or pleasure is stronger than the reality

Reason 4 – Perception of pain and pleasure is modulated by time

Reason 5 – Emotion trumps logic, and emotional pain is stronger than physical pain

Reason 6 – Survival always beats desire

These six reasons explain why people make 100% of their decisions. By understanding these reasons, you can use them to change your failures into successes.

The Focus of Pleasure and Pain

The first part comes down to an understanding of how pain and pleasure impact people. The need to avoid pain is stronger than the need to feel pleasure, even if the pain will bring pleasure. For instance, you may need to go through a painful procedure to feel good, but you avoid it because you’re focused more on how much it will hurt versus the benefits.

The perception of the pain or pleasure is stronger than the reality. A person who is afraid of needles will perceive them as more painful than they really are. This same idea is true of pleasure. People often expect something to be more pleasurable than what it ends up providing them. It is the perception that guides people’s decisions. Even if they know in their head what’s true, their perceived ideas will lead them in decision making.

Another aspect of this idea is the timeline of the pleasure or pain. Something happening to cause one or the other in the near future is more important than what will happen in the future. You can see it played out in people’s finances. The pleasure received from buying items today trumps the pleasure to be gained by developing financial security from saving money five or ten years down the road or even one year in the future.

Emotion Prevails

What this focus of pleasure and pain does for decision making becomes even clearer when you consider that emotion wins out over logic. Emotional pain will impact your decisions far more than what your brain tells you. The heart will override the mind because everyone wants to avoid heartbreak even more than they want to avoid physical pain.

The ultimate emotional decision comes down to survival and avoiding what is perceived as the worst pain of all – death. People are programmed to survive rather than thrive. Instead of being built for success, humans are built to learn how to survive and stay alive. They focus on the here and now rather than what the future might bring because survival is all about getting through the immediate time.

How to Win

When you read these principles of decision making and understand how they pertain to you and others, you may wonder if there’s any hope. They apply to any decision you make. But that doesn’t mean you are doomed to lose and to continue to fail to take the actions you know are right.

What you have to do is go back and ask yourself, “How can I fix this?” “How can I make decisions where I thrive instead of just survive?” Being aware of the impetus behind decision making is the first step. The second thing you have to do is learn how to make it work for you. Take the survival instinct. Learn how to make your health decisions about surviving. Put the emotions into it. Instead of trying to make good decisions because you’re supposed to, make them because they help you survive.

For example, going to the gym and working out is often a decision based on facts. You know it’s the right thing to do, you’ll be healthier, etc. To make it a decision you’ll follow through on, you have to put the emotional appeal into it. Imagine what would happen to you if you didn’t work out and try to be healthier. Feel the emotional pull of wanting to do this for your family or because you don’t want to feel the pain of sickness or for whatever reason that will motivate you.

The key to making positive changes in your life and avoiding bad decisions is to learn what motivates you and to use it for your success.


Pleasure Pain Principle 

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Comments (3)

  1. Avatar for Arman Sadeghi James Hardee says:

    This article was extremely helpful, but I kept getting an error trying to join the mailing list and download the Guide you offered.

  2. Avatar for Arman Sadeghi Tisha Torres says:

    Super interesting post here. Sometimes I wonder why I make such irrational decisions when I am feeling a negative emotion. I feel like I learned a lot here. I am going to use this to be more mindful of my decisions.

  3. Avatar for Arman Sadeghi tanner Johnson says:

    MAN this article just blew my mind. I finally feel like I understand why I do the things I do…and don’t do the things I know I should! Good stuff.

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