The Pleasure and Pain Principle

Episode 029

Titanium Life With Arman Sadeghi Success Down to a Science

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Understanding the Pleasure and Pain Principle Will Help You Hack Your Life

Today I’m gonna tell you why it is that you don’t take action on the things that you know you wanna take action on. There are things that you wanna do and you know you should do them but for whatever crazy reason, you don’t.

Today’s episode is all about talking to you about why it is that sometimes you do this crazy thing where you don’t take action on the things that we wanna take action about. So, what it is all about. Well, at the simplest level, it’s a simple concept of pain versus pleasure.

Everything we do in life is for the purpose of either gaining pleasure, avoiding pain, or hopefully a little bit of both. And that’s a concept that’s been tough for years that people talk about. Well, you wanna get pleasure and you wanna avoid pain.

How I Discovered the Pleasure and Pain Principle

And it’s a simple concept but let me tell you when they first started talking about this stuff in the ’80s and ’90s when it became really popular to talk about pain versus pleasure. It was a super hot topic but today, it’s going to be kind of old. So what I decided to do is I wanted to take it to another level. So what I decided to do is to find out why it is that even when people know that all decisions are based pain and pleasure, why is it that they still often don’t follow through to do the things that they wanna do.

Business Coaching - Pleasure Pain Principle

The Pain-Pleasure Connection

So there had to be more to it than just pain versus pleasure. And so I want on this journey here in the last two years or so, to really try to figure this out, I studied a lot of the neuroscience behind it, and a lot of the studies that are out there on how people act, that how humans act and a lot of other things and I put a bunch of different concepts together, and what I’ve created is the six-step formula that really describes for I believe is the first time, describes how pain and pleasure actually work.

Because it’s not as simple as we avoid pain and we want pleasure. It is not that because often you see people make decisions that are clearly more painful, but they make the decision to do that thing anyways.

The Six Steps of the Pain and Pleasure Theory

And the question is why? Or sometimes you see people go for a little bit of pleasure to give up a lot of pain, right? So why is it that we do things the way that we do? So here we go, six steps, step number one is to understand that human beings want to avoid pain and gain pleasure.

Step 1 – Human Beings Want to Avoid Pain and Gain Pleasure

So everything else being completely equal, if you have an option with two choices, you are going to pick the one that gives you more pleasure and the one that gives you less pain. So if I say I’m standing in front of you and there is no other circumstance involved then I say, “would you prefer that I give you a hug or I stick you with the needle?” you’re gonna say, “okay, I’ll take the hug.”

Because if you think it’s gonna give you more pleasure and it’s gonna give you less pain, simple as that. But then we get to the second step of this formula.

2 – Human Beings Will Do More to Avoid Pain Than Gain Pleasure

The second step is to understand that human beings will do more to avoid pain than they will to gain pleasure. So yes, you will prefer to get a hug than being stuck by that needle, alright. But, if there’s an option where you’re gonna have pain and pleasure then the decision is okay, now what do I go for?

What if it’s not as simple as a hug or a needle? What if the hug is from someone you may not necessarily like and the needle is gonna give you some medicine that’s gonna be good for you? See, that changes the concept.

So now you have to look at the pain and the pleasure of the hug and the pain and pleasure of the needle and if you have to make a choice what you’re gonna do is your brain, all things being equal, is going to select the thing that is going to give the least amount of pain, because we are programmed to do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure.

Now, that’s nothing revolutionary. See, that’s something that people have been talking about since the ’90s. You’ve heard about this thing of all pain and pleasure and then people will do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure, right? Step three is something that has not been talked about all that much.

Business Coaching - Pain Pleasure Connection

Step 3 – Perception Plays a Big Role in the Pain and Pleasure Principle

But it’s a really really important part of understanding how the human brain works and it’s critical to understanding neuroscience and NLP and a lot of these other things that talk about human action. And that is this, it’s not necessarily that you want to avoid pain and you wanna gain pleasure, believe it or not. And it’s not that you want to do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure.

What it really is, is the perception of pain or pleasure. And see, this is what really throws a huge huge loop into this whole thing. What you’re doing now is I’m telling you, yes, it is true you wanna avoid pain, you wanna gain pleasure.

But see, you’re brain doesn’t actually know what’s pleasurable and what’s painful. So it’s the perception of reality that your brain is really after. When you’re making decisions, it’s a matter of, how do I perceive this to be, right? Do I perceive this to be painful or do I perceive this to be pleasurable?

So when I talk to you, about sticking you with the needle, what’s gonna happen is it’s not the actual pain of the needle that you judge, you judge it by how much you think it’s going to hurt you. Now some of you have had some bad experiences with needles and may even have phobias about needles.

So the perception for you is going to be that needle is gonna be really painful. Even if that perception is false, even if this kind of needles is a new kind of needles that don’t cause any pain. Even if I already numbed you, the perception is, that is going to hurt you and therefore, perception is reality.

So let’s back up a little bit and look at what this means. So you’ll do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure, but what it is, is the perception of the pain you think you’re gonna have, not the reality. Step three starts to explain some of the irrational decisions people make, right. You don’t study for that exam when you’re in college and you wait till the last minute.

Well because what you think, is you think it’s more painful to study today right than it is to just let it go ‘til tomorrow. But then what happens is poop hits of the fam and what happens now the night before the exam, and guess what, now it feels like it’s gonna be a lot more painful if you don’t study.

So guess what, you cram the night before. Now if you could go back, the problem is, back when you made the initial decision to not study, you were looking at the perception of how painful you thought this was gonna be, not reality. So that’s the third step, but then I thought okay, there’s gotta be still more to this.

So I dug a little deeper because I looked at decisions that people made and even with this concept of perception and reality and more of avoiding pain than to gain pleasure, it’s still didn’t fully explain it because sometimes people made wacky decisions still. And so I looked and I looked and I looked and I found aha… there’s a fourth one that I’ve never really thought about before and that was this concept that the perception of pain and pleasure is actually modulated by time.

Step 4 – Pain and Pleasure are Modulated by Time

What is that mean? What that means is when I talked to you about pain and pleasure principle, it’s important to understand that your brain looks at the time it’s going to take to gain that pain or pleasure and it modulates it. So let’s say I tell you that a year from now I’m gonna take you to this event, and at this event part of it, is that they’re gonna stick a big needle on you and I say, it’s not a regular needle, it’s a really big needle, right.

And this event say, a year from now, I want you to go with me and I want you to try this, trust me, you’re gonna really enjoy the event. And then sticking the needle in you is gonna get you some really great results.

So most people look at that and go okay, I don’t like the needle and stuff but it doesn’t sound so bad, right? But what if I take that same scenario and I say, “Hey look, next week there’s an event that I’m going to and we’re gonna go to this thing and they stick this big needle in you.”

Instantaneously I guarantee you inside of everyone listening, you felt a different feeling because the perception of pain is modulated by time. So a week is a lot different than a year from now.

But now let’s try something else. Tomorrow I’m gonna go to this event and I want you, the listener to go with me.  Tomorrow morning, whatever you’re doing, you’re gonna get this needle stuck in you, okay, but don’t worry about it. It’s really good and we’re gonna get some really great things at the event. Ready to go with me?

Noticed how this feels, okay, and notice that as we get closer and closer to the time, everything changes but now I’ve got an even better one for you.

Hey listener, right next door to where you are right now I’ve actually sent some of my staff and we got this special thing we’re gonna do. You’re gonna go in that room, we’re gonna stick a big needle in you, are you ready? Go. See, how that feels? As we get things to be closer, in time, the perception of pain is actually increased and the same is true for pleasure.

This is why you see people go blow all their money buying stupid things that they don’t really need. Because the pleasure you think you’re gonna get from having financial stability three years from now, the perception of that is not as real to you like the perception of reality for today or tomorrow.

So what we do is we have our pain and pleasure modulated by time, so now when you look at this, every decision that human beings make is to avoid pain and to gain pleasure.

However rule number two says, we’ll do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure. Rule number three says that it’s actually the perception of pain and pleasure that is our reality.

And then rule number four says that the amount of perceived pain and pleasure is modulated by time and therefore the closer something is to now, the more real it feels and the stronger the pleasure and the pain seems.

But see, that still didn’t explain it. All of that was really good and I got to the point where I was explaining maybe 85% of the decisions people are making but then I still saw that some people were making decisions that just didn’t seem like they made sense. So then the next thing hit me, I was listening to this neuroscientist talking about this thing that has to do with emotions and logic, and it hit me.

Business Coaching - Pain And Pleasure Theory

Step 5 – Emotion Trumps Logic

Rule number five is that emotions trumps logic and you this all the time, that when you’re trying to make a decision, yes, you wanna avoid pain, yes it’s the perception, and yes it’s modulated by time.

But the pain, that’s emotional pain, is stronger than what you think of as a logical pain and the pleasure, that’s an emotional pleasure, it’s a stronger feeling than logical. What that means in simple terms is that when something is going to hurt your heart you will do more to avoid that pain.

Then something that you’re brain says is going to hurt you, right? That’s why in relationships you see people just acting weird ways, right? Because it’s emotional, it’s all emotional.

And so emotions will trump logic any day of the year and that means your heart, now we say our heart, it’s really not our heart that’s making the decision, it’s certain parts of our brain but for simplicity sake we’re just gonna call it the heart and will assume that your brain is logical and your heart is emotional.

Your heart, therefore, can overwrite the mind, much more easily than the mind can actually overcome the heart right, or overwrite the heart.

And so emotion trumps logic so let’s go through this, rule number one, you wanna avoid pain, you wanna gain pleasure, okay, but you wanna do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure, but three it’s that, it’s the perception of what the reality of that pain and pleasure is.

But four, it’s modulated by time, meaning that you wanna do more to avoid immediate pain, but then five, it’s emotional, right? The emotions trump the logic, so what that means is you will do absolutely anything to avoid emotional pain that is closed to us in time.

That means that if you’re gonna do something, that is going to cause you emotional pain right now you will do anything in the world to avoid that thing, right? As opposed to something that’s gonna get you pleasure but the pleasure is logical and it’s far from now.

That’s why most of you can’t save money. That’s why people struggle with saving money, that’s why people struggle with going to the gym, because see when you go to the gym, what’s gonna happen logically, you realized, you are gonna have a really nice body and you’ll be like, wow it’s gonna be six months from now, right?

So it’s pleasure, the pleasure of looking good, number two since you’ve really never had that incredible body in many cases, you don’t even know the pleasure of having a body like that.

Trust me, you don’t know the absolute benefits of it that go way beyond just how you’re looking and things like that, the energy that you haven’t thought about. So you don’t even know the reality of it, right? But it’s your perception and it’s six months from now and it’s logical, it’s not emotional.

So if you wanna lose weight, tie pain to the emotional side of it and the emotions of now, not six months from now. Think about the emotional things like, what are people saying about you right now, if you’re overweight right, and the emotions that go along with that. And think of the immediate pleasure you could have if you don’t need that cookie. So forget about the calories and how you’re gonna gain weight.

What if you were the focus on right now, if I don’t need this cookie, you know my stomach won’t feel like crap five minutes from now, right. By that time I’m done eating this cookie, it’ll be gone anyway. What’s the point?

So that then at that point, I finally started describing something like 90, 95% of the decisions people made, but there was still something I felt missing because I would look at certain decisions and those five steps that I told you didn’t quite bring it together.

Step 6 – Survival Always Beats Desire

So this is one where I sorted out the best information and I found this really amazing thing that I’ve been talking about for years. I just didn’t realize it affects pain versus pleasure. And that is, that after everything else is in consideration, survival always beats desire because see, as human beings we’re programmed to survive, we are not programmed to thrive.

And I want you to realize that this is a really important thing, is that we as human beings and I’m gonna do a full podcast episode on this concept and that is that human beings are built to survive. We are not built to thrive in life, we are not built for success, we’re purely built for survival.

So, the desire to have something is nowhere near strong as your survival instincts that kick in. So when you wanna say no to that food, the problem is that your survival instincts kick in and survival instincts have to do with what, emotion right? And survival almost always, is related to something that’s happening now, right?

And the perception is a reality, in terms of the fact that things that have to do with survival feel really powerful to us. And of course, survival is in instinct that is trying to get you to avoid the biggest pain of all, right death.

So what you see then is you put the six together, and this six will describe any decision a human being makes when you apply these six principles to it.

Your gonna see that essentially, you can see exactly why an individual is making the decision they’re making and if you’re trying to help people, especially if you’re trying to help yourself, you can look at and see which of this steps is causing you to make poor decisions and you just go back and say, how do I fix this?

A Recap of the 6 Steps to Understanding the Pleasure-Pain Principle

So, to get through it, number one, every decision we make is to avoid pain and to gain pleasure. But, we will do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure. It’s the perception of that pain that is more real to us and it’s modulated by time, meaning we’ll do more to avoid the perception of the pain of something that is happening now or soon rather than something that’s happening a long time from now.

And number five says it’s about emotion, not logic, so the things that have to do with the heart will overwrite the things that have to do with the brain. And what’s the thing that’s most emotional in nature? Survival.

So when something affects your survival instinct versus your desire, all rules go out the door and everything else is off the table. So, that my friend is why you are not doing as much as you want let’s say in your business, in finances, in the gym, with your relationship or whatever it is.

So start focusing on that survival instinct and take that survival instinct by the way and make it work for you instead of against you. So instead of thinking about the fact that, hey if I go to the gym your survival instincts will say it’s a waste of my time.

Get yourself to understand that it is not true. Get it away from the logical and make it emotional and think about all of those things and make it as emotional as you can and get your survival instinct to push you forward, alright. I hope this makes a lot of sense to you.

I know that if you take these six rules and you apply them, you’re gonna be able to better understand why you make the decisions you make and the most important person for you to look at for this, is you, my friends.

Hey, I love you all, I want you to go out there, make amazing decisions and if you’ve been wondering, why you were not taking action on that thing that you really wanted to take action on, go back and find out which of this six steps is causing you to not take action and let’s take that thing, let’s turn around, let’s take massive action on it now after you understand why it is that you have not been taking action at it.

Hey, I love you all. Go out there and as always, I wanna remind you, lead with your heart.


Arman Sadeghi’s Titanium Life Podcast is a truly life changing force that encompasses every aspect of life. Topics covered are Business/Career, Health, Wealth, Relationships, and overall Fulfillment and Happiness. For more information go to or Arman’s next Titanium Live event!