“I conceive that pleasures are to be avoided if greater pains be the consequence, and pains to be coveted that will terminate in greater pleasures.” -Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance.
Think about pain and pleasure and how it relates to your life. Let’s look at procrastination. We’ve all done it, we all do it, we’re all going to do it again. How many times have you procrastinated? You kept putting off not smoking. You said the diet will start on Monday. But why put this stuff off? There is no better time than the present.
It’s because procrastination is an avoidance strategy. We do something else instead of doing what we need to do. Why? Because we rather do more to avoid pain than seek out pleasure.
Let’s take a look at short term vs long term gain. Often when something is ‘worth it’ it takes commitment, time, usually a bit of blood, sweat and tears. Things that are worth it are hard. Exercising for instance is a lot like that. I’m sure many of you have procrastinated when thinking you could stand to work out or eat healthier.
We often think about how hard it is to start an exercise routine or give up fattening foods and so staying in bed or eating that chocolate cakes gives us a short term amount of pleasure instead. We think it will hurt us more to get out of bed earlier or go to the gym after work than it would to sit on our bums.
Well that may be true in the short term. But the more we put off exercising the more pain we are causing ourselves in the long run. We’re more prone to heart disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high cholesterol.
On the other hand, think about the short-term amount of pain, the few weeks or months to get into a routine of healthier habits. It will be hard and it won’t be fun at first, but in the long term we are setting ourselves up with quite the pleasures.
So, how do we gain enough motivation to jump those first hurdles? We have to create more pain around staying the same in order to make a change. If we associate pain with what we actually need or want to do, it just won’t happen.
Pain can be your friend. It’s just a matter of knowing when enough is enough. That’s our emotional threshold. It tells us when we just can’t take it anymore and decide to do things differently.
Think about an abused spouse. They let themselves get hit over and over again until they one day decide that they just cant take it anymore. In this instance there is a ‘light bulb’ moment and they are motivated by pain to get themselves out.
Next time you try to procrastinate, just remember. Procrastination is like masturbation, in the end, you’re only screwing yourself.