How To Use Pain as a Positive Motivator

by Personal Development + Life Design0 comments

Many personal development teachings say that you should focus on the positive when trying to achieve a goal or change a habit.  For me, I’ve found that using both my dream and my pain, give me the staying power to achieve what I deeply want in my life, especially in the beginning.


First of all, anything really worth having, isn’t easy, and it takes time. A successful business, a connected relationship, a healthy-feel-great-in-your-own-skin body…all take consistent effort, over time.

Secondly, no matter how big and beautiful your dream is, you will feel like quitting, at some point in the journey.


So, knowing these two thing – anything worthwhile takes time/effort, and that you will want to throw in the towel at some point, how do you stay motivated, inspired, and consistent?*

*And consistency is sooooooo key.  Leaps and bounds forward, in everything, come from consistent focus every week.


Use both Pain + Pleasure to keep you inspired…and connected to what’s most important to you.


Using Pleasure

This one I’ve talked a lot over the years. Dream Boards (HUGE FAN), your Big Dream written out, drawn or painted, and walking around BEING the kind of person in your dream life – are about 80% of the equation.

But the 20%, that isn’t usually talked about, is equally as powerful.


Using Pain

Use what you DON’T want as a motivator. Use the OPPOSITE of what you want as a kick in the a$$ (we all need that sometimes – me too :)) Use your DREAM (heaven), as well as hell (what you DON’T want) to inspire you.

I know this flies in the face of “focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want”, but in this case, it WORKS.


Example in my life:

(Journal Entry Jan, 2003)


DREAM: I want my own hugely successful and impactful business that truly makes a difference in the world.


PLEASURE: What will happen if I DO this ?

I will be working for myself, with financial, time and location freedom, having meaning and fulfillment in my work, be able to center my business and life around what I most love, CREATING, and truly impact others and live around the world doing work that I love.


PAIN: What will happen if I DON’T do this?

I’ll have to go back to a 9-5 job and work for someone else. My income will be capped. I’ll be working hard to make someone else wealthy instead of setting myself financially free. My ladder will be against the wrong wall. I won’t be able to design my day, someone will tell me when I can take my lunch, vacations and worst of all, someone will be telling me what to do all day. I won’t have creative freedom, be able to travel and work in different countries, or even be able to take dance and yoga classes at the times I want to. Actually – it would feel like DEATH to work for someone again.


IMPORTANT: 80% of the time my DREAM, has pulled me forward. But 20% of the time, especially during the times that I felt like quitting – it was actually my PAIN (what would be hell for me) that keep me going.


In the example above, there was NO way that I wanted to work for someone ever again in my life, even though building my own business, was hard in the beginning. And I felt like quitting many, many times.


Now, what is interesting:  Back in 2005, at about the 1.5 – 2 year mark for this particular business, things really started flowing (finally!). So then, I found that my Dream began to motivate me more (85, 90, 95%) of the time and my Pain started to motivateme less (15, 10, 5%) of the time, until it was no longer my reality that I would need to work for anyone ever again.  My Dream then become my main sparkplug.

So my Dream (pleasure) had more power in the end, BUT in the beginning, I found my pain was a powerful trigger, especially when I felt like giving up. For me, this strategy works best in the beginning when I’m still finding my feet and more susceptible to quitting.

I’ve used this same philosophy for health changes I’ve wanted to make, relationship challenges and most recently, in new businesses that I’ve been creating (that I’ve felt like quitting at times too!).


More Examples:

Yes, I want this piece of cheesecake, and it’s hard to say no, but I know I will feel WORSE tomorrow – blood sugar all over the place, cravings back and I’ll be hugely disappointed in myself. The pain will be worse than that the pleasure, so I’m choosing not going to eat it.

Yes, it’s hard to be completely honest with my sister right now, because I don’t want to hurt her, but I know stepping over my truth is going to make it much harder later on when my “omissions” come out somehow. I know this b/c I’ve experienced this kind of pain before – it’s just not worth it.

Yes, it’s a pain in the a$$ filing my business receipts every two weeks, but I know how painful it is when I leave it til a month before tax time, so I’ll do the little by little now, throughout the year.


Action Steps:

Take 5 min right now (b/c then you’ll do it :)) to do this super short,  but powerful exercise. In your journal, write down ONE thing you really want to achieve.  Next, answer these two questions.

What will happen if I do it?
What will happen if I don’t do it?

Keep this journal entry to refer to. Focus daily on what you want (dream boards, big dream etc), but when you feel like quitting, pull out your journal and read both the pleasure and the pain answers.

Yes, we’re inspired by pleasure and our dreams, but we will also do everything we can to stay away from pain.   True change happens when the pain of standing still is worse than the pain of moving forward.  Knowing this, use it to your advantage when going for your dreams…until your dreams gain more strength, take over and your fear is no longer a reality, and therefore no longer a motivator.


Now THAT is something worth working towards, yes?

Over to You! What do you think about using both the Pain + Pleasure Principle for achieving important dreams? Has this worked for you? Do you agree or not agree?

Share here – the best insights happen in the comments when we share our ideas and strategies. I personally read every single comment and and always respond – I love to hear.

Lots of love,

Carmen xo

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