On Pain, Pleasure and Larry Bird Conditioning

This week’s book learning is from ‘Awaken the Giant Within’ by Anthony Robbins.

Tony Robbins had a problem – he was susceptible to over eating. His view on the driving force behind all human action is PPP or the Pain Pleasure Principle. In his view, we only act out of a need to avoid pain or a desire to derive pleasure.

Thus, procrastination happens when we link more pain to taking action versus not taking action. So, the moment the ratio flips and we see more pain coming our way than pleasure, we stop procrastinating.

Of course, the key here is that this is often not actual pain or pleasure – but our perceptions. The only way to re-wire our attribution of pain and pleasure is mental conditioning.

In his case, he used to link pain to not eating everything on his plate. As a result, he went about conditioning himself to link pleasure to pushing the plate away when he was full! He practiced doing it, celebrated when he managed to do it and did so till it felt good to push the plate away.

His inspiration? The story of legendary basketball player Larry Bird filming for a soft drink commercial where he was supposed to miss a shot. He had to go through the scene 9 times because, despite his wish to miss, every time he jumped up to take a shot, he scored out of habit!

Viktor Frankl is not likely to agree with Robbins’ view of the driving force of all human action as it takes away our need for meaning. And I’m not sure I entirely agree either.

That said, I find his simplistic model very useful for times when I continue indulging a bad habit that I know must stop – that’s the time to be aware of my own pain and pleasure linkages!

Here’s to switching pain-pleasure linkages where necessary this week!