Economic Principles Meet the Pleasure Principle
It is a basic economic principle that the benefit or value of a product or service must exceed the resources required to obtain it in order for it to be chosen. In other words, if we think the price is too high for the perceived value, we aren’t going to buy it, regardless of what is exchanged in order to get it. Another principle is that choices have intended and unintended consequences which lie in the future. Let’s consider these principles as applied to the goal setting process to gain insight into the choices we make.
A couple of things have come my way recently that have made me stop and say…
“Wait, What? Pain is involved?”
The motivational video “Why Do We Fall” says “It’s not about how hard you get hit, it’s about how hard you get hit and keep moving forward.”
This quote from Prolific Living says “It will hurt. It will take time and dedication and willpower. It will require sacrifice. There will be temptation (to quit) but when you reach your goal, it will have been worth it. So don’t quit. Don’t fuss or whine or complain. Just Keep Hustling.”
Humans do their best to avoid pain, and seek pleasure. Yet reaching goals can require us to embrace temporary pain in pursuit of the long-term pleasure of accomplishing the goal. We have to believe it is worth it, or we will likely give up when we encounter hardships and obstacles. To contribute and excel means going above and beyond.
In Freudian psychology, the pleasure principle is the instinctual seeking of pleasure and avoiding of pain in order to satisfy biological and psychological needs. But to achieve success in some endeavors like sports, pain can be a part of the process to reach the goal. It takes strength to take on that kind of challenge. It takes the ability to delay gratification and keep focused on the long term result.
Anything worth doing takes effort. By definition, reaching for a goal is not going to be easy. When you know what you want to do, and how to do it, you must want it enough to commit to it. And that often means getting up and out of your comfort zone. I need to remember this to get me going above and beyond the path of least resistance. It reminds me of the scene in the movie “Stand and Deliver” based on the true story of teacher Jaime Escalante where he tells his students, “you’ve got to have the desire!” …enough desire to get you past inertia and over the hurdles that stand between you and the goal. You’ve got to have the grit to keep going even when the going gets tough.
The benefit of a goal must exceed the resources required to obtain it.
I want to apply these thoughts to a couple of examples. The first one that comes to mind is working out. Working out requires a commitment of several resources. You have to take the time to get up and go do it. People often don’t view it as that pleasurable a thing to do. (At least, I don’t) It doesn’t have to cost money, but you might invest in a gym membership, a dvd, or equipment. It’s just much easier not to do it. Even though I knew I could gain strength, lose weight, and probably look better, it wasn’t enough to overcome inertia. My husband did something that tipped the scales in favor of my perceived value of working out. He described with great enthusiasm how aerobic exercise works. He promised me I would gain more energy and feel better by making the effort to work out. And I wanted that enough to commit to the goal. I probably would not have made the investment of resources to commit to this goal if not for being educated by him about the value of it. When I clearly saw all of the pros, their significance grew to outweigh the cons. The benefits of working out tipped the balance, becoming greater than the cost of achieving it. I now focus on how good I feel when I work out, and not on the time and effort it takes.
Another example is starting your own business. The costs are substantial: investing in acquiring the skills needed, investment of time, money and hard work, taking a risk. The benefits can also be great: independence, challenge, and hopefully, financial success. It’s an undertaking only chosen by those who believe the benefits outweigh the cost of the goal.
To make intelligent choices, we need to be educated about the true value and the cost of goals, and the long term effects of choosing them, or not. We can use this knowledge to tip the scales in favor of a goal, to make us willing to tackle the costs, the pain, the effort it is going to take, and make good decisions about the choices we make.