(photo: biancavanderwerf)

Every decision we make is based on the Pee Pee Principle; Pain or Pleasure.

Do you know what stimulates you, what it is that gets you going? What gives you the desire to take action? Let’s review the following mental commercial.

For example, you might be watching a commercial that motivates you to take up self-defense. You turn on the television and a gentleman comes out and says, “This could happen to you!” The screen shows Billy, a nice young man, getting beaten badly by a street thug.

The camera pans back to the spokesperson who asks some very intense questions: “What will happen if you don’t learn to defend yourself? How does that make you feel?” He then goes on to inform you that the chances of being attacked are the same for everyone. “It doesn’t matter where you work, where you live, or who you are. The chances are equal that you could be attacked, mauled, beaten, molested, shot, or mugged. This is all a reality.”

After a short pause the camera shows Billy returning to the same situation, but this time with the knowledge of the Martial Science, he has learned to defend himself. With his new skill he takes care of the assailant with little difficulty and walks away happy and unharmed. The announcer comes back with one last blow to your emotions and says, “What if you could defend yourself; what if you knew in your heart and mind that you could protect yourself and others. How would that make you feel?”

One of the ways to understand this type of motivation is to ask why you are doing something. We can learn this by focusing on two specific areas and asking specific questions. If you ask “why” questions, you will come up with a list that will fall into one of two categories: Pain or Pleasure.

If, for example, your goal was to get a Black Belt and you started to ask WHY questions. Your reasons (why list) might look like this:

  • To develop more confidence
  • To keep from being bullied
  • To keep others safe
  • To walk in safety at night
  • To get into better shape
  • To learn a new skill

Now, if we were to break this list down, it might look like this:

PAIN – Reasons to avoid (moving away from):

To walk safe at night

To keep others safe

To not be bullied

PLEASURE – Reasons to gain (moving towards):

Develop more confidence

Get into better shape

Learn a new skill

Motivation is based on your level of feelings regarding pain or pleasure. If you feel (or imagine you will feel) frightened about not being able to protect yourself, it may be just enough motivation to get you going. Motivation can be summed up in the letter “Y” or one word, which equals – why. If you create a big enough reason, you will have the fuel to act. If you want to have motivation, then make a bigger Y. Ask yourself the following questions:


What will happen if I don’t achieve this?

How does that make me feel?


What will happen if I do achieve this?

How does that make me feel?

This is called the Pain/Pleasure Principle or PPP. By using both the carrot and the stick, we can motivate ourselves to get up and go. Every decision we make, whether we realize it or not, is based on the Pain/Pleasure Principle. When we are asked to make a decision, we ask ourselves if we associate pain or pleasure to the answer. If I ask you, “Would you like to jump with me at the Grand Canyon?” Your brain might say, “That equals PAIN,” and you say, “No, thanks.” Or your brain might yell, “EXCITING,” and you say, “I’ll be there.” Or your brain might at first indicate “PAIN,” and you think, “No, thanks, but wait… if I don’t do it, I may lose my friends which is GREATER PAIN,” and you say, “Okay… I’ll go.”

Sticks are stronger than carrots

The “don’t” is a stronger motivation than the “do,” i.e., pain is a greater motivator than pleasure. We will do more to avoid pain than we will do to gain pleasure. Imagine a situation where someone pulls a knife on you and asks for your money. Your decision to comply is based on which area you think has more pain. If you picture being stabbed in the heart and left to die, you’ll say, “By all means,” and give him your wallet. You link more pain to getting stabbed and left for dead than you do to losing your money. However, if you link more pain to losing the money than you do to getting cut, you will try a different solution. It may sound silly, but people react this way even if it is detrimental to their health.

Your mind knows why. When you ask, “Why do I want to be motivated?” two alarms go off in your head with two answers. The first answer is based on negative associations (the desire to avoid pain) and the second on positive associations (the desire to gain pleasure). The brain says, “Because it’s painful if I don’t” or “It’s pleasurable if I do.”

To make this principle funny and easy to remember, I call it the Pee Pee Principle. What is Pee Pee? You guessed it, the urge to release your natural wonders. Think about it. You have pressure that makes you want to go and you have relief that gives you pleasure when you do. So when you want motivation, all you have to do is link enough pain (build up that pressure) to not doing it and the rewarding pleasure (aaahhhh) to doing it.

Whenever you come across a question or a fork in the road, your brain tries to find the answers based on pain or pleasure. As I mentioned before, pain is the greater motivator. Sad, but true. If I wake you up and try to tempt you to get out of bed with an apple, you may not move. But if I hit you in the shins with a stick, you’ll be out of bed before the second strike.

In the good old days when hard core martial arts training was acceptable without the threat of lawsuits, I was able to learn first-hand the power of this motivation. During training camps we had to get up at 5:00 a.m. to begin training. We were awakened with a bamboo sword called a shinai. It makes a loud noise when it hits you, and it hurts, but it isn’t enough to break any bones. I learned really fast how to get out of a sleeping bag with the idea that every second counts.

In fact, on a recent trip when I took my students to El Paso for some training, we stayed at a large house one of my students owned. I was given full use of the ironing room, but one of the house-maids wasn’t aware I was in this room on the floor in my sleeping bag. She walked in early one morning to prepare some clothes for the owner before he left for work. I was up straight, in a fighting stance before she completed opening the door. The sleeping bag dropped down around my ankles. We were both shocked, but I was glad she didn’t have a shinai and she was glad I was wearing boxer shorts.

A motivational must:

A) Link pain to not being motivated

B) Link pleasure to being motivated

Why does this work? Because anything we do, we do out of the desire to avoid pain or to gain pleasure. And remember, we will do more to avoid pain than we will do to gain pleasure. When it comes down to doing your daily exercises, if you don’t feel like doing them, it is because you link pain to doing them and that pain is more real to you than the benefit of exercising. You have to make the pain of not exercising stronger than the pain of exercising. Let’s use an example:

You: “Let’s go running.”

Self: “I don’t feel like it.”

You: “If you exercise you will look and feel better.”

Self: “I know but…I’ll do it later.”

You: “That’s the same thing you said yesterday.”

Self: “Yes, but today I have a new excuse.”

You: “If you don’t do it, you will be a fat, poor, ugly pig; no one will like you, and your mom will never call again!”

Self: “Where are my running shoes?”

Okay, so your Mom may still not call, but you get the point. The positive self had to resort to pain to get you motivated. You see, your mind only needs to find a greater pain and use that as the stick to keep you going. These pain associations are different for everyone. This technique is important because it deals with associating your inner mental links. We need this unconscious and conscious control because power does not last. With these skills, you can easily refuel your motivation when power runs out and have the energy or gas to get you where you want to go.

Winjitsu Work Out

Spend some time thinking about what motivates you, both pain and pleasure. What will you do anything to achieve? What will you do anything to avoid?

About the Author RICK TEW

I will do the splits for you too. I provide edutainment events that help you to be a Ninja in what you do. I offer Martial Arts Therapy Retreats on Samui Island in Thailand. My unique Winjitsu Mind-Body system of coaching inspires you to BE more fulfilled and to DO more to KickStart your ideas.

follow me on:

Leave a Comment:

1 comment
Add Your Reply
Scroll Up