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Pain Avoidance - How to Use it to Get into Shape!

by Beatrice Ward (follow)
Beatrice W Ward
Life (611)      Change (147)      Motivation (134)      Psychology (88)      Wellbeing (67)      Inspiration (66)      Exercise (54)      Purpose (50)      New Beginnings (47)      Advice (43)     
“Everything you and I do, we do either out of our need to avoid pain or our desire to gain pleasure.” Anthony Robbins.



Fit woman


Many people know what it’s like to feel the burn, to know the satisfaction of a good workout and to see the results. However not many people know how to keep that feeling alive. When you’re feeling down in the dumps, the urge to vegetate and eat your favorite ‘bad’ food kicks in and suddenly it seems easier to flag your workout for the sake of a big glass of merlot and your favorite chick flick instead.

But what happens when the appeal of the wine and swine (referring to the jerk boyfriend in the chick flick who always gets the girl) wears off and you end up feeling worse when you see your reflection? When you see your dry skin, dull hair and muffin top? Perhaps it’s the dimples on your butt that keep you awake at night, or maybe you’re sleeping all the time because you have no energy and lack motivation.

Whatever it is that is stopping you from wanting to do the right thing by your body, the most important thing to remember is that human beings are animals. And animals are never motivated by movement towards what they want, instead animals are extremely motivated by movement away from what they don’t want.

They don’t want to starve, so they will eat, they don’t want to be beaten by the elements so they build homes, they don’t want be attacked by predators so they develop skills to avoid attack. You could argue that they want a full belly, they want to be warm, they want to feel safe, but these wants are just another way of saying that they want to avoid pain.

Anthony Robbins does mention gaining pleasure in his quote at the beginning of this article, but pain avoidance is what it's really about.

Pain avoidance can make us do crazy things. A few years ago, a woman in the USA was walking down a busy shopping street when she saw a person with a dog that looked like a pit bull heading her way. In a moment of fear she stepped off the curb to avoid the dog...and was hit by a car. This demonstrates perfectly that pain avoidance can cloud our vision and make us do things that we might later regret. In our case, that would be to eat a packet of chips when we're hungry, or skip the gym because you've had a bad day.

You could argue that it’s painful to look in the mirror and not like what you see, so this should be enough of a motivator. But don't forget that it is also painful to get out of bed early, or push yourself to workout when you've had a long day at work. And if you’re not looking in the mirror, if you’re looking at a tub of ice-cream or your comfortable sofa instead, then the pain of the mirror is easy to forget. You could also wonder if the pain of feeling unhealthy should be enough, but it's not when you're faced with the pain of being outside of your comfort zone or putting in the hard work.

So where to now?

To be honest I struggle with this every day as well. I have, in the past, been able to achieve a physique that I was happy with, but every now and then I have succumbed to the desire of avoiding the pain of routine and effort. During the times when I have been successful at exercising regularly and achieving great results, I have motivated myself by focusing on other pain that I want to avoid.

Me, at my heaviest (in my early-mid 20's)


Me, at one of my peaks (early-mid 30's)


Me at one of my peaks


For me it's simple, I want to be an actress. I want to play fit, healthy roles, and I want to play the lead. And the fear of the camera adding pounds to my look, is enough to motivate me to at least keep my physique workable or at a maintenance level. In other words I am not in fitness model shape, but I could be if I applied myself.

That brings me to my other motivating factor. Whilst I don't have a fitness model physique at the moment, I do actually have a goal to become a fitness model and to compete in fitness competitions. I've had the fitness model/competitor goal in mind for over five years and I have created a space in my mind that makes it impossible for me to give up on the goal. Because for me, quitting is painful!

When I first got this goal in my mind it motivated me to get out of bed at 4 in the morning to do my weights workout before starting work at 6, then I would get home at 3.30pm and go for a jog. In my early days I dropped from 72kg down to 59kg! All by eating clean, working out regularly and keeping in mind the pain that I wanted to avoid...the pain of failure.

Give yourself a fitness goal to aim for as well! Whether it be a competition like Tough Mudder or becoming a runner, pick something and go for it!

You don't even have to complete the goal any time soon either. As I said, I've been trying for my goal for the last five years. And that's ok! Because at least I'm still striving for it.

And lets be really honest here, we're not dealing with pit balls and cars. We're dealing with ourselves, we're dealing with our own limitations that we put on ourselves. Sure, it's easy to blame outside influences but at the end of the day, you are responsible for you. And if you really want something the pain of not having it will inspire you to achieve it.

So work out what you want; work out what pain you will get from not achieving what you want; then move as fast as you can in the opposite direction and you will find yourself moving towards your goal.

My best shape...so far (mid-late 30's)




My peak


# Exercise
# Fitness
# Motivation
# Inspiration
# Life
# Change
# Psychology
# Wellbeing
# Purpose
# New Beginnings
# Action
# Coping
# Advice
# Self Improvement
# Courage
# Effort
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