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The Updated Motivational Triad

We Seek Pleasure, Avoid Pain, Exert the Least Amount of Effort:

In the past, our brains taught us to survive by seeking pleasure, avoiding pain and exerting the least amount of effort.

Our brains were programmed to think this way. It protected us from any kind of pain, discomfort or drama.

The first part is that we have been motivated to SEEK PLEASURE. When we seek pleasure, we survive.

We seek connection with other humans.

(but as a survivor that is a scary place because connection could mean danger. I say this because in the past, the person or people you were connected with caused you pain or hurt you deeply), right?

We seek food, which taste good and keeps us alive.

(If you needed a vice to deal with your pain you may have turned to food as your comfort which in turn caused unhealthy eating habits and led to another problem, being overweight which then caused you more pain and unhappiness.)

We seek sex, which feels good and creates new life.

(But as a survivor, sex may have been used against you, coerced or forced or maybe your partner was having sex with someone else…..all negative effects.)

All of these things have helped us to survive in the world thus far….. but for survivors they could have turned into a negative.

The second part of the motivational triad is: to AVOID PAIN.

We've kept ourselves away from things that hurt us and anything that has caused emotional pain. This has kept us alive.

BUT pain is built into the human experience as a way of survival.

(The difference with survivors is that being in survival mode constantly, has caused a mark or a wound on our body and soul).

You shouldn’t have to survive your life, you should be living it to its fullest potential.

The third thing in the motivational triad that has kept us alive is: EXERTING THE LEAST AMOUNT


We have reserved our energy for things that really matter to us, which is our survival.

Again, we are designed and we are evolved to seek pleasure, to avoid pain, and to exert the least amount of effort as possible. This is what has gotten us to this point in our lives…

But that exact motivational triad that we've evolved to …. is the exact problem that we are going to have when it comes to moving into our future.

We find that most people feel a sense of dissatisfaction in their lives… but why?, we all live more comfortable lives than ever before, yet we are never happy.

(When you have been thru an abusive or emotionally unhealthy relationship, you long to live a comfortable life with peace and harmony in your day to day.

Most people in society today have way too much pleasure at their finger tips and too much to choose from.

There is sex, via pornography, there is connection via Facebook, there is alcohol and drugs everywhere.

Those pleasures are not only destroying us but adding to the problem of unhealthy relationships. When people have had a painful past, in order to suppress that pain, they will turn to one of the many things that is destroying the human experience right?

You can’t have a conversation with someone without “taking the edge off” with a drink or two. You can’t sort out the discomfort of having that hard conversation with a family member, so you buffer by doing something else instead. People are hiding behind all of these things rather than having the human experience of connection or feeling their feelings or dealing with problems.

And that becomes the problem.

Abusive behaviors, I feel, stem from the inability to manage emotions or manage our thoughts. If you look at the abusive or unhealthy relationship you were in, was your partner exhibiting any of these things? Were they unable to “talk things out” or did they just react? Did they turn to drinking as a way of avoiding and in turn act out towards you? Did they become paranoid about everything and then create more problems because of it?

So here we are…...

All of those things that were supposed help us, are the exact opposite of what needs to turn things around and move us forward.

We need to change the Motivational Triad to the exact opposite of what it has been.

Lets look at Past vs Future Focus

The Fix is the Opposite of the Triad:

We start out when we are young being future focused.

  • We go from crawling to walking,

  • From grade school to high school,

  • From dating to marriage, etc.

Always wanting the next thing, the next step, wondering who am I going to be? What are the possibilities? Completely looking to the future.

But then, when we get over 25 years of age and into our 30’s 40’s, 50’s we stop looking in a future focused way and we stop asking “who do I want to be?”

But rather start saying “who am I?” We look to our past for that answer. We look to our past to define us by

  • what we have done,

  • who we married,

  • what job we have, etc.

Remember…..When you look to your past for answers, you can only re-create more of your past.

So now think about people that have had abusive pasts or unhealthy pasts or that were neglected or bullied in some way?

The average person will over do EVERYTHING in an attempt to reach that growth that they so desire……

But in doing that it is misdirected and dangerous because pulling from their past is causing them to behave in a way that is not healthy.

They get stuck in their current lives that they are dissatisfied with by using their past as a guide.

They are simply recycling thoughts from their past and getting more of that past experience.

If you were in a relationship with someone who was a victim of all of these circumstances and they were abusive toward you because of it, you now have a lot of unwinding to do.

You may be suffering in your current life with all the damage that was done to you during that relationship.

The good news is that we can start to fix this by looking to our future for answers now.

Seeking Pleasure

Rather than seeking pleasure from artificial sources such as drugs, alcohol or social media, we need to PUT THE EFFORT IN to find pleasure from within ourselves and to seek connection with other humans.

That might seem scary because, as I said, being connected was the very thing that hurt you.

It is important to Find pleasure from within and with who YOU are and who you were. Loving yourself. Not with any buffering, just you loving you for everything about you …..

Avoiding Pain

The same thing when it comes to avoiding pain. We need to learn how to PROCESS NEGATIVE EMOTION ALL THE WAY THROUGH, rather than avoid the pain of emotions. But because we were in survival response so much, we didn’t have time to process anything.

This leads to us not putting EFFORT IN and not putting ourselves out there to risk any negative emotion or pain, yet instead we seek pleasure to avoid pain or discomfort.

I get it, it is way too scary. It could take a long time to take control of that feeling so that it doesn’t sabotage your current life. And by seeking artificial pleasure, it puts us in the same category as the abusive partner, that is how they got to that space in their life right?

We want to break that cycle for sure.

We do need to PUT EFFORT IN but we are exhausted from feeling like we were the only one either putting effort in or simply surviving every day.

We need to change our motivation ON PURPOSE.

This is a good thing because we are now in charge of our motivation and things we do and our outcomes.

No one else.

So, that desire to evolve to the next level, to go beyond where you are right now, will require you to rewire your thinking ON PURPOSE.

New thoughts created from your future create new results.

Your thoughts from your past create more results from your past, that's why you feel like you keep living the same life over and over and over again.

That's why at some point you stop succeeding beyond how far you've already succeeded.

You've been afraid to put yourself out there because it has been too scary and your past thoughts have kept you stuck in place. Fear has kept you stuck in place.

Explore your life from your future.

Think, Act and Live as though you have already reached your goal.

Now remember ....Our Brain is very efficient, it thinks of things that it knows and that it has learned. You are used to thinking thoughts of your past which has defined you.

Now it is time to create new experiences that serve you and make those new experiences the thing your brain remembers.

Have a forward focused thought pattern set up.

Emotional Management – Rather than avoiding negative emotions learn how to deal with them instead. Put them in perspective. Take control over them so they don’t take control over you.

Take Massive Action In order to succeed, this must be done.

Think on purpose

Reprogram on purpose

Lay down a new track in your brain

Believe what you think

Your old thought patterns will definitely resurface, but you need to move toward your new thought pattern.

The cause of your negative spin cycle is your thought about your circumstance.

This requires repetition and practice.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you would like to learn more about this concept or to start coaching today.


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