Brain Food #604

When pain leads to pleasure

Thoughts of the day

Doing what feels good and doing what is good are often not one and the same. The former pays off in the short-term with instant satisfaction, but may not have any positive long-term impact (or it may even have a negative one). Doing what is good, on the other hand, may be painful in the short-run, but after a while, like any good investment, it will begin to pay off.

Long days of work to meet a deadline will —hopefully— yield some rewards further down the line. Muscles are sore as they rebuild themselves after an intense workout. Childbirth, the very act of bringing life into the world, can often be a long and painful experience. The Odyssey would not have been the same story without the troubles and temptations that are strewn along Odysseus’ path.

And this doesn’t just ring true for individuals, but for larger entities, like companies. Research by McKinsey Global Institute found that companies that operated with a true long-term mindset consistently outperformed their industry peers across almost every important financial metric.

Though we tend to avoid pain, life lies in this fine interplay between pain and pleasure. One often leads to the other, one may even need the other. When we have worked hard for something, we feel all the more satisfied when we reap the rewards. And eventually, the act of knowing that we are doing what is right will begin to feel good in itself.

But is shutting pleasure away from the short-run a sustainable approach to living? More on this tomorrow.

“…if you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.”

— Steve Jobs