Seek Pleasure- Avoid Pain

Uncategorized Nov 18, 2019

In a TED Talk by Douglas Lisle he talks about the pleasure trap and he relates it mostly to food. But I want to take a spin off his teachings and relate this to your world as a teenager or young adult. 


I remember being in my teens and feeling like everything except for church and basketball were off limits. Everything that looked like pleasure was off limits to me. 


It is a blessing to you if your parents are keeping you safe from risky behaviors. Later, probably in your 30’s, you are going to thank them for keeping you safe. But there is going to come a time where you are going to have to start avoiding risky behavior for the sake of your future. Many of you are already making the decisions to avoid risky behavior. The temptations to come in your future in college are far greater than your temptations now. I want to take this opportunity to teach you about your brain. Why do you think the way you think? Are you a maniac? Or are just human? 


You might be a maniac, but most likely you are just a human having human experiences. And I don’t know about you, but that is a huge relief to me. 


In his TED Talk, Lisle explains how our behavior all comes into play.. 


Genes - This is what we are made up of

Instincts- What we internally know to do 

Behavior - Our actions 

Thoughts- What we think about situations

Feelings - The emotions inside of us


You can read more about The Model here. That will help you in understanding how to control your behavior in addition to this information. 


So let’s start with feelings. 


What are feelings and what are they for? 

They are signals that tell us that something is good or bad determining on how they affect you. 

Your boyfriend cheats on you-- you feel hurt because this is not good for you. 

An animal growls at you- you feel scared because this is not good for you. 

You get hug- you feel less stressed because this is good for you

You take a nap- you feel energized because this was good for you. 


Get it? 

This might be the most important thing to understand as a human. You have three main goals that your body is always trying to accomplish. 


Lisle calls this the Motivational Triad


  1. Seek Pleasure 
  2. Avoid Pain
  3. Save Energy 


I literally just described teenagers in 6 words, but you as a teenager/young adult are just having a human experience for the first time! Don’t be worried or scared. Just know you are normal. 


This is literally what your brain in doing all the time.. It is always trying to achieve these things because back when we were cavemen these 3 things kept us alive. 


Your environment can trick your brain into thinking things that your body (through dopamine) thinks that you are doing something good when actually you are causing your body great harm. 


What are we eating? Burgers, pizza and other junk. We eat these foods because we get such a pleasure hit when we get those foods.


Whole natural foods give us a medium hit of dopamine. The super concentrated food like cheese, sugar, dairy tricks your body into thinking that it is getting a lot of things that we need. So then our body wants more of it. 


After a while our bodies adjust to this and this diet becomes normal and we get fat and unhealthy. 


If you knew the right thing to do, why didn’t you do it? 


Because the wrong thing feels right. 


I am thinking of all the song lyrics now.. “If lovin’ you is wrong and I don’t want to be right.” I am also thinking about all the things that you feel as a teenager and a young adult -- where literally all the things that feel good to you are wrong and you know it, and then some of you try it anyways. 


What happens is you try it anyways. When you try it, nothing bad happened. You didn’t die. So you try it again. And again. And again. Eventually your luck runs out and you get addicted, you die, you have an accident, you hurt someone you love, etc. 


Everything in your body, your DNA is telling you do avoid pain seek pleasure and put forth the least amount of energy. 


How do you get out of this?


You have to train your brain to think differently. When you are young is the best time to start. So whatever age you are, right now is the best time to start. 


Here is what this might look like in action. 


Let’s keep this relative to where you are right now in life, most likely in your late teens/early twenties.. 


You want to have sex with your boyfriend- totally normal desire. Your DNA tells you that if you do not reproduce now your people will die off and it will be the end of human existence. We are now in 2019-- You can wait to reproduce. The human race will continue. You start training your brain now. You say no. Do something else that is not sex- move on. 


Here is another one.. I want to binge eat Big Macs and ice cream. I remember feeling this way as a  teenager… well who am I kidding. I still want to do that. BUT, you know this is not what is best for you even though your brain is telling you to go for it. Practice the training here. Go to McDonalds, eat the salad. It is pretty good. 


You just have to train your brain to resist urges. And it is hard. But if you learn to train your brain now, the rest of your life is going to be so much easier.  


Start today by making small changes to control your mind. 


You can do it! 



Talks, T. E. D. (2012, December 4). The pleasure trap: Douglas Lisle at TEDxFremont. Retrieved from


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