Pain And Pleasure as a Coaching Strategy

There is really only one coaching strategy that works to motivate clients to change. That strategy is the use of pain and pleasure. Now hang on. Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not talking about whips and chains here. I’m talking about psychology and neurolinguistic programming (NLP).

Why Pain And Pleasure?

Psychology tells us that the only reasons people change in any significant way are to avoid pain and to seek pleasure. In NLP terms, you will hear the motivations described as moving away from or moving toward. Whichever terminology it is, it’s the same meaning, and it’s the only coaching strategy that will cause long term change. For most people, avoiding pain is the stronger of the two types of motivation. Human beings fear pain and move away from it because pain warns us that we are in danger in some way. In the coaching realm, the danger is psychological. It is about the four basic survival needs of certainty, variety, significance, and love and connection. The possibility of losing out on one or more of these survival needs, or even meeting them at a lower level, can stop change from happening.

How To Use This Coaching Strategy

The way this coaching strategy works is that you get your client associated to the consequences of not making the change or not taking the action. You can use a variety of different coaching strategies and techniques to cause this association to become real and to cause massive psychological pain in your client’s mind. One possibility is to have him write about what the cost of not changing has been for him in the past, what it is in the present and what it will be if he goes on not changing in the future. Another is to lead him through a visualization of the same three time periods. Remind him to look at this in terms of family, relationships, business, money, health, etc. Have him paint a detailed picture about how he will feel. Then do the same as if the change has already happened. What will the future look like then?

Your client came to you because he wants something different in his life. Using the strategy of having him feel pain and pleasure is the best way to help him get it.

Hope you took some great value out of this post today! I’d love to hear your feedback, so make sure you leave a comment with your thoughts or questions. And also, you can click on the Twitter button below to retweet this article… Thank you!

Dorine G. Kramer
JTS Advisors Strategy and Accountability Coach

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  1. Jacob says

    I don’t think fear of pain is as powerful as the pursuit of pleasure.

    It may be more daunting, but not more powerful, nor should be a motivating factor to to help someone move forward.

    Fear of failure, is more of a scare tactic, or shock factor.

    While fear is a strong motivating factor, not near as powerful as pursuing something you are passionate about.

    While it might be useful to see what you don’t want and even what to avoid, to use that as your guild will be misplacing focus which could otherwise be used for focusing toward the positive.

    There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. 1Jo 4:18

    Let the light in and the darkness will flee of it’self.

  2. Jeffrey T. Sooey says

    Interesting opinion. The fact is that 80% of people are more motivated by PAIN than pleasure. If you try your positive motivation approach with these 80%, you’ll find no results (no matter what it says in scripture!).

    I’m all for positive thinking, but we can’t forget that we’re human and the ancient parts of our brain still motivate in cryptic ways.

    Also, a quick question for you: where does PASSION come from? I would bet for most people passion didn’t just come out of the clouds one day. Your PASSION (more than 1/2 the time) comes from painful experiences.

    Your kid does in a drunk driving accident so you get passionate about MADD.

    Your girlfriend breaks up with you so you get passionate about relationships.

    There are exceptions to this, but the majority of people’s passions come from their pain.

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