The law of human motivation

The law of human motivation is very simple: it simply states that we will always strive towards instant pleasure and away from instant pain. And a simple corollary of this third fundamental law is that our perceptions of what exactly qualifies as instant pain and instant pleasure will completely govern our behavior. 

Think about this for a while. This third fundamental law is the entire reason for the very existence of our debilitating Western culture of consumerism and entitlement. Consumption, in all of its various forms, is nothing other than a way in which to gain perceived instant pleasure. This flawed perception gets reinforced 5000 times per day by the advertising industry and ultimately results in hundreds of millions of people mortgaging their futures to the hilt in the impossible quest to satisfy their instinctive drive towards ever greater amounts of instant pleasure. Conversely, entitlement, in all its forms, is nothing other than a means to avoid perceived instant pain. If we can fully convince ourselves that this magical entity called government will forever take care of us, we can perceive ourselves to be immune to major sources of instant pain such as a job loss or an insufficiently large nest-egg for retirement. This belief allows us to avoid the perceived instant pain associated with really contributing in excess of our paychecks and saving a substantial chunk of our income for retirement.

Indeed, the debilitating culture of consumerism and entitlement responsible for the steady decline of Western civilization is nothing other than a realization of the fundamental law of human motivation. Of course, if you just stop to think for a little while, you’ll quickly realize that rampant consumerism brings a lot more pain than pleasure in the form of obesity, financial troubles, stress and a general lack of meaning and purpose in life. You will also realize that total welfare states bring much more pain than they prevent by disincentivizing personal development, causing soul-killing dependence and bringing massive unexpected financial troubles on the day that government can no longer fulfill all of its careless promises.

But this is unfortunately not how our minds work. Although the argumentation in the previous paragraph is definitely logically correct, the points mentioned are much less instant and much less concrete than the brief pleasurable feelings brought by buying your 50th pair of shoes or the perceived pain avoided by not having to forego any consumption in order to save for retirement. It is therefore very clear that, if we are to save our civilization, we will have to evolve our perceptions of instant pain and instant pleasure beyond the woefully primitive level that brought us to where we are today. The next page will take a look at how that can be done.

3 thoughts on “The law of human motivation”

  1. You have stated very accurately the root cause of all our terminal difficulties:

    “we will always strive towards instant pleasure
    away from instant pain…”

    There is a slight hope that mankind will come to understand that his (or her) gratification, individually, is not really what he ( or she) “wants.”

    If there comes a realization that “we are one”, which guides behavior, then decisions will be predicated on what is “good” for Life. We must leave “individual benefit” behind in favor of “aggregate consideration” of Life on the Planet.

    All avatars of which I am aware have taught principles of behavior which are tantamount to this reality (do unto others, love thy neighbor, etc etc..), but they are not really , ultimately, aspects of an external religion which “tells you what to do, ” but a reflection of the behavior exhibited when each person senses his (or her) “true nature” which lies within.

    It is difficult to explicate this further without using “religious-speak” words, which is a turn-off to many people. So, hopefully it suffices to say that we each have a heart, and that Love exists.

    It is a total mystery how this change might occur:
    but it is a total mystery anyway, this existence we share:

    So hope exists.


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A DIY guide to saving our world while building a happy, healthy and wealthy life

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