Do What Feels Bad

In 2002 Diet Coke launched their new marketing slogan:

“Do what feels good.”

It was just another ploy in a slew of ad campaigns designed to hijack the human desire to seek pleasure. We’re wired after all to move toward pleasure, and away from pain.

So it’s no surprise that sales skyrocketed.

Whether it’s messages to inhale soft drinks or to buy the latest smartphone, we’re habituated to elevate feeling good over everything else.

And it’s no wonder, because pain/pleasure impulse is a natural evolutionary trait that has served us well as humans for millions of years. Negative emotions tell us something is wrong and we need to retreat or change course. Positive emotions are a reward, telling us to keep doing that whatever lead to that joyful experience.

The problem: evolution never took into account modern life and the glut of opportunities we have now for fast, easy, short-term pleasure (like drinking soda or buying the latest gadget), even when our body or bank account is telling us it may not be the smartest decision.

It can feel good in the moment to treat yourself by going out to eat every day, even though you have a mountain of debt and bills to pay. After all, you should do what feels good, right?

But in this case, doing what feels good is keeping you trapped in the dead end job you hate, because you’re doing what feels good in the moment vs. doing what will make you feel good long term.

That’s why I’m suggesting you do what feels bad.

It’s counterintuitive, but sometimes you need to…

  • Feel bad not eating out so you can pay your debt off faster and create more freedom and spaciousness in your life.
  • Feel bad going to the gym, so you can feel better later… even though it “feels good” to just relax and watch another episode of The Walking Dead.
  • Feel bad working on building your business, because you’re scared, and don’t know what the hell you’re doing, because you’ll feel better knowing that you’re actually making progress and taking action no matter what.

Nature never intended for you to be in a situation where you might have to do what feels bad, in the favor of creating a long term future that feels better than the short term hamster wheel of pleasure seeking.

What can you do today that feels bad, so you can feel better later?

Comment & Add Your Voice

Jason November 2, 2016 at 11:34 am

I did two ‘bad’ things today. I stayed committed to getting up at 6am and completing my workout.

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Clare November 2, 2016 at 6:42 pm

Drinking soda whilst reading this article *facepalm*
The fact that staying fit and vaguely healthy “feels bad” for many of us is a true testament to how easy it is for us to survive these days (in developed countries at least). We don’t worry constantly about dying so we let life slip by – we have other options but don’t take them because of the innate nature we have to conserve energy and focus on basic survival. Unfortunately when survival is as easy as it is, there is little impetus to push to do anything – we are in fact wired not to! humans aren’t actually geared to seek happiness, pleasure maybe but not that deep satisfaction from a life well lived. When you think about it that makes total evolutionary sense; don’t get eaten, rEast enough to live and make the next generation, none of that equates to higher level concepts like happiness, or satisfaction.

Maybe one day we’ll evolve into seeking happiness over survival/pleasure/species perpetuation, but for now Jonathan your are right – doing what “feels bad” is often going to be the only way forward (or up, depending on how you feel about your life!)

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Simon November 19, 2016 at 5:04 am

Feeling hapiness of a life well lived is a sign of balance. It makes evolutionary sense if intelligence is added to the equation.

Peter Fritz November 3, 2016 at 3:54 am

Couldn’t agree more, mate. Modern society has had delayed gratification programmed out of it! There’s no greater satisfaction than doing what feels bad in order to reap the rewards later.

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Suzanne November 14, 2016 at 10:19 am

Love this. I definitely agree that we are all continually looking for the next “high” instead of planning for the long term happiness and gratification. My mind is always screaming for ice cream but instead I will eat my veggies today :) In the end sometimes those things that “feel bad” end up being those which truly make us feel best.

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