Happiness Lies Between Pain and Pleasure

Danny Oak

If you can find your balance, you’re more likely to find happiness

The following question is a big one, so I want to make it clear that my ideas on this topic are based on the work of someone with a bit more background than me: Sigmund Freud.

Why We Do What We Do?

Everything we do freely can be explained as moving from a state of pain to a state of pleasure.

All our actions are made for a reason: getting to a better place than our previous point.

We don’t always succeed on it, but this formula is the essence of human existence, and, to some extent, the basis to happiness:

from pain to pleasureImage by the author

But if this is true, why do we put ourselves through hell so many times?

  • Extreme physical activities
  • Marathons of work
  • Sleepless nights of study
  • Years of physical and mental abuse from people we love

These are a few examples of self-inflicted pain that we often grant ourselves with, but for what?

The answer is because we believe that the pleasure will be bigger than the pain experienced during the change.

Sometimes that’s true, sometimes it’s not, but we’re always convinced that it is, and our happiness levels depend on us being right about that belief, and on the success of our journey from pain to pleasure.

What’s Growth Pains and What’s Madness?

The line that separates conquering obstacles to reach a goal and the pure madness of going beyond reason to do it is very thin.

We can all agree that someone who puts up with constant abuse from their partner in the hope that things will get better in the future is deluding themselves, but what about someone that works 80 hours a week in the name of hypothetical financial freedom? Is it worthy to postpone their lives for something that is not even guaranteed?

Or someone that prioritizes so much their physical performance to reach an ideal form in detriment of the other aspects of their life, jeopardizing their mental health? Does being the best at some point in their lives make it up for suffering the consequences for the rest of their days?

The Other Side of the Coin

Extreme goals can be harmful, but the opposite is also true. Staying in our comfort zone to justify our little pain tolerance is as bad, if not worst. We shouldn’t hide behind the legitimacy of pain avoidance to excuse our laziness and fears of failure.

We’ll be less likely to suffer, but we won’t live at our full potential, and we owe ourselves and the world, the willingness to achieve the things we are capable of.

Passively living is merely existing, and life is too big a gift for us to waste it by settling for something so reductive.

So What Can We Do to Find Happiness More Easily?

Happiness is more easily found when we combine our goals with our resistance to pain.

  • Smaller goals mean less pain, but it comes with an unfulfilled life, which results in less pleasure.
  • Bigger goals reward us with more pleasure, but it demands more pain and puts the present on hold.

Balance is key, don’t push for the extremes.

Happiness will have different meanings for each of us, as well as our definition of limits, but aiming for somewhere within the extremes of pain and pleasure will make it much more likely to find a good place in life for us.


Ultimately, it’s up to us to decide what is reasonable or not, if the future pleasure will be worth it of all the pain experienced along the way, or if a life free of pain will compensate for living below our potential.

There are successful examples in both ends of this spectrum for sure, but as with most things in life, in the middle lies the virtue.

Tune your efforts and resistance to pain to reach meaningful goals, and tune your goals to make the pain worth it.

Find your sweet spot between the too small and the too big. It will be different for each one of us, but the principle is the same for everyone.

Look for balance, find your limits, and thrive, happiness should be just around the corner!

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I’m a writer with a background in customer service with a deep focus on communication. I write about Personal Growth, Marketing, Productivity, Writing, and all kind of tactics and processes that I use to improve myself as a person. My goal is to help others by sharing my journey in public.

Austin, TX

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