On a very personal note, my father would have been 103 today. He passed away many years ago, but before he did he passed on many things to me. One was the importance of self-development, even thought he didn’t call it that. My life turned around when I started to study the personal development gurus, including people like Jim Rohn, Stephen Covey and Tony Robbins. In this week’s tip I’d like to share with you one of Tony Robbins’ key ideas; that of the 4 classes of behaviour.

In doing so, I’m grateful to Adam Sicinski, who greatly helped my understanding of the principle. I don’t know if you have ever thought about it, but the habits you partake in, the actions you take, the emotions you experience, and the ‘addictions’ that you indulge in can all be classified into four distinct classes or kinds of behaviour.

I genuinely believe that understanding these four classes of behaviour is critical as they will help you gather valuable insights into your motivations and your psychological tendencies. No longer will you be at the mercy of your choices and decisions. Instead, you will fully understand and come to appreciate the short and long-term consequences that are tied to your daily actions.

To begin with, it’s important to note that every decision you make and behaviour you exhibit stems from the notion that you will make decisions based on the avoidance of pain or on the promise of pleasure; what is referred to as towards or away from in NLP.

Put simply, the pain and pleasure principle has a push-pull effect. On the one hand, you are making decisions that push you away from the negative consequences that might cause you pain. On the other hand, you are making decisions that will pull you toward outcomes that will help you experience pleasure.This might seem straightforward on the surface. However, it does get a little more complicated sometimes.

Let me explain what the 4 classes of behaviour are in order to illustrate how this principle works. As you read this, it will be helpful if you can identify what kind of habits and rituals you partake in that might fall into each category.

Class 1 Behaviour

Class 1 behavior is typically characterized by actions that concurrently lead to both short and long-term pleasure. These behaviours:

  • Feel good to you
  • Are good for you.
  • Are good for others.
  • Serve the greater good.

Self-sacrifice and the act of giving love to another person both fall into a class 1 behaviour type. There is no pain associated with this kind of behaviour.

Instead, you are rewarded with short and long-term pleasure as a result of your actions. The behaviour, therefore, feels good, is good for you, is good for others (because you are helping add value to their life), and it serves the greater good of all concerned. Get it??

I guess that this is primarily where you would typically want to spend most of your time. I’d love to say that I spend all my time ‘in this zone’. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work that way. We are not living in a utopian society. As such, we will need to also work through the remaining three classes of behaviour.

Class 2 Behaviour

Class 2 behaviour is typically characterized by short-term pain leading to long-term pleasure. These behaviours:

  • Don’t feel good to you.
  • Are good for you.
  • Are good for others.
  • Serve the greater good.

Exercise might well be an example of a class 2 behaviour. When you exercise you experience short-term pain. However, doing the exercise seems worthwhile because you will inevitably encounter long-term pleasure resulting in weight-loss, a higher level of fitness etc.

A Class 2 behaviour doesn’t feel good in the short-term. In fact, you might potentially experience a lot of pain. However, the pain is always worthwhile because it serves the greater good and helps you gain long-term pleasure. It’s, therefore, good for you (at least in the long-run). It’s also good for others because it doesn’t hurt them directly, and it serves the greater good of all concerned.

Class 3 Behaviour

Class 3 behaviour is typically characterized by short-term pleasure that often results in long-term pain. This could actually be a self-sabotaging behaviour that:

  • Feels good to you.
  • Isn’t good for you.
  • Isn’t good for others.
  • Does not serve the greater good.

Examples of a Class 3 behaviour might include overeating, binge drinking, taking drugs, smoking, watching excessive television, and, think about it, procrastinating. All these things feel good and pleasurable in the short-run, however, they all have painful long-term consequences that you will inevitably experience at some point in the future.

When you’re overeating, you are seeking to gain short-term pleasure. However, overeating can make you feel sick, can lead to weight gain, and possibly result in future health concerns. This behaviour might feel good in the moment but it’s certainly not good for you, not good for others, and does not serve the greater good.

In the future, you will experience so much pain that overeating in the present moment just won’t seem worthwhile. You were seduced by short-term pleasure, and now you must suffer the consequences of long-term pain.

Class 4 Behaviour

A Class 4 behaviour is typically characterized by short and long-term pain. This is a self-sabotaging behaviour that:

  • Doesn’t feel good to you.
  • Isn’t good for you.
  • Isn’t good for others.
  • Does not serve the greater good.

An example of a Class 4 behaviour would be staying in a bad or abusive relationship or career. These behaviours do not feel good, they are not good for you, they are not good for others, and they certainly don’t serve the greater good of all concerned.

Indulging in a Class 4 behaviour means that you’re choosing to experience short-term pain in order to experience even more long-term pain in the future. Does that even make any sense? Why would anyone do that?

As an example, when you’re angry you are potentially hurting yourself by losing your temper. Not only does this put you on-edge emotionally, but it can also damage your relationships and health. I’m speaking from experience here folks!!!

In this example, you are choosing short-term pain to subsequently experience more pain in the future. This obviously doesn’t make any rational sense. However, it’s a typical class of behaviour that you might indulge in more times than you would like to admit.
Great Ian, but what does all this mean for me?

Hopefully knowing about these 4 classes of behaviour can provide you with key insights into your decision-making process. Instead of just making decisions unconsciously, you can now choose what to do or focus on based on the consequences of the pain and pleasure principle.

I would argue ladies and gentlemen of the jury that the right thing to do is to always make decisions that lead to Class 1 and Class 2 behaviours because they will typically lead to long-term pleasure.

On the other hand, it’s important to avoid the traps of a Class 3 behaviours. You see, this kind of behaviour might feel good on the surface (short-term pleasure) but the long-term consequences are rarely if ever pleasurable (long-term pain).

Likewise, it’s important to be aware of the consequences of a Class 4 behaviours. This is often characterised by unconscious emotional reactions, habits, and behaviours that will catch you off guard. After reading this article you will hopefully recognise these experiences because they just don’t feel good and eventually lead to painful consequences for you.