Loving the hard moments — changing internal reward system

Why is our internal reward system not helping us perform? Why do we not love the hard moments?

The problem

We know that there are people that have an easier time in making it to the top. This means, ceteris paribus, that they either have a stronger will or the small, unpleasant intermediary steps aren’t that unpleasant after all.

The assumption is that some people manage to rewire their internal reward system, based on sheer beliefs or on past experiences, in order to perceive those unpleasant moments as enjoyable, making it easier for them to overcome hardships and achieve their goals. If the rewiring is done rationally, we would have higher chances of understanding and replicating this system making it available for others’ benefit.

In the book The honest truth about dishonesty, Dan Ariely mentions the story about having to undertake a treatment that involved having an injection once a week that had unbearable side effects. Nevertheless it was important for the long term benefits to have it.
The trick in that situation, was to bundle that experience with a pleasant one and to fool your brain into thinking that it was time to watch movies rather than have the injection.

What if we can find a methodology that can be applied to various domains in order to help people achieve goals easier? I bet nowadays, everyone who takes on a long term challenge does not ask the questions “how to make the hard times pleasant?”. Nevertheless, it is a question for which they would kill to find out the answer.

Imagine a tennis player wanting to become the best in his league. He enjoys tennis but after 10 years of practice the short term motivation drops as everything becomes routine. All the various training exercises can be perceive as pleasant or not. The answer lies in the human mind.

What if we can trick it into releasing endorphins each time we need to have an endurance training dissolving routine in a way that perpetually captures, at least in part, the feeling of the initial experience?

I tend to believe it all lies in our perception of the necessary steps we need to undertake to reach our long term goal by being able to visualize it each time our short term misery comes into play.

Then, is there already a way of changing our internal reward system to love what is necessary for us to do?

How to test this?

1. First step would be to analyze the hormonal activity of any expert/performer before/during and after the training in order to see what are the key elements that bring the brain into a state of pleasure. I assume we will find out that the players have an internal system of perceiving certain parts of the training as being pleasant making that short term (misery) goal a pleasant one.

2. Second option would be to see the mental patterns of the performer in order to understand how he internalizes the journey of attaining his goal.
In the end it is about how we are wired. How we perceive pain, how we believe that there is no alternative besides of what we have to do.

Would love to find out what you think or how you would tackle this challenge.

Thank you for the debates Vlad Crupenschi!