Pain, Pleasure and The Sustainable Development Goals.

Steve Podmore
Feb 16, 2018 · 3 min read

The 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development have a flip side, which is the many interrelated Risk and Resilience Threats if they are not achieved swiftly. So what has pain and pleasure go to do with it?

Risk and resilience threats are the opposite of goals. They are the consequence of not achieving a goal or a set of goals. Rarely though are the negative consequences of non achievement, the exact polar opposites of the positive goals. The negative consequences can be much worse, and what’s even worse, is that they can quickly spiral out of control.

While some could argue this is just two sides of the same coin, the ‘Pain / Pleasure Principle’ in psychology shows that avoiding the negative consequences of something (moving away from) is a much greater motivator than achieving the positive (moving towards).

As history has shown over and over again, people will always move faster to get out of pain than they would to achieve pleasure. The classic example is to a non smoker, smoking means pain and not smoking means pleasure. However, to a smoker, the opposite is true. Not smoking means pain and smoking means pleasure. Clearly the perception of what means pain and what means pleasure and the many associations and habits people build up to either end, positive or negative, are all key factors in triggering behaviour.

What does this have to do with the Global Goals? Well, after the UN ratified list of 17 Global Goals For Sustainable Development in September 2015, otherwise known as the Sustainable Development Goals or the SDG’s, a tiny fraction of the world took notice, but most just carried on as normal.

It is true that some corporations are delivering an enhanced sustainability or SDG plan, but many organisations ignore them or play lip service at best. Financial organisations are seeking to deploy more capital into sustainability, and governments are working to set policies in line with the global goals. However, these are but a scratch on the surface on what needs to occur.

Our base argument, is that by highlighting the ‘moving towards’ aspect of these global goals, from a communications perspective, we are arguing for a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must have’.

The real cost of business as usual.

We live in a world where it is easy to blank things out. That ‘there is just too much information these days’ is part true and part excuse. Yes there is too much information to process for the human mind, and there is more and more every day. No one can have a handle on all the big issues in the world let alone act on them. There are many reasons to divert our eyes. It is sadly all too easy to ignore things that are in our periphery vision. We know what is going on but somehow we resist the urge to turn our heads just a little. We just do not wish to look at, or contemplate the horror. So we use excuses that ‘everything will be alright’ and ‘someone will step up’ when it comes to the refugee crisis. Or, ‘technology will sort things out’ when it comes to climate change.

Now is the time to step up personally.

We all need to open our eyes and encourage others to do the same. We need to understand there is a real cost to us all of not changing . Of not working hard to avoid the pain of not achieving the global goals urgently. We might need to put ourselves mentally in the shoes of others to do this, for if we do not, then the pain of sea level rises, conflict, and all manner of risk and resilance threats will not just be idele threats, but will be our own reality too.


The BIGCrowd Blog. Crowd sourced and crowd funded incentive competitions to address the SDGs.

Steve Podmore

Written by

Founder of and a social entrepreneur with zest for life and desire to drive important innovation to help create a better world.



The BIGCrowd Blog. Crowd sourced and crowd funded incentive competitions to address the SDGs.

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