3/4 Understanding Payoffs to reach Total Wholeness


 So far in this series on ‘the Will and Total Wholeness’ we have looked at what the will does, what stops it from working and how to gently work with the Will to guide it into doing what we want.

In this post, we want to understand the concepts behind what motivates and guides the Will – “Payoffs”.  This topic can help you understand why you behave in certain ways, especially when self-sabotage seems to be involved.

  1.  Payoffs exist in everyone’s life.

Personal payoffs are highly influential in driving behaviours.  At the heart of this principle is the statement:  “The behaviour you choose creates the results you get.”   or  “You get the results in life you have because of the behaviours you choose.”

There must be some positive reward for any behaviour to continue.  No matter how strange or illogical the behaviour seems to be, there has to be some ‘payoff’ for the behaviour to continue.

True, your thinking and choices act powerfully to condition you to repeat the behaviour that brings about the desired payoff/s repeatedly – whether you ‘want to want to do it’, or not, you do it.  Otherwise, other behaviours replace any unrewarded behaviour.

Therefore, if you do different, you will have different results.

 2.  We can be blind to our Payoffs.

However, you can be blind to the cause or impact of your payoff system.  For example, someone might be saying that they are lonely yet they stay at home night after night.  Not being with others means that person is escaping the greater anxiety that can come with the fear of being rejected by others.  Which is the greater payoff?  Behind the behaviours you don’t want will be some sort of payoff support systems.

 3.  Why do we have Payoffs?

The payoff is usually the ‘comfort’ that comes from avoiding some sort of risk involved with the fear of rejection.  Most payoffs involve relieving or avoiding serious pain, or minimise the fear and anxiety of potential pain.  These can be as addictive as the most powerful drugs.

Sometimes, the payoff is because “It’s easier not to…”, taking the path of least resistance.  This kind of payoffs prevails only because we take the easiest path between two painful situations.  There is some kind of reward for avoiding what they don’t want to face … and this is the ‘payoff’.

It’s also the pull of the immediate reward of the payoff behaviour versus having to face the other situation.  To choice to delay facing the other situation comes into play.  When you choose the immediate reward behaviour, you see the consequences; you choose the ‘right now’.  As a result, you reap the reward of ‘right now’.



 Reward and punishment is the basic principle behind training animals.  That same principle happened to you during your childhood.  Reflect on a child’s early years.  They are punished for doing wrong and rewarded for doing right.

Sounds simple but this is how behaviour patterns begin and continue into adult years.  Even people who abuse children or enjoy a masochist lifestyle learned such behaviours through a sick but logical progression of rewards and punishments.

The hardest behaviours to spot are those automatic behaviours that started in childhood.  At that point, the behaviour provided some protective, escape mechanism from a perceived threat, such as being abandonment.  We need concentration and time to sort out what are the cause-and-effort connections in your life that have continued into the ‘now’.  If you do different, you will have different.



 1.  Monetary payoffs – behaviours that keep someone working to have money to get what they ‘want’ versus facing other issues, such as relationships with others….. or behaviours that help us be moe pleasing to others to get that pay raise.

 2. Spiritual payoffs – behaviours that stop us from facing God and prevent the peace, a sense of rightness, knowing God and healthy morality ….. or behaviours that brings us more peace and fullness in our life.

 3. Psychological payoffs – behaviours built around the payoffs that involve acceptance, approval, praise, love, companionship, finding security, promoting greed, punishment or fulfilment, feeling part of a group, of belonging as a contributor or leader.

 4. Physical payoffs – behaviours that contribute to good or not so good physical health, such as eating the wrong things because we really don’t want the pressure of loosing that weight …..versus good nutrition and getting the right exercise, sleep for proper weight management.

 5. Achievement payoffs – behaviours someone does to gain that feeling of accomplishment, recognition from others, an inner awareness of a job well done…..versus the unmotivated lifestyle that can just drift from one thing to another.




 (The following has been an adapted, brief summary from the book by Dr. Philip C. McGraw called Life Strategies, Vermillion Press, London, England, (1999) pages 88 to 108, on one of the 9 ‘Life Laws’ or basic rules that govern our universe and human behaviour.)

Remember the old saying:  “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten.”

Think about the hidden payoffs that might be motivation you to self-sabotage behaviours or unhealthy goals.  Join us in our next post and you’ll find a Personal Worksheet that may help you identify some of your own Payoffs,

Susanne Fengler, Blog Author





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