Motivate Yourself with The Goldilocks Principle

April 19, 2019
The Goldilocks principle is about you. How do you stay motivated? You find something with the right amount of difficulty and you'll flow through work!

How can you follow your dreams and stay motivated? James Clear, a well-known entrepreneur, has a simple and scientific answer. Everything you need to know to stay motivated is in the Goldilocks Principle.

Even when you still have a lot to learn, Clear says, the best way to stay motivated is to work on difficult tasks.

He means that if you work on a very simple task, you’ll get bored, and if you work on an extremely difficult task, you’ll feel helpless. You need a challenge that goes beyond what you’ve done so far, enough to keep you motivated and not discourage you. This is the Goldilocks principle, a term coined by the very same James Clear.

“The Goldilocks principle establishes that humans stay motivated when working on certain tasks that aren’t too difficult, nor too easy. Just right.”

-James Clear-

Finding this perfect balance of difficulty will not only keep you motivated, but it will make you happy.

a person lifting their arm in triumph

How to stay motivated

An example of this could be playing tennis with someone with the same skill as you. As the game progresses, you’ll win some points and lose others. If you put in the effort, you could win the game.

It’s because you’re completely focused, there are no distractions, and you find yourself fully immersed in the task at hand. You can handle it. Victory isn’t guaranteed, but it’s possible.

Clear explains that these kinds of tasks keep you motivated in the long run.

“Human beings love a challenge, but only if they’re in their comfort zone. Simple and easy tasks can be boring. Incredibly difficult tasks are daunting. But those tasks that are just in between failure and success, can be incredibly motivating to our brains. We really want to master a skill beyond what we have so far.”

-James Clear-

That’s why Clear says that working on tasks with the Goldilocks principle is key to staying motivated for a longer period of time. Feeling down can be due to a boring or excessively difficult task.

Finding a way to use your skills, almost to the point where you feel challenged but, at the same time, you’re capable of doing it, is the key to stay motivated.

staying motivated

Measure your progress

The combination of happiness and peak performance is known as flow, says Clear. As a state of optimum motivation, flow is the state of mind you’re in when you’re so focused on the task at hand, and the whole world disappears.

Researchers have found that the flow is strictly related to the Goldilocks principle. If you’re working on a difficult but achievable task, you do not only stay motivated, you’ll also have a happiness rush.

However, to reach peak performance, besides working on a task with the right amount of difficulty, you’ll need to measure your progress. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt explains that one of the keys to having flow is knowing how you’re doing.

“Doing a perfect challenge and getting immediate feedback on how you’re doing constitute important factors in maximum motivation. “

-James Clear-

a person drawing happy and sad faces

To wrap things up, a fun fact. The Goldilocks principle takes its name from the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. In this story, Goldilocks breaks into the bears’ home and tries on anything that piques her interest until she finds something she really likes.

She makes no effort to eat the soup because it is too hot, sit on the chair because it is too big, or lay on the bed because it was too hard. While the story has little to do with the Goldilocks principle, its basis is interesting.