How to Stay Motivated by Using Goldilocks Rule

by Amanda Johnson, Employee Motivation Consultant for — professional technical writing tool


We all know this story about a little girl named Goldilocks and the three bears: a girl came into the unknown house, ate porridge and slept in a bed. And, suddenly, it appeared that this was bears’ house. So what is a moral of the story? Of course, we were taught that you should not go to any stranger’s house. But this story has a deeper moral that you should use in your adult life.

Goldilocks Rule

So what does the Goldilocks Rule mean? James Clear, an author, entrepreneur, and photographer, says, “Scientists have been studying motivation for decades. While there is still much to learn, one of the most consistent findings is that perhaps the best way to stay motivated is to work on tasks of ‘just manageable difficulty.” He describes the Goldilocks Rule through tennis: you’ll grow bored playing against a 4-year-old. Playing against a pro, you’ll quickly loose. So you need an opponent of equal skills.

“We can call this phenomenon The Goldilocks Rule,” he says. “The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right.”

So, you should find the porridge that will be neither cold, nor hot, but perfectly in between. Gilbert Brim, a social psychologist, said “One of the important sources of human happiness is working on tasks at a suitable level of difficulty.”

The Simpsons

When you work on difficult tasks that are not right for your skills, you’ll be like a Homer Simpson who works at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant without relevant education and doesn’t develop his skills at all. It happens when you don’t know what you’re worth.

Why You Should Follow the Goldilocks Rule

“The human brain needs some way to visualize our progress if we are to maintain motivation. We need to be able to see our wins,” Clear says. “In order to reach this state of peak performance, however, you not only need to work on challenges at the right degree of difficulty, but also measure your immediate progress.”

So how to apply this rule in real life? For example, if you want to break a bad habit, don’t think that tomorrow you’ll be a different person with only good habits. It’s impossible. You should make tiny steps towards your dream. So don’t be radical and evaluate your capabilities objectively.

In order to be happy and stay motivated, you should see your results, that’s why it’s important to measure your success. You can do it in different ways: by using a Bullet Journal, an app or something else that suits you.

What do you think about the Goldilocks Rule? Did you follow it before?