Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Personal Growth Matters - The Goldilocks Principle
Apart from the fact she was trespassing, Goldilocks was onto a really sound principle.
In most of our problems as individuals, in relationships, in communities and even on a global scale, the answer to any problem is usually in moving from an extreme position to the middle ground. Like Goldilocks, it’s case of finding what’s not too hard, not too soft but “just right!”
In communication, we can operate at the extreme ends; being either submissive and not speaking up or aggressive and too forceful. The solution is for both the submissive and the aggressive person to learn to move to the middle position of clear assertiveness.
In marriage, a couple can function at either end of the scale; being in a state of constant conflict, fighting and arguing and abusing each other or at the other extreme, in a state of withdrawal and disconnection. The ideal state is one of intimacy.
When it comes to handling conflict, partners can be either anxiety-ridden and conflict-avoidant or hyped up on anger and overtly combative. The answer is to find the “just right” in-between approach of facing problems and resolving issues calmly and rationally. It takes a dash of courage from the timid one and some self-control from the aggressive one.
Parents of adult children can operate at the two extremes of dysfunction, either under-involved meaning they are estranged and disengaged and don’t contact their kids for months or over-involved meaning they are in touch several times a day, invading personal boundaries and meddling. What is the middle ground for parents of adults? The challenge is to find the right level of involvement with your kids and grandkids to show you care but also respect their independence.
Someone who is unemployed and stuck at home or an elderly person living alone can be under-stimulated with not enough meaningful work and mental input or contact with others. Under-stimulation leads isolated people to suffer from soul-destroying boredom and loneliness. On the other extreme, some city workers are over-stimulated. They are so over-worked and stressed-out and bombarded with exciting entertainment and people-contact 24/7 that they are frazzled and ready to snap! Adjusting your lifestyle to the right level of stimulation seems to be the key to fulfillment.
Here’s another example of the two extremes. Some fitness fanatics over-exercise. There’s absolutely no risk of that in my case! Over-exercisers actually harm their bodies with physical stress and injuries in their zeal for the perfect body or sporting highs. Then there are couch potatoes dedicated to under-exercising. Can these two extremists just shift to the middle ground?
We can see how the Goldilocks Principle is used with daily decisions; you sip your morning coffee, it’s too strong or too weak, but you want it the way you like it; you try on a pair of pants, they’re either too tight or too loose, but you want them to fit snugly; the music is too loud or too soft….everyday, it’s a matter of fine-tuning the extremes to find the “just right” comfort level.
On the global scene, the Goldilocks Principle would solve a lot of serious problems too. In poor countries people suffer because they don’t have enough to eat while in developed countries people suffer because they over-eat. Isn’t it stupid! Surely the answer is to ensure that we all get the right amount of food! I can just see our perky little Goldilocks savouring the yummy porridge with a satisfied comment, ”Ummm….just right!”
Philosophers talk about balance. Picture a see-saw scale with the goal of getting the same weight on each end so the plank is straight. This is a balance of dualities. You could simply divide life into two basic parts: Love and Work. But those coaches who specialise in ‘life balance’ tends to consider several aspects of a person’s lifestyle and aim to achieve the same amount of activity in every sphere; giving equal time to work, education, your primary relationship, family, friends, rest, exercise, recreation, interests and hobbies etc.
If we used the Goldilocks Principle in every aspect of life, then the overall picture would be one of equal distribution of time and effort, resulting in balance.
Long before the Goldilocks and The Three Bears fairytale, Aristotle devised a philosophy of moderation – the middle-ground principle. It seems our Goldilocks was not only pretty with all that golden hair and her peachy smile. She was a clever girl.