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The Goldilocks rule

Happy 2022!!!

I hope the first Monday of the year is treating you well so far.

As we ring in the new year, many of you are making New Year’s resolutions and setting ambitious goals for yourself—just made mine on new years eve. January 1st is often when we promise ourselves to take on a new health, work or personal goals. Many of our ambitions will be met, while others may need to be reexamined as to why they were’t successful year round.

Ever notice that some goals flop by mid February? Yup, been there, done that.

One particular book that I read in 2021 made me realize why goals and/or habits fail to endure the test of time. As you go about setting goals for the year ahead, here are two important factors to keep motivation high throughout the year, based on Jim Clear’s book, Atomic Habits (highly recommend this book!).

  1. The Goldilocks Rule

  2. Measure Your Progress

When setting goals, it’s important to aim for something attainable but also a bit challenging. Just as Goldilocks needed a bed that wasn’t too firm or too soft, you don’t want to create a goal that is way too ambitious or way too easy. The Goldilocks rule states, “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.”

James Clear calls this, “just manageable difficulty.” Why? Because the human brain loves a little challenge.

For example, if your goal is to start running, aiming to run around the block a few times a week will probably get too easy, and soon you’ll get bored and lose motivation. Contrastingly, signing up to run a marathon in February is probably too much. With too intense training that doesn't fit your lifestyle, you’ll get discouraged, but more importantly, failing to adequately recover or a demanding training load will likely lead to an injury. Instead, set a goal that is challenging, but reasonable. This could mean training to run a 5K in about eight to ten weeks is challenging and doable for a beginner.

It is also crucial to get immediate feedback when setting goals to measure your progress. If your goal is to run a 5K, you might easily see yourself being able to run longer distances over time. However, progress might not JUST be in achieving more mileage. Progress could also mean—keeping a steady pace, lowered heart rate, ease of breathing, no niggles (super medical term for little pains) during or after runs, lowered RPE (rate of perceived exertion) or feeling like you are in a state of flow. Monitoring these small but important "other" aspects can also be helpful in tracking overall progress. When you see progress tracked on either an app, spreadsheet or calendar you can figure out where you want to go next. THAT, in an of itself is motivation enough to keep going.

No matter what your goals are for the new year, be sure to keep these two principles in mind to set yourself up for continued success through the year.

Best of luck to you!


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