The Goldilocks Spot


This is not a golf related blog post, I promise, but I’m finishing up reading Zen Golf by Dr. Joseph Parent and a paragraph late in the book got me thinking. On page 137, he says:

“Modern sports psychology validates the principal of ‘not too tight, not too loose’ in its analysis of the relationship between performance and emotional intensity. When there is little emotional intensity, the level of performance is very low. This reflects not caring at all,  so no effort or energy goes into performance. That is the quality of ‘too loose’.  As emotional intensity increases, so does the level of performance. Peak performance s reached at a medium level of intensity — not to high, not too low. Performance deteriorates as emotional intensity increases beyond the optimal level. When there is high emotional intensity, the level of performance is again very low. This mean that when we are extremely emotional, we are extremely ineffective. That is the quality of ‘too tight’.”

He goes on to note that that zone in the middle of ‘too loose’ and ‘too tight’ is ‘just so’ and that ‘just so’ isn’t the same for everyone. ‘Just so’ sounds like it’s each of our Goldilocks spot. Not too loose,  not too tight, but just so.

When we don’t really care about doing something, we tend to procrastinate or fail to put in our full effort. Depression can be like that at times, it sucks your interest in doing anything right out of you. When I lost interest things I’m usually passionate about, I knew that I was really sick a couple of years ago. I was ‘too loose’.

On the flip side, when we get very frustrated doing something, that frustration can get in the way of thinking clearly, effecting the quality or even safety of what we’re doing. For me, sometimes, depression is like this. My boss (and friend) asked me if I was mad at someone before I told her about my depression. I forced myself to plow ahead, which lead to frustration and fear, and anger at being depressed again. 

 If we aren’t invested in our interactions with others because we’re tired or bored or are thinking about something else (or depressed), we don’t bring our full presence for the people we’re with, possibly missing out on something important or annoying them. If we are wound up with anger, frustration, fear, or other negative emotions, we may let it out on those around us, even if they aren’t the root source of those emotions. This was what I did last week, when the stress of the pandemic, political turmoil, and racial injustice was weighing on me and I let it out on my family in a less than constructive way. I was ‘too tight’.

I’m not going to make excuses for my bad behaviour. We’re all under a lot of stress these days, but yelling at loved ones doesn’t make anyone feel better. I know. I’ve been on both sides of that many times throughout my life.

Mindfulness can help. I am a much calmer person since I started meditating, but it won’t keep anyone from letting their anger, frustration, fear, etc. pour out at times. Nobody is perfect. Even the Dali Lama sometimes expresses his negative emotions, but given the growing problems we face, we need to at least try to be better about directing our emotions in better ways. This might be meditation or exercise or prayer or just talking with others, but we need to do something.

The state of the world right now needs us to be ‘just so’ so that we can come together to tackle the enormous problems we’re facing. Doing nothing won’t work. Yelling at each other won’t work.  We need to find our Goldilocks spot if we’re going to get through all of this and make the world a better place.

Featured image courtesy of Dave Curtis under a CC-BY-NC-SA license

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