When Goldilocks visited the three bears, she did a couple of experiments before she found the bowl of porridge that was not too hot and not too cold. She looked for the “just right” sweet spot for porridge.
The idea of a sweet spot isn’t limited to fairy tales though. Among his suggestions for maximizing happiness, Dr. Gad Saad specifically recommends seeking the sweet spot—that ideal position between extremes—for many areas in our lives.
Take stress, for example.
We so often associate stress with “bad” and “harmful,” but as Saad points out, too little stress has a downside too. You can lose your edge, become apathetic, bored, lose motivation to get up and live a satisfying life.
But we also know that the other extreme—too much stress—can be overwhelming, even debilitating. Thus, if we could create a life where we have some demands on us, but we’re not overwhelmed; we’d be in a sweet spot for stress, wouldn’t we?
There are many other places where we can seek a sweet spot. Consider money management. If we spend too much, we could end up broke and vulnerable. But spend too little and we feel resentful that we’re missing out.
Or consider a sweet spot for hours of work. If we work too many hours, we miss other parts of life. Work too few hours and we miss the recognition, productivity and socializing that can come with work. And that’s not even considering the income-related downside.
We could even look for a sweet spot for eating habits. We’re uncomfortable if we eat too much; irritable if we eat too little.
Another example by Dr. Saad suggests that we seek the sweet spot between perfectionism and lack of attention to detail. But what if you believe in the principle: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right”? That could imply that there is no sweet spot that’s short of perfection!
However, what if perfection is out of your control? If it depends on other people? Many things will simply never be perfect, so you might to consider choosing to accept less-than-perfect results in some tasks if you want to reduce your frustration.
Of course, there are downsides to a slipshod approach too. Some jobs demand perfection, and I hope that the brain surgeons and nuclear power engineers maintain a perspective close to the perfectionist end of the scale. But “it doesn’t matter that much” is appropriate for some tasks. Some of us may have that perspective on dusting, for example, but I wouldn’t want to name names.
So, how might you find the sweet spot for any of these examples? I find it helpful to apply the Choice Theory principles of: Think about what you want. Then ask, how well is what I’m doing working for me? Is it leading me toward what I want? Or taking me away from it?
For the perfection example, a reasonable follow-up question is: “Do I want perfection or do I want to be happier?” You may be able to have one or the other, but the reality could be such that you can’t have both. Considering a middle ground—what Dr. Saad calls the sweet spot—somewhere between perfection and happy may help.
Ultimately, it is up to each of us to figure out our own sweet spots. Are there areas in your life where seeking the sweet spot would be helpful?
Welcome to Reality Check:
articles and observations inspired by the work of Dr. William Glasser
- Choosing Behaviour
- Choosing Perspective
- Control and Choice
- Develop Understanding
- Doing, Thinking, Feeling, Physiology
- How it is sometimes
- Love & Belonging
- Perception & Reality
- Personal Freedom