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The Goldilocks Paradox

The Goldilocks Paradox

Sylvia (not her real name) said to me this week:

“Don’t tell me to be positive. Don’t tell me to love myself more.”

I agree with her.

A lot of people are suffering with mental health and the way many of us try to deal with our worries is to dismiss them, ignore them, or push them aside.

Of the hundreds of  people I have seen though this pandemic, over 30% of them beat themselves up for having bad emotions. Some of them are so tough on themselves.

Telling people to be positive without understanding their challenges, empathising with their concerns, and helping them reframe their response can elicit a bad response.

For many including new age warriors “being positive” has become the new way of telling someone to “cheer up.” Like we need to be told to feel better.

Of course, we know we should cheer up. Of course, we have heard it a million times before.

There is now a whole industry of  people telling us to look “perfect,” and a growing industry of people telling us we’ve got to think perfectly.

How often do you hear “just be positive and everything will be alright.” Well it won’t be for many. I call this simplistic approach “the tyranny of positivity”.

Managing our feelings takes more than just turning that frown upside down into a smile. In my experience everyone, at times, experiences grief, are filled with joy, or tremble with anger.

You know it’s ok to have a meld down. In fact, sometimes it is what you should do.

Even the great saints and mystics weren’t this perfect. Every saint has a past, every sinner a future. Gandhi said:

My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing to me as my successes and my talents.

Of course, there is a difference between feeling down and dealing with major depression, but for many of us feeling down drives us to depression  because we compound our negative feelings by being very self critical of ourselves. Yet without experiencing low emotions, we would not feel and appreciate the high emotions. Many people do not like it when I say this. Yet challenges make us more resilient.

Imagine you are in the  gym and you tell the trainer you want the ideal body, but you don’t want any stress on your muscles. Well those muscles ain’t building. It’s the tension of life that makes us stronger. 

Fighting our emotions is like been stuck on a giant spider’s web: the more you try to escape, the more trapped you get.

So how do we find that Goldilocks Paradox where we learn to manage our emotions?

Let’s start by being honest. Most of us suck at understanding our emotions.

In my coaching I teach people how to Stop Being A Slave To their Emotions. I suggest 7 things that are adapted from some great work done by psychologist Susan David from Harvard. I will touch on 3 here.

Step 1. Acknowledge your Emotions:

The first part is acknowledging your emotions.

It’s important to acknowledge your feelings while also recognising that your emotions don’t have to control you. Managing your emotions isn’t the same as suppressing them. Ignoring your sadness or pretending you don’t feel pain won’t make those emotions go away.

The first part is acknowledging your emotions. That means stopping any internal struggles. We don’t need to be dominated by one emotion or to struggle with our emotions if we stop fighting them. Remember thoughts and feelings have energy. The more you resist the more they come back. So Step 1. Acknowledge your Emotions.

Step 2. Hug your monsters.

It’s a mindfulness/meditation practice. Here we welcome the emotions into our brain and we experience the thoughts and emotions. Fear is only as deep as the mind allows. So allow the feelings into your brain

Step 3. Letting go:

Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. When we lean in and release them then we become unstuck. So step three is let them go.

You know by cultivating a way of dealing with our feelings, we can help Goldilocks find the third bowl. Which is full of feelings that are not too hot or too cold, they are just right.

So much of what we see in the world is a reflection of how we feel inside.You know you are such a capable, amazing individual, so don’t let worries, negative thoughts conquer your mind.

Never settle down to your life with a certain belief and perception about yourself. Go beyond everything you think and realise your true self.

Ask yourself what is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? The answer is: your attitude towards it.

Every opportunity has a difficulty, and every difficulty has an opportunity. Get that attitude and don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind.

Instead be led by the dreams in your heart.


It’s a funny thing about life, but once you begin to take note of the things you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things that you lack.

As Seth Godin said:

“Optimism is the most important human trait, because it allows us to evolve our ideas, to improve our situation, and to hope for a better tomorrow.”


I can take you to success. I coach ordinary people every day to do extra-ordinary things. I coach extra-ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things. The difference is those who have a dream, and are prepared to follow said dream, are extraordinary, and just need a structure and support system to kick off that journey, which will finish with them sliding in fast sideways to the grave, totally worn out from the relentless living of their dreams, screaming out loudly “Wow holy sh*t, what a ride!”

If that is you – start today! If you are looking for coaching on change for yourself or your organisation, or would like more information on the work we do on Personal, Professional, or Organisational Change, please contact us on

About Dr Maurice Duffy

Irish. Author, Professor, Coach and Business strategist. The person Australian Captain Steve Smith credited with helping him back from his cricket ban. Coach to two Ashes wins. Coach to CEOs, Politicians and some of the best know international sports starts including Olympians. BBC ‘Thought for the Week’. Coached business leaders and organizations in 80 countries. Works with charities to do with Mental Health. Lives in North East England with his wife and 11-year-old son.