The Goldilocks Rule: How to Stay Motivated by Starting Small

I started this year with a secret weapon for sticking to my new year’s resolutions.

It was a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Atomic Habits

Image via @wordswithJennifer


In the book he drops so many 'aha moments' it hurts. It’s literally at the point where I can’t share the book with anyone, as almost every page has underlines or dog eared corners.

If you follow me on Instagram (or sit next to me at work 👋Hi Nicole and Jonah👋) you know I could talk your ear off about experimenting with habits and lifestyle changes.

So this year, I felt more excited than ever to discover James’ book which shares proven strategies to create behaviour changes.

One of the principles from the book that was most exciting to me was The Goldilocks Rule.

“The Goldilocks Rule states that 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.”

This may be the reason that my new years resolutions horribly failed in the past. I was waaaay to ambitious and created lofty goals.

So this year I took a different approach and focused on cultivating a few good habits and killing a few bad ones that were just within reach.

Here’s a breakdown of two bad habits that I broke, and two good ones I’ve created:

Breaking Two Bad Habits:

No Watching Murder Mysteries or Intervention (Before Bed):

I had a very bad habit of watching murder mysteries on Netflix or YouTube or watching episodes of A&E’s Intervention pretty much daily. If I attempt to psychoanalyse myself, I imagine this bad habit was because I was looking for an escape hatch from regular life (or essentially numb out for a bit). As one of my sisters recently said, sometimes after a long day she wants to ‘put her brain on ice.’ Since I no longer drink/do drugs/binge on sugar...this felt like a good way to do it at the time.

Here’s a look at my stats for the month! Note that if I did ‘screw up’ I got back on the wagon the next day. I used the Way of Life App (paid version) to track.

The Way of Life App


No Reading Celebrity Gossip Blogs:

Gossip blogs have been my kryptonite for productivity and creativity over the years. This habit started back in my early 20’s when I spent the remainder of my student loan money to intern at MTV in Santa Monica. I learned from an executive that you have to stay up to date on what’s going on in the culture (which lead me to sign up for email lists and read blogs and content from and or TMZ). Although it doesn’t seem like that bad of a habit, to me it was the equivalent of eating too much candy. I get a temporary high followed by feeling like crap.

The Way of Life App

SIDE NOTE: This idea of giving up celebrity gossip blogs has stuck, and it’s actually now leading me to recognize how much I participate in actual real life gossip often in my day. Whether I actively participate by saying a comment myself, or simply listen to people who are gossiping without changing the subject or leaving the convo, this month I’m rolling up my sleeves and implementing this new change.

Creating Two Positive Habits:

Create an easy, fast morning routine

Are you as frustrated with failing at the 5am morning routine as I am? I know I want to get there, and I’ve been trying for years, though I still horribly fail at waking up before sunrise.

J.K. Rowling Morning Routine Quote

So instead of setting an intense goal to wake up several hours earlier, I decided to implement a habit that seemed like a bit of a stretch, yet felt very doable.

Here’s my morning routine upon waking up:

  • 10 push-ups

  • 10 mins of meditation with the Calm app

  • 1 prayer (this involves putting my hands together and saying silently in my head a prayer for myself or friends/family/colleagues).

I am AMAZED to notice that I stuck with prayer every single day. Perhaps it’s because it’s the easiest. Though overall, this is now my routine that I am loving. (Okay, I don’t love push-ups but they do wake me up). My next step will be incrementally rolling the clock back one minute to try and wake up a little bit earlier every day.

The Way of Life App


Krav Maga Class 3x per week

I’m getting ready for my big black belt test in Krav Maga at the end of the year. This is one of those big scary goals, so I’m working on creating the system to reach the goal. I found that last year, my commitment to attending classes was sporadic. It was kinda like ‘whenever I felt like it’ I’d go. But so far, this habit is changing. I found that by writing down that I wanted to attend 3x per week, I felt the satisfaction at the end of the day when I could check off when I went to class.

The Way of Life App

Also, here are the tools that have helped me the most to stick with new year’s resolutions:

As this new month is upon us, I encourage you to follow The Goldilocks Rule to make sustainable changes in your life. Choose a new habit to implement or one or two bad habits to break that excites you and feels very doable (maybe even easy).

If you’re open to sharing your new habits, I’d love to read them in the comments below! I love supporting people in becoming their best version of themselves!



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