We have all heard the childhood fairy tale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” but I bet when you were reading it to your two-year-old, you didn’t know it had an important life and leadership message hidden in its pages. In fact, Goldilocks has a few lessons to teach us about finding the perfect fit—whether it is in beds, porridge, finding our authentic leadership style or just asking our partner to take out the garbage.
Let me explain…
The Goldilocks Dillemma
What I like to call “The Goldilocks Dilemma” usually starts out with a nice, well-meaning person who is afraid of being too harsh— or becoming a so-called “jerk.” As a result, this person:
– doesn’t assert themself
– doesn’t express when something is not working for them
– feels like people walk all over them
– feels like people don't respect them
In other words…they are “too soft.”
(Sound familiar? Anyone…. Anyone…?)
After a while, this well-meaning person gets so fed up because no one respects them and they can never get what they need from people and as a result they lash out, finally saying what they have been wanting to say for so long—except now it comes from a place of frustration, upset and sometimes even aggression. In the end, our well-meaning friend winds up sounding like the “jerk” they had been trying so hard to avoid. They find themselves acting and speaking from this “too hard” place, which is quickly followed by guilt and discomfort because they have acted in a way that is just not them. They vow never to allow themselves to slip again, heading back to their sweet, helpless ways, and so the cycle continues.
Does this sound like you?
– Do you feel like people walk all over you or don't respect you?
– Do you ever find yourself complaining that people don't give you what you need?
– Do you feel that the only way to get something done is to get angry, raise your voice, or guilt someone into doing it?
– Does everything feel too hard or too soft and you yearn to find a place where you can feel comfortable just being yourself -that feeling of “just right”?
Well then you may just have encountered “The Goldilocks Dilemma!”
Finding Your “Just Right”
If our little fairytale sounds more like a personal horror story, do not fear, my friends. It IS possible for you to find your “just right”!
The key to resolving this cycle of suppression and frustration is you need to start expressing yourself (insert Madonna Soundtrack here ;-)). It takes courage to speak your truth and ask for what you need from people, but it is the only way to begin to break the too hot/too cold cycle.
The foundation of being able to avoid being a victim without losing your cool is to find a balanced place from which to have your conversations and make your requests. This balanced place is calm, and centered and is rooted in confidence. It is a place where you can ask for things while honoring others AND yourself. And if you were to watch the whole thing as a fly on the wall or you saw the whole situation on video, you would be proud of how you acted.
(Can you imagine it?)
Once you're in this place, with courage and intention, you can learn how to respectfully speak your truth and not back down even when things feel uncomfortable. From this place you can clearly ask for what you need, calmly follow up with people when they don't follow through, and say what needs to be said even when it’s unpopular.
3 simple steps to finding your “just right”:
Step 1: Get clear on what you want to accomplish: Whether it is coaching an employee to show up on time, asking the grocery store to give you a discount, having a friend stop giving you their opinions on your love life or getting your child to start picking up their clothes, being willing to clearly acknowledge what you want to yourself is required before you can start expressing it to others.
Step 2: Ask yourself: “What would ‘just right’ look like?” Or put another way, If you could represent yourself any way in this situation, what way would that be? By setting a clear vision for your behavior in this situation and how you would like to handle it, you will have a guideline to stop you from slipping into the roles of wimp or oppressor.
Step 3: Get out there and Speak! Once you are clear on what you want and how you want to represent yourself all that is left to do is to act on it. Act and speak consistently, follow up without fail, and ask for what you want, even when you are challenged, even when you are tempted to go hide in a closet.
That is your task, to take action to make things happen as the person you want to be. Speak and act from your “Just Right” place and leave your days of powerlessness (too soft) and aggression (too hard) behind.
And if the task seems daunting at first?
Do not fear! Your "just right" is your authentic self dying to express itself. Just start speaking, stay calm and trust that your "just right" will be just right. Watch as doors open, mountains move and the world changes right before your eyes.
Rock on, Goldilocks!