Living in the Sweet Spot

Living in the Sweet Spot

In most athletic endeavors, there is a point of activity often known as “the sweet spot.” In tennis, it is when the ball strikes the most effective part of the racket. In baseball, it is when the ball connects to the strongest part of the bat. The phenomena are similar in golf as well as fly-casting.


Being in the sweet spot produces the most efficient and effective action and, therefore, the best results. Being out of the sweet spot uses unnecessary energy and produces subpar results.


I wonder if there is also a “sweet spot” in life. The sweet spot idea may be related to the Goldilocks Principle: “neither too hot nor too cold, but has just the right temperature.” The Goldilocks Principle has been applied to developmental psychology, economics, astrobiology, etc. Might we also pragmatically apply the principle in our life?


As a psychologist, it appears to me that people are feeling more and more psychologically out of balance. I believe a significant factor for this imbalance is the political warfare and polarization in our nation, as reported by the media. Many people watching the news feel as if they are living inside of a tornado. Tsunami-like changes appear to be happening daily and even hourly. Add to that, the “fake news” element, and we don’t have a solid ground on which to stand and gain our bearing. For many, it is like trying to dance in the middle of a 7.5 earthquake. 


If so, what is the answer? Shall we not read or listen to the news? Shall we altogether avoid the unpleasantry of this instability? Or on the contrary, should we be checking our favorite news feed every hour to ready ourselves for the newest chaotic development proving the world is “going to hell in a handbasket”? 


Ironically, many of us are unfamiliar with relevant research about the “reality” of society. One example of this is the work of Hans Rosling, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World-and Why Things Are Better Than You Think. Another source is Stephen Pinker, who shares similar balancing information in his TED Talk: Is the world getting better or worse? A look at the numbers. These two people and others inform us that the world is becoming a better, NOT worse place in which to live. 


However, if our primary “upload” of information/entertainment is the chaotic news cycle and entertainment industry, which displays murder after murder, what are our brains to think…but that it is a “horrible time to be living”.


So, perhaps it would serve us well to search for the “sweet spot” in life. Be informed—yes. But become battered and bruised cognitively and emotionally by the chaos in the world—no. Goldilocks would have us find and operate from that place, which is neither too hot nor too cold, but just the right temperature. Doing this will demand an honest personal assessment of ourselves and practice, practice, practice. 


Tim Berry



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