Too easy. Too Difficult. Just right

Ahmed has a problem that many parents face. He feels his children are not putting in much effort in their studies, and thus their performance falls in the lower half of the class. 

I asked Ahmed what are some of the efforts that he has made recently, to help his children improve their performance in their studies. He replied that the most recent effort he had made was to introduce an incentive to them of having the toy of their choice, regardless of its price, if they get a position in the class. It failed. 

I asked Ahmed if he thought getting a position in the class for a child falling below the average line was a realistic goal, regardless of the incentive. He thought about it for a moment and said, it is indeed very difficult but at least it should motivate the child enough to reach maybe in the top 5 students in class. 

This got us to talking about goal setting and comfort zone. Every person has a comfort zone, where he feels safe and relaxed. If they set a goal way beyond the comfort zone, something which is unreachable, they lose motivation, since they know they can’t achieve the goal no matter how hard they try. Or if they try to achieve the goal, they panic and become hopeless as despite putting in too much effort, the goal doesn’t seem any closer. 

Just beyond comfort zone comes the stretch zone, and the goals set in this zone can be achieved by putting in a little more effort than someone would normally put in a task. This is the zone that encourages development by establishing balance between effort and target. Red zone or panic zone is beyond the stretch zone, where the goals are harder to reach and motivation is lost easily.

The takeaway from Ahmed’s predicament is that goal should be attainable and set in the stretch zone. A longer journey broken into achievable milestones, instead of one goal, is easier to carry on and keep accountability for. Too easy goals keep you trapped in your comfort zone and too difficult goals demotivate you and make you feel helpless. Development only happens when the goals are set just right and every step towards the goal is cheered.

This article first appeared at

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