The Key Is Compassion

As we strive to achieve our goals this month (and hopefully throughout the new year!), it’s easy to become overwhelmed with wanting to do so much in so little time. By the end of January, we have plans of grandeur that we hope we’ve accomplished. One thing we must remember is that goals aren’t always cut and dry. Sometimes goals are just like humans: a constant work in progress.

What’s common for women to do when they set up their resolutions is that they feel guilty when they’ve slipped up. You’re probably familiar with how this goes. “Well, I already ruined my diet with those fries at lunch. Screw the rest of the day. I’ll restart my diet tomorrow. I am a failure!” Dramatic? Sure. But it’s probably not that far off from what’s happened in your own life. We slip up and then we berate ourselves. For some reason, this is just what women have a tendency to do. One slip-up and we call ourselves worthless failures with no talent or qualities to be proud of.

What separates people who achieve their goals from people who don’t might be how kind one is to herself. New research suggests that people who are more compassionate toward themselves are more likely to be happy and less likely to be depressed. After falling off the wagon, a self-compassionate person tells herself, “Whoops! I made a mistake! It happens. Oh well, let’s start over right now.” A person who is not compassionate with herself thinks, “Ugh! I am terrible. Why am I even trying to be healthy? I should just quit.” Now, which attitude do you think will get you somewhere? Exactly!

We’ve already taken care of the details of our resolutions and goals. What you need to do now is tend to the emotional side of your goals. Be mindful of not just the emotions that made you create your goals, but the emotions that accompany your actions when trying to achieve them. Pat yourself on the back when you’ve smoked one less cigarette, volunteered an hour at a food bank, or made it to the gym more than once a week. Don’t fall into a uncompassionate mindset that says you didn’t do well enough, that you should have smoked less, you should have spent every afternoon volunteering, or you should have made it to the gym every day. One small success leads to a multitude of greater successes down the line, so don’t waste your time feeling bad about a slip-up or the feeling that you haven’t done enough. Compliment yourself instead!

I believe that being kinder to yourself might make you more likely to achieve what you want. At the same time, though, it’s important not to confuse being kind to yourself with lowering your expectations or standards. Just because you’re cutting yourself some emotional slack doesn’t mean you should start to think you can’t achieve something and nix your goals altogether. Your standards for yourself can absolutely be high, and you can still manage to be nice to yourself when things don’t go according to plan.

What all this goal making and self-compassion comes down to is this: When you care about yourself, you care about choices. When you treat yourself well, you make choices that affect you in a positive manner. Keep this in mind as you continue to make progress on your New Year’s Resolutions. You are your own worst enemy, just as you are your own solution.

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