Did you set yourself some New Year’s resolutions? Did you start out with lots of enthusiasm and now find that things have slipped? Then you are not alone. Research shows that very few people achieve their resolutions and most of us give up before the end of January. All too often with goals, we start off with good intentions, but then we go off track.
There are many reasons for giving up but the way we talk to ourselves doesn’t help. You know that voice in your head that says things like “I knew you’d fail you always do”, “You’re useless just give up”, “Did you honestly think you would make it happen”. Sound familiar? At this point, all we want to do is get away from that voice and those uncomfortable feelings. So we end up giving up on our goals.
Habits can be difficult to change but research shows if we’re kind to ourselves when we slip we are more likely to get back on track. Offering ourselves self-compassion can help us to cope better with setbacks, maintain motivation and ultimately achieve our goals.
So how do we go about cultivating self-compassion?
- Next time you get that critical voice in your head start by noticing how you speak to yourself; paying attention to the words and the tone that you use. Notice what happens in your body too.
- Then ask yourself would I speak to a close friend in this way if they were struggling? I bet the answer is no you wouldn’t.
- Now think about what you would say to a close friend in the same situation and see if you are able to offer yourself those same words of understanding, support and encouragement e.g. “I get how tough you are finding this”, “Everyone gets things wrong sometimes”, “You can do this”.
- Really let these words soak in and then see if it’s possible to begin again working towards your goal.
- If you find this hard to do in your head why not try writing a letter to yourself offering the same support and encouragement.
Mindfulness can also help us to build self-compassion. As we practice, for example following the breath, after a while we find our mind wanders off. When we first start mindfulness when the mind wanders off we tend to get cross and feel we can’t get it right. After a while, we learn to notice the mind wandering but instead of judging ourselves we simply notice and with kindness we return our attention to our breath and we begin again.
As we practice this kinder way of dealing with perceived failings we find that it starts to become a more natural way of responding to life’s inevitable setbacks. As Lisa M. Hayes said “Be careful how you are talking to yourself because you are listening”