Now we are well into January are your New Year Resolutions beginning to feel a bit like this discarded Christmas tree left in the garbage? Are you struggling with the strict regime you have set up and at the same time feeling guilty and dissatisfied with yourself?
The trouble is when our resolutions start to slip we tend to start beating up on ourselves, and feeling bad.
How we set about making New Year Resolutions
There is nothing wrong with wanting to get the best out of ourselves, nor with using the beginning of a new year as a time for reflection on how we are living our lives. The thing is we tend to go about it in such a self-critical way.
We look at everything we think is not working so well and then make a long to-do list of all the ways we want to change. Somehow we are surprised when it is overwhelming and we cannot keep it up. We feel as if we have failed in some way and are disappointed in ourselves.
The thing is that we are much more likely to get the best from ourselves if we approach any changes we want to make with an attitude of self-appreciation and kindness. We can try and be a friend to ourselves, rather than behaving like our worst nightmare of an angry schoolteacher.
Some suggestions on using self-compassion in making our resolutions
- Look to your strengths
Think about the parts of your life that are on track and the things you do well and then think about a way you could take that a step further.
For example: you might be good at your job but have an irritating relationship with a work colleague—your resolution could be to make them a cup of coffee whenever you can. You’ll be surprised how quickly they warm up to you and you will enjoy the good feeling of doing something for them.
- Choose the changes you want to make carefully
When looking for where you want to change, choose something manageable. You can see from the picture above that ‘improving self’ is a big project, as is ‘save money’. Both are too big and too general.
Even ‘more family time’ is asking a lot. Instead try to be specific—decide to call your mother twice a week; or decide to turn off all your individual screens (phone, tablet etc.) by 9pm in the evening in order to have quality time with your partner.
- Think of all the people
who are trying to make positive changes in their lives and struggling with them just like you are. None of us is alone in trying to find the way to get the best out of ourselves and live a meaningful life.
- Allow yourself to get it wrong
When you break a resolution, or find yourself slipping back into old habits instead of beating yourself up, try forgiving yourself. Focus on the effort you’ve been making and don’t give up on what you are trying to do just because you had a bit of a blip. Imagine a friend sharing with you how they are struggling with their resolution—how would you talk to them? Would you call them a looser? I doubt it. Try talking to yourself as you would a good friend. After all—if we cannot be a friend to ourselves, how can we be a good friend at all?
Maureen Cooper is the author of The Compassionate Mind Approach to Reducing Stress. She combines more than thirty years of experience as a professional educator and senior manager in a non-profit organization with a hands-on education in Buddhism. In 2004 Maureen founded Awareness in Action, a consultancy dedicated to the secular application of mindfulness, meditation and compassion in the workplace.