An ambitious, go-getter client of mine often berates herself when she doesn’t achieve all her goals for the week, even when she encounterssetbacks beyond hercontrol. Although I counsel her to be kind to herself, she worries that cutting herself slack is just an excuse for not doing enough.
It’s an understandable concern, especially in the new year, when people feel a need to make big changes in the areas of their life where they feel dissatisfied — perhaps their diet, work, relationships or living situation. Yet, while some believe that mental self-flagellation will spur them into action, it usually leaves them feeling zapped of the precious energy needed to push forward.
That’s why every new year’s aspiration should be accompanied by a resolution to be gentler with ourselves, especially when progress doesn’t happen on our timetable. The question is, how do we discipline ourselves without becoming our own worst enemies? And how can we be kind to ourselves without lapsing into complacency?
The key is to become a firm but loving parent… to yourself. Try these good parenting techniques that strike a balance between discipline and compassion.
Recognize small accomplishments: Give yourself mental gold stars for the baby steps you make toward achieving your greater goals.
Be encouraging: A good parent provides comfort and support to keep their children moving forward, even in the face of obstacles. So when the going gets tough, play inspiring music, find a positive affirmation or call a friend who’s always cheering for you.
Regard yourself with unconditional love: A good parent sees the best in their children and is forgiving of their foibles. Commit to being kind and loving to yourself no matter what. Did you meet your goals? Great. Celebrate your successes. But if you miss the mark, as people often do, remind yourself that you are still lovable.
Practice patience: Change takes time. Sometimes we expect change to happen faster than it actually does. Giving time for events to naturally unfold can help us stay on track without getting discouraged.
Establish accountability: Set realistic, achievable goals and check in with yourself regularly to see if you are meeting them. If not, try to figure out what got in the way and make adjustments. When you slip up or get sidetracked, acknowledge your missteps without lapsing into self-recrimination. Once you’ve reflected on where you went wrong, rededicate yourself to your task, resolving to do things better this time around.
Be flexible: Sometimes, we need to adapt our goals as new situations arise. If your approach isn’t working anymore, change tactics.