As the countdown begins to a new year, close to half of us will feel inspired to make positive changes by committing to New Year’s resolutions. Yet the low success rate of most resolutions—less than 10% after a few months—suggests that this motivation is often short-lived. Though some may suggest strategies to make your stated goals more realistic, specific or readily achievable, consider overhauling the process altogether by focusing on what research has shown is a key ingredient in any recipe for sustainable change: self-compassion.
Studies demonstrate that self-compassion is linked to increased motivation, optimism, and happiness, as well as decreased anxiety, depression, shame and fear of failure. Kristin Neff, a leading researcher on the topic, defines self-compassion as an awareness of our own pain without trying to avoid or disconnect from it, coupled with a desire to heal some of that pain through sympathy and kindness. Most of us feel more comfortable offering this support to others rather than to ourselves, and many people report that they believe self-criticism is necessary for self-improvement. In fact, the science shows the opposite—a self-compassionate response results in higher levels of motivation and the resilience to keep trying after setbacks or failure. For that reason, setting a self-compassionate New Year’s resolution may actually boost your ability to persevere with other goals, in addition to offering many benefits to psychological health and overall well-being. This new year, consider adapting one or more of the following goals in the template below:
This year, I will be try to be kinder to myself by___________________.
When I notice that I am being overly self-critical, I will interrupt my internal dialogue by saying ____________________________________.
To reinforce the belief that I am already good enough, I will _________________________.
If I am struggling or in pain, one thing I will do to comfort and support myself is __________________________________________.
I will remind myself that it’s okay to feel any emotions that arise this year, including ____________________________________________.
Throughout the year, I will prioritize my self-care by ____________________________.
When I feel overwhelmed, distressed or in pain, I will draw on these three sources of support:
By: Zoë Laksman, Psy.D, C.Psych and Laura Clarridge, Ph.D.
Zoë Laksman has practiced as a Registered Clinical Psychologist at The Clinic on Dupont since 2007. Laura Clarridge is a certified executive coach who helps her clients find fulfilling educational and career pathways. Their backgrounds and training have shaped their interest in promoting improved psychological health, interpersonal functioning and wellness. They work together as a clinical team and as the developers of The Clinic on Dupont’s online presence.