Everyone at this time of year is talking about New Year’s Resolutions. In the past I have always been a keen bean to set my goals for the year. And goals they have been, whether to become fitter, lose weight, spend less, save more, meditate every day, be more organised, arrive on time. I look back and see that really, such goals are a form of self-punishment – and then worse, when I don’t achieve them, without hesitation I berate myself…
It is not surprising to know, and I am sure you too have many a New Year Resolution that lasted at best 2 weeks… that according to surveys 35% of decisions made are abandoned before January ends, and that 75% are quick to follow suit in February. As we move in to another year it does make sense to dust off the old and start afresh, abound with glistening intentions we rally to ‘improve’ or ‘better’ ourselves in some way or other. And this I feel is one of the main reasons why we might fail; new year’s resolutions focus on what is wrong with us; I work too hard, I eat too much (delete where appropriate) cheese, chocolate, cake, pudding, I drink too much, I watch too much TV, I spend too much time on social media. Thinking about what you dislike about yourself triggers feelings of inadequacy, stress and anxiety. And then not achieving the objectives, in turn elicits feelings of guilt, disillusionment, a lack of belief in ourselves.
Professor Mark Williams, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychology at Oxford University and one of the world’s leading authorities on mindfulness, talks of the importance of compassion and self-compassion. He defines compassion as the capacity to meet pain with kindness, empathy, equanimity, and patience. Interestingly it is much easier of us to feel compassion towards others, then it is self-compassion, the former being culturally encouraged and the latter goes against cultural norms. Self-judgement and self-criticism is common place, and familiar territory to us all.
So for 2016 I am dropping the need to change and to improve, it is my year of finding self-compassion, accepting myself as I am, and my life as it is.