Self-Compassion Helps You Achieve Your Goals
This week I taught a class on goal getting for greater well-being to the students who live in George Mason’s Mindful Living Residence. I told them about a number of things that increase the likelihood of achieving our goals, like visualization, breaking your goal into smaller steps, taking action, anticipating obstacles, rewarding yourself for progress, and telling someone about your goal so he or she can support you and hold you accountable.
Afterwards, the students identified a well-being goal and created a plan based on the elements we had discussed. We ended the class talking about how being mindful could help the students stick to their plan. One of the students mentioned that she would use mindfulness to remember to be kind to herself if she slipped up. That’s when I realized I had left out one of the most important elements of goal getting: self-compassion.
Pursuing a goal is a lot like training your attention. We often practice mindfulness meditation by focusing our attention on our breath. When we notice that our thoughts have wandered we gently bring our focus back to our breath. The key is not to beat yourself up because your mind was wandering. That’s OK. It happens to everyone. Just refocus and be kind to yourself.
It is equally important to have self-compassion when pursuing a goal. You will have bad days. You won’t make it to the gym or you’ll eat a piece of cake. That’s OK. It happens to everyone. Don’t get mad at yourself. Just start over. The same way you bring your attention back to your breath.
People who are kind to themselves when they slip up are more likely to keep going. You may think being hard on yourself will improve your self-discipline, but it doesn’t. It erodes your confidence and your motivation. Self-compassion makes you more resilient. Being kind to yourself will help you stick to your goal.