Chances are by now you know that most New Year’s Resolutions aren’t worth the cost of that fancy journal you wrote them in. Some estimates put the failure rate at over 80%. Despite such shockingly crappy outcomes, many of us continue to sign up for January gym memberships, weight loss and smoking cessation programs, and, dare I say it, online mindfulness courses. I get it. I totally do. It’s a new year! A fresh start! A chance to shed our old skin and problematic habits and finally become the best versions of ourselves!
Researchers have identified a variety of reasons why it’s so hard to give up Facebook and eat more salads, as well as a ton of strategies for overcoming those barriers. Unfortunately, many of the December Do and Don’t Lists miss the big one, the game changer, and I’m not talking about the latest habit tracking app. I’m talking about self-compassion.
Dropping a resolution altogether just because you missed a day or two at the gym is kind of like dropping out of school because you didn’t get an A+ in geometry.
The thing is, you’re probably going to fall off the wagon. It’s ok. It really is. That’s what it means to be human, and for all of our awesomeness (we are, after all, the creative force behind nachos and Star Wars), we’re not perfect. None of us are. But dropping a resolution altogether just because you missed a day or two at the gym is kind of like dropping out of school because you didn’t get an A+ in geometry. That would be ridiculous, so maybe try something else instead.
Cut yourself some slack.
Go easy on yourself when you miss a meeting or meditation session. Remember that you’re in good company, that behavior change is hard, and most importantly, perfection can suck it. This sort of compassionate response to our own missteps doesn’t come easily to many of us, but it’s a helpful approach for getting back on track with resolutions.
Here’s a little SLACKronym (Ha! See what I did there?) to make it easier to bring kindness into the picture when you’ve fallen off the resolution wagon, or need a productive place to start.
Set reasonable resolutions. You wouldn’t expect to run a marathon in a day when you’ve never trained, so don’t set marathon-style resolutions. Start small, be realistic, and choose goals that are truly meaningful to you. There’s no reason to sign up for yoga classes if you don’t really love yoga (unless you just want an excuse to wear the pants, which is totally legit).
Let go of perfection. No matter how reasonable your plan may be, reality can be pretty darn bumpy, so chances are that you’re going to bail off the back of that wagon at some point. When that happens, Little Miss Perfect is going to start chattering away in your brain. Do not, I repeat, do not, get sucked into her nonsense. Thank her for her unhelpful opinion (or tell her to go away, whichever you prefer), and continue to remind yourself that you’re not aiming for an A+.
Accept that this is where you are now. It’s so easy to get hung up on a rough week or a broken streak. Unfortunately, such pity parties rarely end well, and I’m guessing that inhaling another pint of Ben & Jerry’s on your couch isn’t on your list of resolutions. Rather than freaking out or berating yourself for your misstep, take some deep breaths, remember your mantra (Perfection can suck it!) and get ready for a hefty dose of kindness.
Compassion is your power play here. If self-kindness doesn’t come easily to you, that’s OK. You’ll get better at it, and the universe will give you lots of opportunities to practice. Until then, imagine how you might treat a good friend going through a hard time. You wouldn’t tell her she sucks and she’ll never get her shit together, so she might as well grab a spoon and head for the freezer—so don’t do that to yourself either. Treat yourself with kindness, forgiveness, and a whole lotta humor. Not only will it feel better, but it will make it much easier to get back on track.
Kick some a**! Remember that you kicking a** and stalling out are not mutually exclusive, and that cutting yourself some slack will make achieving your resolutions easier and more fun. Self-compassion is fundamentally empowering and energizing, so use the momentum of kindness to keep your resolve. Make a plan for moving forward—just make sure that plan involves cutting yourself some slack!