Set Goals and Make Resolutions, but Strive for Self-Compassion to Achieve Them

On my first day of 2016, in the wake of a New Year’s Eve celebration, I failed to complete most of the daily self-care practices I adopted in 2015. Each day, I set out to do the following: sleep for eight hours, meditate for twenty minutes, free-write in a journal for fifteen minutes, write five things for which I am grateful on that day, read a book for fifteen minutes, drink thirty-two ounces of water in both the morning and evening, exercise for at least thirty minutes, walk ten thousand steps as measured on my iPhone, finish my full skincare routine, avoid gluten, avoid alcohol, and avoid caffeine.

These practices are now the features of a personal daily ritual I developed through deep attention and self-experimentation last year. They capitalize on what I learned about myself during an intense period of change, growth and self-discovery. I’ve got a good sense of what works for me at this point, which is how I came to the decision to include these activities while neglecting other, perfectly worthwhile and potentially helpful habits I also tried or considered last year.

My list is fairly long and on a “good day” I complete about 75% of these practices. I check in with myself by marking off the ones I’ve done on any one day using a white board near my bed and shift or reset the mix daily depending on what’s going on in my life and how I am feeling.

My routine feels structured but still flexible. I believe this is why it has become my routine versus my list of lofty ambitions or failed self-improvement experiments.

I absolutely love the days on which I complete all the items on my self-care list. I do not savor the achievement of completion itself so much as I feel physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually the effects of these practices acting in concert. The sum is truly greater than the parts.

Last week as the year came to a close, I was struggling with how I could define success for the resolution I intended to set for 2016: demonstrate greater self-compassion.

I learned in 2015 that mistakes can become lessons, but only through self-compassion, which fosters self-transformation through a shifted perspective.

Self-compassion is the act of identifying the most incremental progress even in the wake of repeated errors. It’s asking oneself, “What did I learn?” as many times as needed until the answer becomes clear without self-chastisement for lack of instant recognition. Progress feels like answers that come more easily than they did before.

I forgave myself for poor self-care at the dawn of the new year and completed my full list of daily rituals today. I feel great. In the coming days and weeks, I will strive to do well with my routine and achieve other goals, but I know I will fall short at times. When I do, I will try to demonstrate self-compassion and remind myself how it supports success for every goal or resolution I choose, this year or any year.