This post is part of our Weekly-ish Tips series.
We’re two weeks into a new year, which means that any resolutions resolutely declared are within days of faltering—at least according to psychologists who say we typically do well for the first two weeks and then backslide by February. I’ve suggested before that buddying up can be a helpful antidote. This year I’m suggesting we all try something a little different—either in addition to, or maybe just plain instead of, finding a partner to support us with our efforts. Brace yourself for a dramatic and woo-woo sounding strategy.
Here it is.
It’s also known as “self-love,” or the considerably less squishy-sounding practice of simply cutting yourself some slack.
Why, you ask, would I feature something that seems borderline “unprofessional” in a business blog?
The Science (and Sanity) Behind Self-Compassion
Consider for a moment the work of anti-woo-woo meditation skeptic turned evangelist, Dan Harris, whose parents and spouse are all scientists. Dan hosted a special podcast series in 2021 dedicated to examining what actually makes a difference with New Year’s resolutions, which he described as the most fraught-filled personal change for us all. To quote Dan in his series intro, “That’s right, we’re going all-in on self-love … but I want to be clear: this is not sap for the sake of sap—this is sap for the sake of science, and sanity.”
Dan continues by explaining how the motivation for the goals we set makes all the difference: “As tens of millions of us go about the annual, humiliating ritual of making and then abandoning New Year’s resolutions, there is ample evidence that you are more likely to achieve your long-term goals if you pursue those goals not out of self-loathing or shame (which is the not-so-subtle subtext of the whole ‘New Year, New You’ slogan) but instead with self-love—or self-compassion.”
Dan started referring to self-compassion as a kind of uber-habit, out of which all other habits can flow, after his subsequent podcast interview with Dr. Laurie Santos, tenured psychology professor at Yale (“You’re Doing Resolutions Wrong. Here’s How to Fix It.”).
My Own Self-Compassion Epiphany
Some of you recall the genesis of the “ish” in Weekly-ish Tips. In 2021, I had 300 tips in the hopper (no small feat) but continued to struggle to keep up with weekly writing in the face of the demands of the year. And I wasn’t very nice to myself about it.
Based on what I learned from Dan Harris’s podcast, I started to practice cutting myself some slack. With the addition of “ish,” I traded unkind self-talk for acknowledgment with the goals of (1) creating a little ongoing slack and (2) giving myself a regular reminder that the only thing I should be taking seriously about all of this is the habit of self-compassion.
How This Applies to Your Relationships
Consider what your own slack-oriented approach might look like as you endeavor to establish new trust-building habits. Consider how you might be earnest and nice to yourself at the same time.
Maybe you aspire to be more influential by becoming a better listener. Or to make a bigger difference with your clients by being more courageous and candid. Or to nurture your long-term relationships by establishing new and better habits for being in touch with clients.
Personal change can be hard. The kind of personal change required to take your relationship-building skills to the next level can be really hard—otherwise, you’d have already reached your destination.
Treat yourself with kindness as you work towards mastery, and you might be surprised at the progress you make.
Make It Real
This week, look for opportunities to bring self-compassion to your self-talk. How might you balance ownership and responsibility with kindness and maybe even a little levity?
Here’s to a peaceful and powerful year ahead.
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