This post is part of our Monthly-ish Tips series.

And … we’re back. It’s “new year, new you” time for us all, which means that any resolutions resolutely declared are within days of faltering, according to psychologists who say we all typically backslide after the first couple of weeks. Relationship-oriented resolutions are no exception. So, I’m once again reprising my plea that we all try something a little different this year.

If you’ve read my variations of this post before, you’ll recall that the “something a little different” may sound more woo-woo than results-driven. And yet that’s the beauty of it. It’s like a secret back door (and paradoxical) way to realize exceptional outcomes. And it’s has magical powers for any and all resolutions, not just the client-centered ones.

Here it is: Focus your time and energy not on resolutions, but on one single uber-habit out of which all kinds of excellence can flow. That uber-habit is … wait for it … and now a drumroll please … self-compassion, a.k.a. cutting yourself some slack.

“This is not sap for the sake of sap”

I first learned about this recommendation through anti-woo-woo meditation skeptic turned evangelist, Dan Harris. 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.”

That’s why Dan started referring to self-compassion as a kind of uber-habit after his podcast interview with Dr. Laurie Santos, tenured psychology professor at Yale (“You’re Doing Resolutions Wrong. Here’s How to Fix It.”). Dr. Santos speaks about the value of “anti-resolutions,” and shares the research behind the suggestion that self-compassion fuels habit change far more effectively than shame.

By the way, the following year Dan did a TED Talk called “The benefits of not being a jerk to yourself.” It’s poignant and funny and one of my very favorites.

How This Applies to Your Client Relationships

Consider what your own slack-centric approach might look like as you endeavor to establish new relationship-building habits. Consider how you might be both earnest and nice to yourself at the same time.

Maybe you aspire to nurture your long-term relationships by establishing new and better habits for being in touch with clients. Or to make a bigger difference with your clients by being more courageous and candid. Or to be more influential by becoming a better listener. This kind of personal change can be really hard—otherwise, you’d have already reached your destination. So be sure to treat yourself with kindness as you work towards mastery. Maybe even—gasp—bring a little levity into the mix. Trade self-flagellation for self-compassion and you’ll be surprised at the progress you make.

Turns out that being great with others might actually start by being great with yourself—especially during the first few weeks of a new year.

Make It Real

This week, look for opportunities to bring self-compassion to your self-talk. In what ways can you balance earnestness and personal responsibility with self-directed kindness and levity?

Here’s to a phenomenal year ahead—the best ever.

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).