~ Dr. Cynthia Phelps
So where do I get the motivation to make the daily changes needed to accomplish big goals? There are countless books written on the subject, but I’m going to give you just one simple plot twist to the story of how to make life changes. People who are compassionate towards themselves are better able to make and sustain changes in their life. Right now I know your inner voice is screaming “Nooooo! I can’t let up on myself or I will just sit on the couch and eat Cheetos all day!” But it turns out, that is not the case. If you motivate yourself with compassion, rather than harsh criticism, you will be more effective at making changes in your life.
Let’s think about it from another perspective, a perspective outside of your head. What would you do if you had a child that came home with a low grade? A critical parent may ridicule the child; calling them stupid and saying they are a disappointment.
A compassionate parent might recognize that the child is suffering, and offer some words of empathy like “wow, it must not feel very good to get a low grade.” They might share one of their own hardships with the child to let them know they are not alone, and offer some kind words of encouragement with a plan for action. If you were this child, which reaction makes you more motivated to change? I sure would like to have the compassionate parent. If I had the harsh, critical parent, I might just give up on myself.
Here’s the deal, YOU ARE THE CHILD. Stop trying to motivate yourself to change with harsh or critical words. We are taught by our culture that we must be hard on ourselves if we want to accomplish great things. However, the research is not supporting this commonly held notion. We find that college kids are better able to accomplish their goals if they are more self-compassionate. Self-compassion is also positively associated with intrinsic motivation, the same type of motivation that you need to make and sustain healthy behaviors, like exercise.
This year give yourself the gift of resilience. Go ahead and give it a try. The research gives you permission to be that kind, compassionate parent to yourself as you are making changes in the new year.
1. Neff, K. D., Hseih, Y., & Dejitthirat, K. (2005). Self-compassion, achievement goals, and coping with academic failure. Self and Identity, 4, 263-287.
2. Magnus, C. M. R., Kowalski, K. C., & McHugh, T. L. F. (2010). The role of self-compassion in women's self-determined motives to exercise and exercise-related outcomes. Self & Identity. 9, 363-382.
Cynthia has a passion to help people improve their mental wellness through the practice of inner compassion. She founded InnerAlly a company that develops mobile technologies to help people practice compassion on a daily basis. Her background is in neuroscience with a focus in learning and behavior change. She has over 18 years of experience in developing tools to help people change their health behaviors. She is also certified as a Peer Recovery Coach and trained in Mindful Self-compassion. Learn more at cynthiaphelps.com.
Dr Phelps is offering a life-changing course in how to practice self-compassion in San Antonio starting January 11, 2016. This 8 week course has been shown to raise your levels of self-compassion so you can make the changes you want in your own life. Learn more here: cynthiaphelps.com/msc
Copyright Cynthia Phelps 2015