Self compassionate alternatives to new year’s resolutions

by | Jan 6, 2020 | Life

From mid December and all the way through January we are surrounded by messages about reflecting on the year that is coming to an end and creating new year’s resolutions.

What did you achieve? What didn’t you achieve? How will you improve? What will you do next?  Who will you be now? What big goals will you set? How will you make this your best year yet?

The perfect environment for self-doubt and criticism

Many people find themselves feeling pretty down about the whole process because they feel like they have failed, or at least fallen short of their vision for themselves. Our brains are wired to find the negatives pretty easily, so our shortcomings stand out. We berate and criticise ourselves.

“I failed”

“I’m not good enough”

“I’m never going to get there”

“There’s no use setting goals, I never achieve them anyway.”

Perhaps your achievements don’t seem as significant as the achievements of others, or your goals don’t seem as exciting or worthwhile. You might look at other women and think that they are doing so much more than you are able to manage. Or that they want to achieve more. “Why don’t I want to achieve as much as her?”

Studies have shown that most people abandon their goals by February, so if you’re feeling guilty about never seeing those new year resolutions through, you’re not alone.

This all creates the perfect environment for self doubt and self criticism.

Lovely mum, if this is how you experience new year’s resolutions, I invite you to take a breath and get ready to change your perspective.


Bringing self compassion to new year’s resolutions

Firstly, I want you to know that your worth is NOT dependant on what you achieve or don’t achieve. It isn’t dependant on how motivated and ambitious you are or how much progress you make each year. You are worthy already. Because you ARE. Nothing else is required.

Secondly, please understand that we have been led to believe that self-criticism is an effective way to motivate ourselves into greater action and results. But the truth is actually the opposite. Self compassion is a far greater motivator, especially over the long term. So, while you might think that you’re helping yourself succeed by being really hard on yourself, you’re actually creating and reinforcing stories that will hold you back. I mean, how can anyone be their best when they’re feeling so badly about themselves.

What if, instead, you took a self compassionate and loving view of your progress and goals? What if we set ourselves up for success and feeling good about ourselves, regardless of the circumstances?


This involves:

  • Being kind and understanding of yourself. For example, if you are going through a difficult time, you could give yourself grace and accept that it isn’t realistic or necessary to achieve all the goals which you had set beforehand.


  • Remembering that you are not alone and that everyone faces challenges and difficulties. Accept that you cannot control your circumstances but you can choose your response. Sometimes that means that your goals need to evolve or change over the year.


  • Practicing mindfulness, as you observe and accept your emotions (including the uncomfortable ones) without judgement.


  • Accepting and acknowledging your progress, strengths and successes. Even if they are imperfect and not what you were initially hoping for.


  • Looking for the learning in your challenges and mistakes. You are always evolving and growing.


  • Accepting yourself as you are, imperfect and already good enough.


How would you feel if you held this perspective on your progress and goals? new year's resolutions


Intention setting rather than just goal setting

I spent many, many years teaching goal setting in the corporate world, but over the last few years, I have personally found intention setting to be a more empowering way to approach new year resolutions.

Each year I choose a word of the year. One inspirational word that represents my vision for my life over the year.

Where a specific goal (which is how new year’s resolutions would normally be written) is laser focused on one thing (meaning you usually need a few goals each year), setting an intention can be more holistic, with one word covering many areas of your life.

The great thing about setting an intention with a word of the year, is that it accommodates change and allows you space to grow and adapt throughout the year.

For example, if your word of the year is “presence”, you can seek to be present in all areas of your life, no matter what is going on. Circumstances may change, but your intention is still relevant.

Of course, you will still set specific goals aligned to your word of the year, but they can be set at any time, with different durations to achieve them.

Every day, I look for opportunities to make my intention a reality. This year I have actually chosen two words of the year. They just came to me through journaling and felt so right. They are based on things that I have learned over the last year and they continue my journey of personal learning and growth. My words are believe and be. In brief, my intention for 2020 is to examine my beliefs to uncover and rewrite those that are limiting me in all areas of life. I will also be focusing on who I need to be to bring my dreams into reality. I am going to be that person now, rather than waiting until things fall into place.

If you’d like to set your intentions with your own word of the year, I’ve outlined a simple process to do so in my previous blog on this topic here. new year's resolutions

What if you really don’t want to set an intention right now?

I feel like it’s really important to note that if you really don’t want to set an intention right now, that’s ok. Despite all the talk about new year’s resolutions, there’s not any real reason that your intention needs to be established in January and cover the whole calendar year. Perhaps your current circumstances mean that you have more than enough to handle. Maybe you want to give yourself some grace during the first month or two of the year. Maybe you want to set an intention for the first 3 months and then see where you are at. Whatever you need, so be it. Be true to yourself. Your process is still valid and worthwhile. 


10 ideas for setting self compassionate intentions for the new year

While you are working on what your intentions for the year will be, consider these 10 ideas for incorporating self compassion.

  1. Set an intention around how you want to feel this year. For example, calm, inspired, connected or purposeful.
  2. Ask yourself, how can I be more me this year?
  3. Let things evolve and discover your intention over time, rather than feeling pressured to set an intention now.
  4. Rather than becoming something else or creating something else, practice gratitude for everything you have already.
  5. Set an intention to let go of something that held you back last year (or over previous years).
  6. Rather than trying to change, continue something you are already doing that is really important to you.
  7. Commit to implementing and practicing something that you learned last year.
  8. Commit to celebrating and savouring your progress and successes (big and small, on a daily basis).
  9. Set intentions that allow for and celebrate imperfect achievement, because perfection is not required.
  10. Identify the help and support you will need to achieve your intentions because we don’t need to do it all alone.


I hope this empowering and self compassionate alternative to new year’s resolutions is helpful for you, lovely. If you do choose a word of the year, please share it with me! Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you! 







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