The Art of Compassionate Self-Motivation


We’re deep into a time of year when many people are trying to make changes in their lives. I don’t know about you, but it feels like every time I’ve logged onto Facebook or opened an email over the last 4-6 weeks, I’ve heard about planning and goal-setting left, right and centre.Don’t get me wrong, I love treating the new year as a chance to dream and scheme. If I didn’t set goals for myself, I don’t think I’d be nearly as intentional about how I spend my time (and wouldn’t get as much fulfilment and enjoyment from life as a result). As we all know, however, there’s a huge difference between planning to do something and actually doing it.First of all, you want to make sure your goals actually involve things you want (for more on creating authentic goals, check out this podcast). Even when we’re working towards something we truly want though, we’re still going to reach that point where the novelty wears off and we need to start relying on our self-motivation to keep going.This is the test; not just of how much you want to do something but of your relationship with yourself.Something I talk about a lot with coaching clients is how to be disciplined about inching closer to what we want without resorting to negative self-talk, withholding self-acceptance and summoning our internal dictator. Here are a few suggestions for compassionate self-motivation as we embark on our next journey around the sun:

1. Ask yourself: “Who do I need to become in order to do this?”

When we start a new project or habit, we usually focus on what we need to do to make that habit or project happen. A more important question is “Who do I need to become in order to do this?”Imagine yourself a year from now living a life where your goals and/or resolutions have come to fruition. How does that version of yourself behave? What kinds of thoughts do they have? How do they feel? What changes have they made in other areas of their lives? Who do they hang out with? What are they really passionate about? Build up a picture of that person you are becoming in as much detail as possible.You'll also find it helpful to think of a compassionate role model who has done what you’re trying to do, embodies the qualities you’d like to embody or who has the kind of lifestyle you’d love to have. While you don’t want to become their clone, you can study their actions and attitude and take inspiration for your own life.

2. Make your environment work for you

For every behaviour or habit we want to add to our lives, we need to identify a behaviour or habit to replace. In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor talks about the 20-second rule. This involves taking the habits or projects you want to replace and creating an environment where it takes you 20 seconds longer to do those things (and easier to do the things you want to do instead).For example, if you want to read more after work but you get distracted by TV, put the TV remote in a different room and put a book on the sofa in its place before you leave for work in the morning. Although going into a different room to get the remote doesn’t expend a huge amount of energy, it’s enough to break the habit of mindlessly channel surfing and remind you of who you want to be.

3. Notice your energy patterns

Throughout the day, our energy ebbs and flows. Start tracking when your energy is highest and lowest, and the factors that have a positive or negative influence on your energy levels.Then, make two lists. One list contains tasks and activities for when your energy is at its highest (i.e. those that require brain power and creative juice), the other contains tasks and activities for when your energy is low (brainless, admin tasks).For more on energy and productivity, I recommend reading/listening to The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working by Tony Schwartz.

4. Remember your "big why"

With any new habit or project, we reach a point where the novelty has worn off and we feel like we’re back to doing grunt work. During these times, we can keep ourselves motivated by looking beyond feelings of day-to-day drudgery and reconnecting with our “big why.”What excited you about your business or this particular project?Why did you start doing this in the first place?What do you really want to get out of it?How will success with this particular habit or project positively impact other areas of your life?

5. Get support

[Tweet "Nobody says you have to do this all on your own."]You don't get a gold star for going it alone and chances are you’ll fare a lot better if you have support.This might be in the form of an accountability buddy, a mastermind group, a friend who is great at asking perspective-shifting questions, or someone who is willing to listen when you need to vent. Identify which kind of support you need and actively seek it.How do you motivate yourself in a compassionate way? Leave a comment and share your thoughts. Image: Jeff Sheldon