As the year draws to a close, many of us are focused on what we did well this year.
But some of us will criticise ourselves when we feel we have fallen short of our expectations.
Instead of doing that, perhaps what we need to do is to integrate a healthy dose of self-compassion into our thoughts.
What is self-compassion exactly?
According to Dr Kristin Neff, it's about "motivating yourself with kindness".
Dr Neff is an Associate Professor in Human Development and Culture at the University of Texas at Austin.
She has pioneered much of the scientific research into self-compassion.
Dr Neff uses the analogy of a sports coach when she describes the practice.
Imagine a coach who yelled at his students, berating them about their performance.
Contrast that with a coach who is caring, considerate and compassionate.
- Which coach is going to be more successful?
- And which inner-coach do you have?
She says the key is instead of beating yourself up, ask yourself: "How is my inner critic or inner coach trying to help me?"
Dr Neff suggests cultivating an inner voice that mimics how you would speak to a close friend.
If your close friend failed or made a mistake, would you criticise them or instead would you put an arm around them, talk them through what happened and tell them it's going to be OK?
Why self-compassion matters
"What self-compassion does is make it OK to fail," Dr Neff says.
And that's not easy in our success-driven society.
But ironically, according to Dr Neff, fear of failure is one of the biggest reasons we don't succeed or do as well as we would like to.
Cultivating a supportive inner coach helps you to do your best.
Dr Neff says that doesn't mean you shouldn't give yourself some gentle constructive criticism.
In fact, she said constructive criticism was an important part of what psychology experts call "a growth mindset".
Growth mindset is a simple idea discovered by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Professor Carol Dweck.
After decades of research on achievement, she has found a simple idea that makes all the difference.
"Growth mindset", according to Professor Dweck, is the idea that we can grow our brain's capacity to learn and to solve problems.
But self-compassion doesn't come easily for many of us, especially women, who can often be more focussed on caring for others' needs.
Dr Neff says it can feel selfish to care for yourself and some of us feel they almost need permission to be self-supportive.
"But if you show self-compassion, you are much less likely to burn out and you will have more energy and resources to other others as well as yourself," she says.
Dr Neff has a calculator to help figure out how self-compassionate you are.
Now through a lens of self-compassion and with a considerate inner-critic, write down the answers to these questions:
- What accomplishments am I most proud of?
- What was my biggest success and why did it make me happy?
- What were my biggest disappointments?
- What would I tell someone who had a similar experience?
- What did I learn about myself in 2017?
- What behaviours or habits do I want to leave in 2017?
- What behaviours or habits do I want to take into 2018?
Sophie Scott is the ABC's medical reporter.
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