In general, we are obsessed with goals and possibilities in January. It is a natural time of year to look back at the past year and look ahead to the coming year. But, man, we can be hard on ourselves.

So, what does it look like to set goals with kindness and compassion for ourselves?

Two of my favorite teachers may point the way. Parker Palmer was quoted by Richard Rohr in his daily meditation series recently, both of whom I count as great sources of wisdom. 

In Rohr’s post, Parker asks these questions as guideposts for our new year inquiries:

  1. What do I want to let go of?
  2. What do I want to give myself?

Clearly the answers to these questions will be different for everyone, but I have a suggestion to guide your consideration of the first question. Hopefully this will prepare the way for you then to ask the second question more effectively.



What do I want to let go of?

So, here’s my suggestion. Let go of anything you do for the sake of earning your worth.

What might that be? Do you do something that is motivated by a need to feel OK or good enough? Ask yourself, what is it that I need to have, achieve, or be before I am OK in the world? Or be equally worthy of love and inclusion as other people? What needs to happen before I can feel at ease in my life or my body?

What is it for you? Some common culprits for people:

  • Money
  • Weight
  • Health
  • Relationships
  • Education
  • Business mileposts

Goals are great and I’m not suggesting you give up on your goals in any aspect of your life.


How we normally set goals

However, our usual way of setting goals is to be aware of how we are currently not measuring up to our own or society’s standards. So, we get busy meeting those standards, so that we can feel OK in the world and not necessarily so that we can meet our real needs or the real needs of those around us.

I suggest we unhook our goals from the need to feel OK. We can just accept ourselves as flawed, but fundamentally OK people. And then our goals can be a way for us to expand our potential or meet real needs in the world.

Not only is this an act of deep kindness for ourselves, we’ll be able to move forward in our lives with so much more authority and power.



What we can do?

We can be compassionate with ourselves, acknowledge our inherent goodness as humble humans doing our best, and that we are actually OK in all our awkwardness. We can practice knowing that we are OK as we are first, and then make plans for what comes next – not from a place of grasping in order to be OK, but from a place of stability and clear intention. We can thank our bodies for all the good they allow in our lives and give ourselves the gift of deeply nutritious food and enlivening activity, regardless of our weight. We can honor our progress in our businesses, even as we work hard for the next milestone. We can acknowledge the humbleness of our savings accounts without condemning our character.

In fact, by judging ourselves as terrible savers, who can’t manage eating, or get ahead in business, we keep ourselves stuck.   



You’re OK, really.

You’re OK, just as you are, without all the things you think you need to be OK. It’s already done, really. So take a deep breath in, breathe out, and find some self-compassion in your heart. You are a good person. All the things that are half way done, un-started, or even failing – these do not affect your worth as a human being.

You are good enough already. It’s already done. Practice affirming this.



Why believe this?

Our shame mocks our best efforts from the inside, cutting us off at the knees with our attempts to grow and overcome old patterns. That shame voice in our heads says, Who do you think you are? You can’t do that. Everyone knows how lazy you are. Etc., etc.  

So, when we practice silencing the voice of shame, we can make choices and create change without the paralyzing weight of “knowing” we’re already failures. What if we know we’re just fine and that we are also capable of more? These are two distinct things.




Don’t believe the lie

This lie we all tell ourselves trips us. Don’t believe it. Practice knowing you are OK exactly as you are right now. Then when you act to move forward with your goals, you are anchored in the strength that is already yours. Your feet are firmly planted on the ground.

And be compassionate with yourself as you practice this. Knowing your worth is not an action step you can accomplish in an afternoon or a weekend retreat. Sadly, it’s not so quick.

However, you can remind yourself. You can commit to the idea, choose to believe it, recognize the voice of your inner critic who whispers lies in your mind and tell it, “Thanks for the input, but I don’t need that today.” You can rumble with your own belief that self-punishment is helpful and motivating. It’s not.



So, what about goals?

You can also ask whether the goals you’ve set for the new year are part of your hustle to be OK, or are they a true expression of how you are called to live and be in the world. If they are, then gently release them and embrace the goals that truly represent your true expression.



Here’s some people who do great work on these subjects:

Kristen Neff – Researcher and Teacher on Self-Compassion

Brene Brown – Researcher and Teacher on Vulnerability, Shame, and Courage


My favorite Ted Talk of all time. It just happens to be on this topic of self-worth. Please watch.

Brene Brown’s talk on vulnerability is one of the most popular Ted Talks of ALL TIME EVER! Don’t miss this one.

Kristen Neff’s Ted Talk on self-compassion – another video to change your life for the better.