Regular readers have probably guessed that I could be categorized as Type A. I make lists and set goals that are often unreasonable, unless I learn how to get by on less sleep. Do all my goals sometimes send me into the stratospheres of anxiety? Well, yes. But I’ve never really had the intention to change. Balance always seemed like something I’d work on after I deemed myself sufficiently successful.
A recent article in The New York Times, Go Easy on Yourself, A New Wave of Research Urges, suggests that browbeating ourselves towards perfection isn’t the best way to achieve results. Research, the article says, indicates that people who have self-compassion are less likely to be anxious and depressed and more likely to be optimistic. The alternative to self-compassion, self-criticism, can leave us unmotivated to change.
Telling ourselves that we’ll never get ahead because we don’t have the right credentials or the right connections won’t put us any closer to our next opportunity. Telling ourselves that we’re capable of advancing will motivate us to take the next steps to initiating change.
Dr. Neff, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, found that, “… the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent… They believe that self-criticism is what keeps them in line.”
So all you Type A’s, let’s work on changing our perspective of the list. It won’t be the commitment to the list itself that leads to success one line at a time, but the commitment to check in with ourselves, assess the factors we can’t control, and believe in our capacity to affect the factors we can.