With the deluge of quick fixes, hacks and promises of ‘this will get your goals’ sorted at this time of year, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and disheartened. Maybe you want to up your game with your next aspiration or there’s something you’ve been wanting to achieve that feels forever out of grasp. Maybe it’s recovery from illness, strengthening your health, your relationships or successfully completing projects, personal or work, big or small.
By building on our last blog “Aspirational living – Ready for the discomfort?” here we focus on the rarely included self-care, why self-care is important for success and how to implement self-care rituals in your routine to achieve your goals in 2022.
The growth mindset
Most trainers, teachers and writers who talk about habits and goals are drawing on something called the ‘growth mindset’. This is the belief that your abilities, in particular your intellectual abilities, aren’t fixed but can grow with learning and training. This is a belief that we share here at The Helpful Clinic. We don’t just apply it to your intellectual abilities though. We apply it to your physical, mental and social abilities too. Indeed, our mission is to improve health and wellbeing through increased emotional and health literacy. By this, we mean how well you can ‘read’ and respond to your emotions, physical sensations like symptoms, and take care of your health – how good you are at self-care.
What’s the link between self-care and goals?
In the previous Helpful blog, we talked about Jon and Stephen who had ambitious and aspirational goals for their family. When they were at risk of not achieving their goals, they realised that what was missing to deliver those goals was self-care.
You’ll have heard the advice of putting the oxygen mask on yourself first before assisting others if you’ve ever been on an airplane. Well, this principle can be applied to aspirational living too, actually, caring for yourself first is an essential component in achieving any ambitious aspiration whether that’s to drink more water or climb Mount Everest.
Self-care helps you reach your aspirations
Your feelings are information and your best clue as to what you need now in order to reach your goals and aspirations, whatever they are.
Top athletes know this and many have their own self-care tool kit. Tom Daley’s includes knitting, Simone Biles’ includes eye makeup and Michael Phelp’s is rooted in breath awareness. In order to achieve their aspirations, they know self-care is key.
In addition to First Aid for Feelings, we specialise in stress, pain, fatigue and anxiety so why are we talking about goals and aspirations? The fact is that these are the symptoms that often show up when we’re so focused on the goal that we forget to do our self-care.
In the blog about aspirational living, we talked about how important it is to know your ‘why bother’, your reason for stepping outside of your comfort zone and reaching for your aspiration. Anything that’s outside your comfort zone will be uncomfortable and you’re likely to struggle at times. This is not being negative, this is keeping it real. Yes, it’s important to look towards the metaphorical mountain top and visualise how it feels to stand there, arms outstretched but there’s also the getting there that matters and that’s often less glamorous.
Values and traits to help you achieve your aspirations
Your ‘why bother’ reminds you why you’re not just staying at home under the covers as a lifestyle choice when you stumble or face one obstacle after another. We also talked about how important it is to have coaches and allies to help you on your way.
The next aspects to pay attention to are the values and traits you want to lean into and utilise to achieve your aspiration. Think of them like cardinal points on your compass, your north, south, east and west. Here are four cardinal points that many people have found helpful over the years. Make your own compass and take it with you
Being compassionate to yourself as well as others along the way mean that you practice speaking to yourself and others with kindness. This means drawing more on your inner coach than your inner critic. Using your ABC technique to check, am I speaking to myself with compassion? If not, how can I shift to more compassionate self-talk? It also means bringing compassion to others when they are less skilful or their needs don’t align with ours.
We often believe that courage is about being fearless but actually nothing could be further from the truth. If you didn’t feel fear, you wouldn’t need courage. Stepping out of your comfort zone, aspiring to anything requires courage. We believe that courage is a skill like any other and that the more you practice, the stronger it becomes. So start with small acts of courage and build up, in the same way as you would start with small weights at the gym and build up.
We are inherently curious but we can often shut things down by being judgemental. It’s more helpful to be curious than critical so here the invitation is to check, am I being curious or am I being critical? We can often get frustrated and judgemental with others if we feel they are hindering our progress. Opening up questions is likely to help you find opportunities and ISOPs (Issue-Opportunity). It can take courage to be curious, to have a look outside your comfort zone.
You may not think of it that way but confidence is a skill like any other. Despite popular perception, confidence is not fixed. No one is confident in all areas of their lives, all the time to the same extent. The same applies to a lack of confidence. Like any other skill, confidence can be affected by how often you use it and even how well you slept last night. It’s a combination of beliefs, behaviours, memories and how you’re imagining the future.
Join us every Thursday throughout January with live events on Insight Timer addressing these four cardinal points and how to strengthen those qualities for yourself. Look out for the recordings on each at the end of the month.
So how do you use the compass?
The compass is there as a prompt for you to check your mindset. When you’re struggling – and yes – you will struggle at times, ask yourself, ‘Am I being compassionate to myself? What about others? Am I retreating into non-doing because I’m afraid? Do I need to tap into my courage to take the next step? What would help me do that? Am I being curious or am I assuming I know everything there is to know and that nothing is possible? Is that helpful? How confident am I feeling? What do I need to think, feel or do to experience more confidence?’.
The compass provides you with the prompts for the values you have chosen to take with you on your journey. When faced with choices or decisions it can be helpful to check them against the cardinal points on your compass. Will this choice support me to feel compassionate, courageous, curious and confident? If not, what would be a more helpful choice?
We’ve chosen these four values as we use them by ourselves, and so do many people we work with. Other popular skills or values that people have used are:
- Boundaries (e.g. saying ‘no’ more or – in some people’s cases, ‘yes’)
Our invitation to you
Our invitation to you is to think about how you prepare for your journey and set yourself up well as part of the process. Check that you know your First Aid for Feelings so that you can deal with ‘injuries’ and ‘scrapes’ along the way. Get clear on your ‘why bother’ and recruit coaches and allies to help you along the way, after all, you wouldn’t climb Mount Everest without Sherpas, would you? And don’t forget to define your compass – the traits or values that will help you.
Whatever your aspiration, we wish you compassion, courage, curiosity and confidence along the way.
And if you’re looking for tips to help you embed new habits or how to set your goals, check out our blogs:
- How to make habits stick
- How to manage risk and overwhelm with animals and triangles
- Meditation on the gift of overwhelm
- Relationships (a key factor in achieving or hindering any goal)
- And negotiation
Go gently, hold steady, stay the course.
All the best, Thor