The Path of Compassion In Living Your Best Life

In my previous article, I discussed what I have come to believe are the 10 major components to creating a life of true joy, purpose, and meaning. One of total whole person wellness: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. The components that are essential to what I call "Living In Alignment;" living in alignment with your values, your life’s purpose, and your highest self. Today, I will explore one of those components: Compassion.

While I am certainly a proponent of compassion for others, what I’m really talking about here is self-compassion. So often, we are our own worst critics. The dialogue in many of our heads is a stream of constant judgment, especially for those that struggle with depression or anxiety.  It seems that many people believe that they can only motivate themselves by berating themselves, ie. "if I just keep telling myself how awful I am, I will finally change." Picture the coach on the bench screaming at his players; he truly believes that by making his players feel bad they will perform better. Now imagine you have that going on in your head, all day long. Not surprisingly, research suggests that this is not an effective strategy for motivation and that for many, this type of self-criticism leads to giving up or, even worse, to states of clinical depression and learned helplessness. 

In order to take back your role as expert of your own life and live in alignment, you have to start treating yourself with the same compassion that you would show your children or someone else you love. When a child is learning to ride a bike and he or she falls, do you start yelling at them, “You’re so stupid. You failed again. You’ll never be able to do it. Why do you even bother trying?” NO! In fact the idea is so preposterous it’s almost funny. Imagine: “Stupid baby, can’t even walk.” Right? It’s absurd. Yet, we talk to ourselves like this all the time. “I planned a workshop and I didn’t get as many attendees as I would like, I should just give up; I’m no good at this.” Or…”I yelled at my kids, I’ll never be a good mom, I just can’t get it right.” Sound more familiar?

The Pathway of Compassion is one of patience, kindness, and respect for oneself. Choosing to reconnect with our true self, to uncover our purpose and to take charge of our lives is not an easy or overnight journey. It is one of ups and downs, moving backwards, forwards, and sideways. Sometimes it’s joyful and sometimes it’s painful. It is almost NEVER a smooth easy path. There will always be bumps in the road and sometimes they will feel like boulders, but the path of compassion says (to ourselves), “I can do this. I am learning a new skill, just like a child does; the process is a part of my journey, just as much as the destination is.”

Although I am talking about the role of compassion specifically as it relates to Living in Alignment, this applies to all change. Whether it’s quitting smoking, exercising more, eating less junk food, or being kinder to our loved ones, any change that is worth making will be a challenge and we need to show ourselves the love we deserve as we make the effort. No matter what the result, we are better off for having tried.

So, here’s your assignment: When you catch those judgmental thoughts wandering around your head today, stop and ask yourself, “Is this the way that I would talk to a child that I was teaching?” If the answer is, “NO,” and I believe it will be, ask yourself this, “What would I say to teach and encourage this child?” Now say it to yourself.

Enjoy this beautiful day, Namaste’!