Be Kind to Yourself

Not long ago, I shared a table at the raw food restaurant I frequent with a handful of friends, one of whom was a woman who was relatively new to the concept of a raw food diet. After hearing some of our stories, she enthusiastically announced that she was going to go 100 percent raw the very next day. Gently, I told her that going raw was not as simple as it sounded, that it typically took two to three years to make the transition, and that she was setting herself up for certain failure.

I bet you can relate to that woman. Who among us hasn’t excitedly started an exercise program, changed our diet, started a spiritual path or leapt into any other self-improvement effort with high hopes and stars in our eyes? And who among us hasn’t raised the white flag after a few days, a few weeks or a few months and slunk away defeated and disappointed in ourselves?

The pattern is always the same. You get great results when you start working out or eating better or meditating regularly and then . . . you sleep in one morning and skip the gym, or a friend bakes your favorite pie just for you, or responsibilities at work and home fill up your day. Then that one day away from the gym becomes a week, or you decide that a little chocolate couldn’t possibly hurt, or your promise to get up earlier to meditate falls prey to the snooze alarm.

Whatever life-improvement regimen you are about to embark upon, please, please, please do not hold yourself to a standard of perfection. If you do, you will fail. It is that simple. Unrealistic expectations produce predictable outcomes.

When you do take a step back—and you will—recognize that backsliding is part of the process. Don’t beat yourself up, just gather your resolve and start again the next moment, the next day or as soon as you can. And days, weeks or months later, when you take another step back—and you will—treat that lapse (and all the lapses to come) the same way.

Be kind to yourself and take all the time you need to gradually make better and healthier choices. When you do take a detour, enjoy the scenery. And know that every time you stumble, the odds of taking another misstep diminish ever so slightly in terms of both frequency and severity.

It may take years to develop the discipline and habits you expected to perfect on day one. But that’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay: it’s the way we humans work. And once you get to where you wanted to go, all that matters is that you got there.

Happy trails!


Phil is the author of Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World, a comprehensive guide to living a spiritual life. Who will benefit from reading it?

Anyone who is on a spiritual path, or wants to start one
Anyone who loves life, or wants to learn how to
Anyone who is happy, or wants to be happier

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SiSe_fullcover_final.inddPhil is also the author of Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, a collection of 45 inspiring, life-changing stories from prominent people he interviewed, including Joan Borysenko, Deepak Chopra, geneticist Dr. Francis Collins, acclaimed sportswriter Frank Deford, Dr. Larry Dossey, Wayne Dyer, Dan Millman, Caroline Myss, Dr. Christiane Northrup, Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, Dr. Bernie Siegel, James Van Praagh, singer Billy Vera, Doreen Virtue, Neale Donald Walsch, and bassist Victor Wooten.

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Reading this book is like spending a few minutes face to face with each of the contributors and listening to their personal stories. Click here to read unsolicited testimonials from readers. Learn more by visiting the official Sixty Seconds website.

Sixty Seconds was one of three finalists in the General Interest/How-To category at the 12th annual Visionary Awards presented by COVR (Coalition of Visionary Resources) in Denver on June 27, 2009.

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4 Responses to “Be Kind to Yourself”

  1. Jackie Rose Says:

    Haha, I’ve doomed myself to failure so many times!

    In recent years, I’ve changed my attitude from I-have-to-and-will-do-this to I-am-curious-about-this-and-will-patiently-explore-it.

    Patience seems to be key for me. It also helps to treat new diets, practices or spiritual paths as something interesting that I can explore at my own pace, instead of something I put all of my faith into and expect my body/mind to conform to immediately.

    After meditating intensely a few weeks ago I said to myself, “Well, that was amazing. I’d really like to do it more often but lets see how it goes. If I get up tomorrow and go meditate, great, and if not, then maybe I need to find a different way to practice.” Then if I find that I am not meditating out of sheer willpower and miss it, I’ll look for a scheduled meditation class in my area or a community group to meet with to help maintain my motivation to practice.

    So far I’m doing well on my own!

    Thank you for this post. It was nice to read your encouragement for people in the middle of what can be, and usually is a frustrating process of making changes.

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Sounds like you’ve come to a really good place regarding all this, Jackie Rose. Glad to hear it! Keep up the good work!

  3. Narinder Says:

    Great article. Thanks!

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Glad you liked it. Thank you, Narinder!

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