Practicing Compassion–The Smallest Step Starts the Way


One of the most deceptive ways we can be mean to ourselves is by taking an intention and making it a mandate.How many times have you had a thought, “I feel better when I exercise (insert write, eat well, sleep, don’t drink, take time for myself…you get the idea),” quickly followed by, “Starting tomorrow, I’m going to—insert change words here—every morning.”  This may be linked to all sorts of well-intentioned tasks such as creating a calendar that reserves space for said exercise, setting up partners to take walks, investing in the perfect shoes, and maybe even excitedly thinking about the 10 pounds you’ll shed when you do all of this right. 

This can be wildly exciting and motivating on Monday and just as disappointing on Thursday when, for any number of reasons you skipped the gym in the morning, gave up your writing time to help out a friend or meet a deadline, caved and had that glass of wine at the end of a long day.  Often when we disappoint ourselves, we are vulnerable to feelings of failure and to thoughts that we are not capable of change or that we are not good enough.

Demanding that we make too big of a change too quickly is a recipe for getting down on ourselves.  Often I ask the question, “What is the smallest possible change you can make that you will notice?” This does two things: it keeps us from setting unrealistic goals and it calls on us to really think about what might give us the feeling of having done something different.  This last part is almost always, much more subtle than we think.

As you consider living life with more kindness and self-compassion, ask yourself, what is the smallest kindness I can offer myself in the coming week?  Maybe it’s a hike in the woods instead of chores for the afternoon; maybe it’s a homemade meal eaten slowly instead of on the run; but maybe it’s more like adding a piece of broccoli to your plate, pausing before you start your car to notice the change in colors, or take a deep breath and saying,

“What I’m doing is enough.”


Whatever it is, commit to that one small step and do nothing more and nothing less.


Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to the life
We have refused
Again and again
Until now.

Until now.

~ by David Whyte

from Where Many Rivers Meet

Check here next Monday for more helpful information on living with compassion.

8 thoughts on “Practicing Compassion–The Smallest Step Starts the Way

  1. So beautiful and true – thank you!

    1. Thanks Amy…and you’re welcome!

  2. Stacey, Thanks for this reminder not to set ourselves up for failure. Yesterday I took the day off from pressuring myself to accomplish something. It felt good.

  3. Wonderful tidbits to change a life in the smallest direction that can effect the biggest of change. Thanks.

  4. Wonderful. I had the most wonderful week with David Whyte on tour in Ireland in the middle of the year. So lucky! I have a few reflections in my blog.

    1. Hello! David Whyte in Ireland…must have been amazing. Thank you for reading and I’m looking forward to reading about your experiences. Best to you.

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