Title: Kindness matters: Helping people to achieve their goals by overcoming the barriers to being self-compassionate

Funding body: ESRC

Funding Awarded: £415,042,

Dr Fuschia Sirois, Dr Tom Webb

Project summary
Despite best intentions, people often experience lapses while pursuing their goals – for example, people miss deadlines, fail to get to the gym as planned, and find themselves struggling to be the parent that they want to be. Theory and research suggest that how people respond to these lapses matters and, specifically, that responding with self-compassion (i.e., with self-kindness and acceptance) can help people to deal with setbacks and failures in ways that promote the achievement of their goals. Unfortunately, however, evidence also suggests that responding with self-compassion can be challenging for some people because they have negative beliefs about self-compassion, don’t feel confident that they can be self-compassionate when needed, and/or because their default response is one of self-criticism. However, there is currently no theoretical framework for understanding these challenges, or who is likely to experience them and when.

Accordingly, the overarching aim of the proposed research is to introduce such a theoretical framework and use it to identify and develop strategies that can address the barriers to responding with self-compassion. We will then conduct empirical studies to test whether these strategies can help people to respond to goal lapses in a healthy way, and thus help them achieve their goals. By doing so, the proposed research will have important theoretical and applied implications for our understanding of self-compassion, of how people respond to lapses in goal pursuit and, how to promote effective self-regulation and help people to make changes to their behaviour.