The Magic Of Microresolutions

This post contains my personal notes from the book, “Small Move, Big Change by Caroline L. Arnold”.

We have all made resolutions and we have all failed to keep them. Rather than making resolutions, if we can make microresolutions we can succeed every time and transform our lives.

A microresolution is a compact and powerful commitment designed to nail a precise behavioural target exactly and deliver benefits immediately

Microresolutions succeed where resolutions fail because:

  • Microresolutions focus on doing, not being. Being different follows, rather than precedes deliberate action. If we focus on doing what we want, being what we want will follow.
  • Microresolutions do not need a lot of willpower. They are designed to perform a precise autopilot activity( one or two significant behavioural changes until they are driven into autopilot, where they require no deliberate effort – willpower to sustain).
  • Microresolutions help us to go slowly. They follow the principles of nature, that it takes time to change and that transformation is a process. It nurtures us slowly and shows us that the key to transformation is not speed or force but conscious nurturing.
  • We all have a lot of mental and emotional resistance to change. This is caused by the emotional, physical and mental habits we learned earlier in our life. When we adopt a microresolution it fosters self-awareness, exposes our veiled mindset and the source of resistance to change. It exposes our hidden attitudes that thwart success and thereby helps in transforming it.
  • Microresolutions are easy to keep.

A successful microresolution is like laying a behavioural cornerstone to support dozens of habits to follow. Some of these new habits will be the result of conscious effort, but others will emerge spontaneously in response to the fresh perspective and revitalised mindset that come from new experience and the rewards from making a single change in personal behaviour.We go from mindlessness to mindfulness and the awareness of our habits creates control over the habits we want to develop.

As Aristotle said:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit- Aristotle.

The following are the seven rules of making and keeping microresolutions:

  1. A microresolution is a discrete change in behaviour that will make a difference. It does not focus on big things. It is a small thing that is easy to do, like: When I reach home from work, I will climb the stairs and not take the lift to get healthier. It can also target a mindset, like remembering to tell yourself: I enjoy dinner more when I am hungry for it( whenever you are tempted to snack for it). It is like a mental tweet synchronised to a specific trigger. It is about applying yourself with single minded purpose to take an action at the margin that will propel you forward and make a positive difference in your life.
  2. A microresolution is easy. But it is pledge you are sure you have the power to keep – a no excuses resolution. It is a targeted behavioural change that is reasonable enough that you can force yourself to keep it-don’t overreach. For example, an easy resolution is to walk once a week, not five times a week. Once you achieve this, you will see a lot of benefits which will encourage you to go for more. Keep your resolution limited, reasonable and achievable.
  3. A microresolution is an explicit and measurable action. It should have a what, when and how. Like, I will climb two flights of stairs each day. Once you have defined it, you need to establish a context for your new behaviour by linking it to a time, activity or situation. Like, I will climb two flights of stairs (habit) when I come back from work(cue). So Make your commitment only when you have made your resolution explicit -what you are going to do, when you are going to do it, and how will it be cued.
  4. A microresolution pays off upfront. A microresolution time frame is today, not someday. Its payoff is immediate, obvious and sustainable forever. It brings an immediate and valuable benefit, by design. Never think of your microresolution as an increment, as a stepping stone to a future goal; the benefit your microresolution delivers today is the goal. Rejoice in the rewards your microresolution provides today, and the future will take care of itself. Once you permanently lock in the benefits of just one behavioural change, you are on the path to continuous self-improvement.
  5. A microresolution is personal. It is made to measure for your individual circumstances, psyche, and history. It is bespoke, not mass market. Thoughtfully analyze your habits to determine the single change that will have the best impact in your personal circumstances. It should fit you like a glove. Or think of it as a kind of remedy, a prescription you write for yourself.
  6. A microresolution resonates with your perspectives and psychologies. It should engage your mindset, your values, preferences and outlook. Some methods of framing are to frame it in a positive way or use the language of zero tolerance to frame it; for big activities, try to split them into smaller batches. The main thing is that the microresolution should get inside your own head and change your mindset.
  7. A microresolution fires on cue. We spend our lives reacting to cues, automatically responding with a learned behaviour pattern to a specific situation or context. Linking the action of your microresolution to a cue is critical. Cues are discovered, not invented- they already exist. The cue may be internal or external. The easiest cues are those that are tied to a day or time. If he cue is a context, the best way is to piggyback it on an established habit. Make sure you do not use multiple cues.
  8. Make microresolutions just two at a time. It takes 4-8 weeks before the microresolution feels natural. Keep resolutions that are practised daily for 4 weeks and those practised less frequently for 8 weeks.

Test drive your microresolution. A microresolution should succeed every time. If not, then you need to rethink, reframe, reschedule and rescope your resolution. Gauge obstacles and scale back if needed. As you gain experience, you will get smarter at predicting complications, framing for maximum effect and identifying the best cues. Stick with your resolution until they stick and soon success will be a habit. Each successful resolution boosts your spirit, energy and confidence and leads to more progress. The key is simply to make a start.

The following are some areas you could consider when making microresolutions:

  • Getting enough sleep. Making sure you sleep for 8 hours every day
  • Improving your fitness.
  • Diet and nutrition: Type  of food, Mindful eating and Less eating( when, where, what and how much you eat)
  • Decreasing physical clutter( neatness)
  • Decreasing mental clutter(organisation)
  • Improving relationships at work and home: how you relate, being there, making time and trust
  • Spending and saving( Convenience, passive consuming, impulsiveness, wastefulness, relative expenditure, spending to impress are all expensive)
  • Punctuality( Morning lateness and chronic lateness)

Our preferences develop as a result of our habits. Each time we defend our preferences we reinforce our habits. Preferences are part of our identity, how we describe and think about ourselves. The habits you build through microresolutions will ultimately give birth to new preferences and these new preferences will then become the norm. Your sense of who you are will also change and you will do things in a new way.

As Lao-Tzu says:

Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become character.
Watch your character, they become destiny.


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