The Power of Microresolutions

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

I've been reading a lot recently about habits. Not so much in the sense of bemoaning bad things that we do, but more in terms of how we can modify our routines & behaviours to bring about positive changes in our lives. Fascinating stuff I can tell you. And it's surprising how many things have popped up in my life on this subject since I've been thinking about it!

Probably the most interesting idea I've come across so far is the microresolution. At the start of every year many of us make commitments to ourselves to 'get fit', 'lose weight', 'be more organised' ~ you know the kind of thing. But by February our promises are inevitably long forgotten, victims of pressures of time, work, money and just about any other excuse you can think of. In short, they were over-ambitious and not specific enough.


The microresolution concept is as follows:

1. No more than 2 resolutions at a time
2. Easily achievable
3. Specific

4. Immediately measurable

If your resolutions meet the above marks, you stand an infinitely better chance of changing or introducing a new behaviour and embedding it into your personal 'autopilot' so that this becomes something you do or don't do without even having to think about it. And once you've got one or two small habits safely under your belt, you can add in a new one which moves you further towards your goal.

An example might be that you want to improve your fitness. Rather than go hell for leather at the gym 6 nights a week, you could make a microresolution to walk for an hour one lunchtime per week? You're not committing yourself to walking every lunchtime ~ you'll soon get tired and bored of it or resent not being able to spend that time doing other things ~ but on the other hand you're leaving the way open should you feel inclined to walk more often that than. This is what is meant by making the resolution 'easy'. It might not be physically easy for you to walk for an hour to start with, but it should be fairly easy for you to keep this small commitment to yourself. It's going to be pretty hard to come up with a reasonable excuse to yourself 7 times in a row about why you can't go for your walk!

You might be thinking you'll never get any fitter walking just one lunchtime, but over time it will make some difference and you might feel inspired to crank things up a notch. Plus what's the alternative? 2 weeks of fat-busting gym mania, followed up by absolutely nothing for the rest of the year? Think about it!

Another example could be that you want to get more sleep. How about a microresolution to be in bed by 11pm on 4 nights a week? Or to organise your clothes for the next day as soon as you get home from work so that you can have a bit of extra time in bed in the morning?


Also important when breaking or making habits is the 'cue' ~ something that makes you think about what you're going to do and thereby increases your chances of doing it. The cue for walking at lunchtime, for example, might be finishing eating your lunch. The cue for getting to bed by 11pm is the clock and for laying your clothes out when you get home it might be the first time you walk into your bedroom after arriving home. You need to drum these cues into your mind at first, but with constant repetition they'll become second nature.

Since learning about this technique I've successfully incorporated two microresolutions into my daily routine:

* to walk up the final escalator of any tube journey when travelling alone

* to finish my bottle of water before leaving the gym

As you can see, they are tiny details really, but one gives me an extra fitness boost at least twice a day during the week, and the other ensures I drink more water after exercise, which is something I've often been pretty bad at. Winning!

Microresolutions shouldn't be seen as an easy option. You still need willpower, perseverance and patience. But they do work well with the nature of the human psyche. By introducing new or different behaviours little by little and embedding them one by one into automatic routines, you can't help but feel that you can reach your goals and stay motivated to keep moving forward.

If you'd like to read more about microresolutions, I highly recommend the book Small Move, Big Change

Other interesting takes on habits:Positively Positive
Goop


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