Why you should care
It’s not too late to come up with some New Year’s resolutions you can actually keep. Here’s how.
It’s already a few days into 2014, and we have a question for you: How’s it going with your New Year’s resolutions? Or perhaps a better question: Whatever happened to your 2013 resolutions?
If the answer to the latter is that you don’t remember (or prefer to forget since you failed abysmally), take comfort. You are not alone: Roughly 9 out of 10 people fail at their New Year’s resolutions. Welcome to the supermajority!
Microresolution: a compact and powerful commitment designed to nail a precise behavioral target exactly and deliver benefits immediately.
While the term has been around for a few years, in the upcoming Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently (Viking, $27.95), Caroline L. Arnold provides the roadmap. She defines a microresolution as “a compact and powerful commitment designed to nail a precise behavioral target exactly and deliver benefits immediately.” Not the company you were looking to keep? Then it’s time to change your approach and adopt a new catchphrase for 2014: “microresolutions.” With microresolutions, the idea is to see big changes that last. To do that, think — and act — small.
”’Marginal’ behavioral changes have transforming power all by themselves,” Arnold says, speaking from her home in New York City.
The problem with your failed, old-school resolutions is that they’ve been too ambitious and too vague. Your sincere but uninspired garden-variety list probably looked like this: lose weight, exercise more, save money, quit smoking and get organized. (Aren’t you a little sad to recognize these old chestnuts, and for so many years running?)
Another flaw with your old resolutions: They depended on sheer willpower, ignoring the power of habits and routines that work against change nearly every minute of every day. The goal of the microresolution is to create a new habit that can be put on autopilot. With a microresolution, less thinking equals more success.
Arnold — an award-winning technology leader on Wall Street, managing director at Goldman Sachs and mother — was succeeding on a number of levels. Yet conquering the most basic New Year’s resolutions like losing the proverbial 10 pounds continued to elude her.
So instead of “being thin by summer,” she created a new microresolution: “Never eat a conference-room cookie again.” Yes, that’s the level of specificity you need for a good microresolution.
Deceivingly small, it nails the definition of a powerful microresolution. It’s a reasonable, specific action targeted to her diet-killing habit of eating high-calorie treats. It also was tailored to her as an executive working at a firm where snacks were regularly provided in conference spaces.
A core tenet of the microresolution is that you can’t steal someone else’s.
Which leads to a core tenet of the microresolution: You can’t steal someone else’s. They must be bespoke and uniquely designed to fit your lifestyle, routines and mindset.
And for all you ambitious types out there, don’t think that ”going micro” in actions means you can double the number of resolutions, according to Arnold. You should also go micro in number as well — no more than two microresolutions at a time. And since fatigue is the enemy of strong resolve, you should consider making one of them about getting more shut-eye.
Lest you feel going micro for 2014 is a pittance, just think back to that untouched conference-room cookie. Foregoing one every business day of the year adds up to about more than 37,000 calories saved. Pretty macro, indeed.