Why not begin 2014 with a microresolution? A “microresolution” is exactly what it sounds like–a small, concrete goal that you can enact with minimal disruption to your daily life.
But don’t be surprised if the microresolution leads to bigger changes!
Here are 5 Steps for Setting a Microresolution:
1. Decide which area of your life you want to focus on.
For example, do you want to focus on relationships, health, or career? Let’s say you decide you want to focus on health.
2. Narrow your focus.
Your microresolution should be specific and obtainable. For example, “eat healthy” falls under the “health” category–but that is still too broad. Narrow it down and keep it manageable–for example, “I will eat breakfast everyday.”
3. Define your “aspirational” and “minimum acceptable.”
It’s good to aim high, but life gets in the way. So, for the “eating breakfast” goal–“My aspiration is to prepare a healthy (albeit quick!) breakfast–oats, eggs, or a fruit smoothie (notice that I’m being concrete & specific!). My minimum acceptable is to have something in my stomach by 9:00 am, even if it’s just a glass of milk or piece of fruit.”
4. Once you’ve decided on your microresolution, create some accountability.
Low tech–mark your progress on a calendar or share with a friend. Or on your smartphone–use an app such as Streaks or HabitMaster. Research shows that new behaviors become automatic for most people at 66 days–this is the point at which the behavior is habitual as opposed to requiring effort. Missing a day here and there doesn’t mean you have to start over, but consistency is key to building a new habit.
Another aspect of creating accountability requires what I call a “mental health check-in.”
Even if you’re successful at making a behavior habitual, life gets in the way. Whether it’s because you’re traveling, become ill, have a family emergency, or any other number of things, something will happen to knock you off your game. And we all seem hardwired to “revert to baseline,” or fall back on our old behaviors. Even if you’re able to articulate how good it felt when you were successfully implementing your microresolution, chances are you will fall off your game when life gets hectic. So, set up reminders for yourself at 2 or 3 month intervals to reassess your progress. At the time of your mental health check-in, fine-tune your microresolution if necessary, and recommit. The “minimum acceptable” can be very helpful in getting you back on track.
5. Reward yourself!
Unlike longer term goals that require significant effort before payoff, a microresolution is self-reinforcing almost immediately! Using our example of “eating breakfast”–you feel better when you eat breakfast and it feels good to accomplish a goal each day! And the microresolution is aligned with your most important life values/goals (take care of your health), so you’re also progressing each day toward the things that are most important to you.
If that’s not enough reinforcement for you, consider rewarding yourself more concretely when you do your “mental health check-in.” Decide on a treat for yourself that you will allow only when you’ve accomplished a level of consistency that is acceptable to you.
For more on habit formation, check out The Power of Habit, which I blogged about here, or Small Move, Big Change, available January 16.
I recently read an inspiring post by Carolyn Hax–“Defining One’s Best Self.” She hits all the relevant questions–please take a moment to read it.
For my New Year’s Microresolution, I’ve decided to commit myself to Daily Accounting for a year! (Read about Daily Accounting here.)
I often recommend this technique to clients who tell me, “I know what I need to do, I just can’t seem to do it.” The Daily Accounting process really helps push through the emotional barriers that keep people blocked, but it takes a little time. And there’s a tendency to make it too complicated–keep it simple and you’ll be more likely to stick with it and see the benefits.