Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions, Make Microresolutions


It’s that time of year again…. Making resolutions and then breaking them in a short time when life gets in the way. There are many reasons why traditional resolutions don’t work: the goal is too vague, it relies on willpower, it’s too ambitious. But one thing that does work, by addressing all these issues and more, is microresolutions.

I read about microresolutions in the book Small Move, Big Change – Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently by Caroline L. Arnold and got really excited about the possibilities. A microresolution is basically a very small, doable action you incorporate in your life until it becomes habit. Instead of vowing to go to the gym every single day, you would commit to going on Monday. Or going for 15 minutes since getting there is half the battle. Instead of cutting all sweets, you would commit to cutting out snacking in certain circumstances (after 8:00 p.m., not eating the donuts at work). Instead of vowing to be neater, you would just focus on making your bed every day or hanging up your clothes in the evening. You can do more if you wish, but you have to keep your original commitment. After your microresolution becomes habit, usually between five and eight weeks, you can add to it or create a new one. A lot of our life is run on autopilot for efficiency (driving, brushing our teeth, locking the door when we leave the house). Since we do many things without really thinking, it takes focus at first to change a habit or create a new one. But since a microresolution is so small, it’s a commitment that’s relatively easy to keep compared to going from being completely sedentary to suddenly running every day. Or suddenly cutting out all junk food.

For one of my first microresolutions a few months ago, I chose to forego sweetener in my coffee on weekdays. While I had to think about it the first few times, it became an easy decision. And given that I usually have three cups of coffee a day (I know, I know), that meant I was ingesting 60 fewer teaspoons of sweetener per month or 720 fewer teaspoons per year! And that is without counting that I eventually also decided not to put sweetener in my coffee on the weekend. Since I used maple syrup (17 calories per tsp*), with that simple step, I saved myself 12 240 calories per year in addition to the benefit for my teeth and health in general.

Remember not to take on more than two microresolutions at a time if you want to succeed. It’s very tempting to try to do more, but resist the urge! Even if you just do just two microresolutions at a time and they take an average of six weeks, you would be adopting 17 new habits a year. That could really change your life.

It’s really worth reading Small Move, Big Change – Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently because I was only able to scratch the surface in this post. The author gives a lot of helpful tips, suggestions and examples, and provides supporting research. You’ll be well on your way to making permanent, positive and relatively easy change in your life.

Good luck!


*Sugar is 16 calories per tsp.