Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently

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Maybe you require a boost to get motivated or a different perspective to get you started. I found all three of these things in this book. I never expect someone else to solve all my problems, but I believe the more you learn and try to grow as a person, the better off you are. I recently decided to change careers and I found this book helped me focus on what was most important in that transformation. Y Sometimes a person just needs a little extra guidance when making important decisions in life.

You can easily apply this book to any goals you are trying to pursue. I recommend this book. View 2 comments. Mar 09, Kathleen Ehrenberg rated it it was amazing. I am not a fan of self-help books, but this one incisively applies common sense and offers a doable approach to conquering resolutions. Read it before New Years - it might change your life.

Jun 08, Caro rated it liked it. I know that micro-resolutions can work just look at my bed, made every day for the last 35 years , but this could have been a magazine article and been just about as good. Jan 06, Jane rated it it was amazing. Not this expert. When Caroline L Arnold uses the first person plural in talking of attitudes and habits good and bad, and resolutions tried and tried again, she means it: she developed and honed and used her system of resolution-keeping and habit-changing on herself first and others later, and although she has clearly backed her personal experience with solid research in the field before committing it to publication, her book is grounded in and framed by her own trials and triumphs, as a fellow self-improver taking herself in hand and a focused, logical thinker working out how to extend that hand to others.

This gives her book an unusual kind of authenticity, an authority that is humanly accessible as well as factually believable. It also makes for a very good read, offering all pleasures of a bildungsroman—or series of bildungsromans, for along with her self-education, told with humor, sharp observation, and inspiring flashes of self-knowledge, she shares the stories of friends and colleagues who furthered her research by trying her system and were rewarded with personal triumphs of their own. But in my opinion it also works because it fits the time we have and the world we live in.

This self-help book is different—to come back to my first point—and impresses me because it was written by someone who had to fit her obligations to herself, including self-improvement, into a schedule packed with obligations to others, learned to do it with great success, and then turned it into a highly readable book so that others could do it, too. If you're planning a journey of self-improvement for , this book is a five-star guide.

Aug 12, Kelly rated it really liked it. I read this book in a day skimming just a couple chapters that didn't really apply to me. I recognized myself in many of the descriptions and examples throughout the book and I'm guessing many people would feel the same. The overly ambitious and vague resolutions so many of us set, without a real plan for how to achieve them, typically sets us up for failure right out of the gate. Given daunting goals like "lose 20 pounds" or "get organized" or "exercise more", we generally flounder, make excu I read this book in a day skimming just a couple chapters that didn't really apply to me.

Given daunting goals like "lose 20 pounds" or "get organized" or "exercise more", we generally flounder, make excuses and fall back into old habits quickly because it's so unrealistic to think we can just completely change ALL of our habits at the same time. So many of our habits are ingrained from childhood or young adulthood and yet we think just by saying we want to change them, we will.

Caroline Arnold's book guides us to make microresolutions, small changes that are less overwhelming and more specific. If maintained consistently for a few weeks sometimes more , these microresolutions become new habits and can lead to big results. As I read, it just kept clicking. It makes so much sense! Losing 20 pounds feels overwhelming. But a microresolution to start brushing your teeth and getting ready for bed at every night so you aren't doing your bedtime routine when you're already exhausted feels very manageable and guess what? It leads to less evening snacking, more sleep the chapter on sleep was really impactful for me , less temptation to eat in the evening to keep yourself awake, more time for your body to digest food while you sleep, etc.

It will most definitely help someone reach a goal to lose weight, to get more sleep, etc. And because it's specific and measurable, it's easier to stay on track. That is just one example of many in the book. Topics include fitness, sleep, eating, finances, clutter, organization, relationships, etc.

I'm going to start applying what I read in my own daily life and if I have the results I'm hoping for, I will bump this up to 5 stars. I think this is a great resource for anyone who is sick of breaking resolutions and wants to try a new method for making real, permanent changes in some of your habits! Feb 05, Jackie Mceachern rated it it was amazing. I can honestly say this book has changed my life.

I'm a person that constantly is setting goals - from small to large - and failing to achieve them for one reason or another. It had left me feeling hopeless in areas of organization, personal growth and time management. This book helped me understand why my previous attempts had failed and helped me so much in setting about marginal improvements. It has totally clicked for me. I will keep this book as a reference and am truly glad that I stumbled I can honestly say this book has changed my life.

I will keep this book as a reference and am truly glad that I stumbled upon it. Mar 12, Matt Beckwith rated it it was amazing. This book showed up in a 12 business books to read in so I decided to try it. It was surprisingly good. Not surprisingly good because I thought it would be terrible, but because I thought I wouldn't be interested. Arnold's method of focusing on a few key behaviors at a time with micro-resolutions is an interesting way to change old habits.

The book is also chock-full of resolution examples to add context. A easy and great read. Dec 14, Danny Biles rated it it was amazing. A very helpful book. The basic idea is that you can make big changes in your life by making a number of small, easy changes into habits. One of the reasons I wanted to read this book is that I have found this out for myself, and many of the strategies that seemed to be successful for me are confirmed here.

The book might appear at a glance to be a lot of fluffy repetition, but it is actually well-researched. Feb 04, Bojana Duke rated it it was amazing Shelves: self-improvement. I like the concept of microresolutions and the examples listed in the book were great food for thought. Jun 28, Clare rated it it was amazing. After reading this, I understand why, when I've made small promises to myself, I've been much more successful than when I've made big resolutions.

To lose baby weight from my triplets pregnancy, I resolved to lose 15 lb. Finally I got frustrated, abandoned that goal and decided, "I can't lose weight, but I can improve my health. NO French Fries! And because "skip French fries, eat soup" is such a manageable habbit, I've been able to keep the weight off for almost 3 years now.

This author's research shows exactly why this worked for me. It's not my imagination - there's evidence that this strategy works and the author shows how you can apply it to almost any area of life. Knowing this, I'm inspired to keep going. The book gives examples - and I stole one already! I have 4 kids under age You can imagine the snack wrappers, crayons and errant socks that turn up in my car. Now, I'm announcing this resolution to the kids every time we park the car and they empty the car with me every time. And where do you go from here?

How long does it take for a new habit to stick or for a bad habbit to be gone for good? The book gives suggestions for time frames and also suggestions for how many Micro Resolutions you might reasonably tackle together at once. So that you can continue improving yourself for years to come, Arnold explains how to identify situations that trigger our poor habits and use these triggers to create new Mirco Resolutions. For example, a person may find that she over-eats when dining with co-workers. What triggers it? Perhaps it happens because friends want to share samples of the different foods they've ordered.

Recognizing that this interaction triggers overeating, this girl might set a Micro Resolution to "only eat the foods that I personally ordered for myself. I'm inspired and will continue making more Micro Resolutions and helping my kids to do so, too so that I can be a better me each day. Sep 22, Alice rated it liked it. I like the idea of the micro resolution, and I like her "rule" of not having more than two resolutions going at a time. However, there was a lot of filler in this book, especially in the final chapters which included exhaustive examples of resolutions applied to different aspects of one's life dieting, finances, organization, tardiness, etc.

Dec 31, Alicia Thompson rated it really liked it. Jul 25, Ashley rated it liked it Shelves: cannonball-read-vii. Continuing down my path of attempting to be more successful in my goals, I found this mostly well-done book a couple of weeks ago. What Ms. Arnold suggests is that instead you make microresolutions throughout the year, turning things into habits and s Continuing down my path of attempting to be more successful in my goals, I found this mostly well-done book a couple of weeks ago.

Arnold suggests is that instead you make microresolutions throughout the year, turning things into habits and slowly shifting yourself closer to reaching your goals. But in general I think that what Ms. Arnold is proposing makes a whole lot of sense. For example, every night before bed I get out my workout clothes for the next day. Every night. So every morning I can easily shift into my workout gear without banging open drawers. Yes, probably once every three or four weeks the alarm goes off and I look at my running shoes, reset my alarm and go back to sleep, but the vast majority of the time, I go work out.

The book is split into two parts: the rules of the microresolutions, and examples of microresolutions by common topic areas. Microresolutions need to be specific and easy. What does that mean? Are you really going to change everything overnight? However, the first chapter of the second section, on sleep, resonated so much that I shifted one of my first two microresolutions to focus on increasing my sleep.

One note that I would warn on — the section on losing weight is full of a lot of bull shit. Matilda is a smart girl that has an exciting life by facing different types of people depends on their characteristics, which let her to have a good knowledge how to deal with these kinds of people. Moreover, when she attends to the school she has good relations with her classmates and her teacher called Miss Honey, and she learned about the bad leader Matilda is a smart girl that has an exciting life by facing different types of people depends on their characteristics, which let her to have a good knowledge how to deal with these kinds of people.

Moreover, when she attends to the school she has good relations with her classmates and her teacher called Miss Honey, and she learned about the bad leader of her school called Trunchbull. In my view, I learn a lot of useful values that lets me being cleverer when I should deal with people that have bad behavior. Feb 10, Jane rated it really liked it Shelves: nonfiction. I've been on a "self help" reading binge I think I've been reading them because I'm teaching the fifth grade health class, the social and emotional component.

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Since we've talked about anger and dealing constructively with anger, I wanted to balance this with talking about what makes us happy. We've also talked a lot about "grit and resilience" and about setting goals. T I've been on a "self help" reading binge This book about "microresolutions" is the best so far, I think.

Based on recent findings about the amount of energy that goes into making changes, making decisions and drawing on will power, the author describes the impact that simple, clearly stated and manageable microresolutions can have on a person't life. I'm hooked. I'll shift my rating to five stars if it makes the difference for me that I think it just might.

I recommend it highly. Jan 18, Sandy Hall rated it it was ok Shelves: contemporary , educational. I received this book as an early read via NetGalley. The author uses a very inviting "voice" in her writing and her advice is certainly useful, but I wouldn't say I found anything new to get excited over. I don't think that's a reflection on the author, I think it's more that there really ISN'T anything new to say about how to change your thinking or habits in order to be more efficient, organized or successful.

It's all been said, the magic bullet has been common knowledge for a lot of decades I received this book as an early read via NetGalley. It's all been said, the magic bullet has been common knowledge for a lot of decades now, The only thing left to do is actually DOING the steps necessary to make the changes we desire. Doing is a lot harder than reading, so TCL call number: How's that going? If your answer is "not so good," but you do really want to make a change, pick up this book.

It will help you rephrase and redefine a larger resolution into a microresolution or two that you will be able to keep, by following a few simple steps. Microresolutions are personal, specific, success-oriented, and positively framed. The first part of the book explains how to set microresolutions, givin TCL call number: The first part of the book explains how to set microresolutions, giving you the steps it takes to succeed, and the second part addresses some of the common categories of resolution making, like organization, spending, and fitness.

Oct 27, Maria Koshute rated it it was amazing. I loved this book. It was honestly a game changer for me. Where Marie Kondo left me perplexed and overwhelmed with her "organize everything at once" method which I always fail at , this book gave me hope for small, manageable change in my life. Arnold's system and approach is one I believe that I can really follow and one that is realistic and provides lasting change. I've already embarked on some successful micro-resolutions and I look forward to seeing how I can continue to implement these st I loved this book.

I've already embarked on some successful micro-resolutions and I look forward to seeing how I can continue to implement these strategies in my life. Nanotechnology is revolutionizing medicine. Critical communications arrive in character tweets, hitting global distribution lists in microseconds. These tools are targeted, designed to fill a specific need exactly and deliver value immediately. So it is with microresolutions—each is designed to hit a specific personal-improvement target exactly and deliver benefits immediately. Our fast-paced, multitasking days are packed so full that the thought of adding one more to-do, meeting one more need, or pursuing one new personal objective can be overwhelming.

Microresolutions slip easily into our crowded lives, quietly working their magic while we go on juggling schedules and meeting endless obligations. Indeed, microresolutions make it possible to achieve continuous self-improvement without breaking a sweat. Microresolutions are fun and easy and take effect immediately.

But before plunging into the mechanics of microresolutions—how and why they work—we should first ask ourselves, why do traditional resolutions so often end in defeat? We all know someone who transformed himself through an act of will—went from flabby to fit, from spendthrift to investor, from slob to house-proud neat freak. At one time or another, nearly all of us succeed in reaching some ambitious personal goal such as running the marathon or finishing a degree.

We laugh along, in on the joke, yet the promises we make ourselves are serious, not silly. With so much on the line, why do we fail so often?


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Most of these are what I call wannabe resolutions: I will be fit, I will be organized, I will be assertive. These resolutions focus on being , not doing. Years ago in drama class I learned from a master that to act means to do, not to be.

Small Move, Big Change: The New Year's Resolution - Official Book Trailer

In assuming a persona, they miss out on the real action of the drama, the process by which their character grows and becomes emotional. Great actors understand that the secret to behaving and feeling like a character is to focus on what the character does. They concentrate on playing each action fully, and the sequence of actions adds up to an authentic characterization, a true experience, and an emotional response from themselves and from the audience.

The acting lesson? If you focus on doing what the character does, being the character will follow. The same lesson applies to the resolutions you make and hope to keep. Like an actor onstage trying to impersonate an angry tough guy, your focus is in the wrong place. Rather than commanding yourself to be what you are not—an organized person—you must define explicit actions to practice, one by one, until you begin to do what an organized person does automatically.

Microresolutions focus on doing, not being. Being different follows, rather than precedes, deliberate action. Wannabe resolutions are stimulated by powerful fantasies of a future self. Imagining ourselves happier, fitter, or more financially secure inspires us and ignites our will to change. If our goal is to be slim and fit, we visualize ourselves looking svelte on the beach come summer and stick a buff pinup on the fridge to bolster our resolve. Our dream self is so inspiring that we feel certain we can sustain our will no matter how demanding the regimen we adopt to reach our goal.

But before opening day at the beach our will collapses, thwarted by the long-established behaviors that sustain our everyday lives. We chastise ourselves for our lack of self-control, but in fact our willpower was simply outmatched by the tenacity of our habits, attitudes, and routines. We are each driven by a system of unconscious habits and preferences nurtured early in life and entrenched through repetition. These established behaviors and attitudes form a kind of autopilot, which quietly and efficiently manages most of the routine tasks and decision making that we perform each day, preserving precious mental energy and initiative for new learning, problem solving, and idea generation.

Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently

Autopilot makes the coffee, locks the door, and drives the car. But your autopilot may also skip the gym, binge on sweets, overspend, or snap at your spouse. Operating largely unnoticed, the deeply rooted habits of autopilot drive individual outcomes, both good and bad. New behavioral research confirms that we are neither aware of nor in control of the routines that govern our lives. When we decide to improve ourselves—to shake things up—we run straight into resistance from autopilot.

While the autopilot system in a car can easily be switched off so that the driver can resume control, disabling any part of your personal autopilot requires real effort. Autopilot likes routine and resists change. The more change we impose on ourselves, the more resistance we must overcome. And yet we nearly always shoot for an instant transformation, resolving to be slim, to be neat, to be on time.

Such wannabe resolutions require changing scores of behaviors and put us broadly at war with autopilot.


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  • Resolving to be slim means changing your habits in almost every eating circumstance: what you eat, how often you eat, how much you eat, the way you eat. Suddenly every action, every choice demands scrutiny, conscious effort, and willpower. In a seminal study on the dynamics of willpower, researchers Mark Muraven and Roy Baumeister demonstrated that self-control is a limited, physiological resource that is easily exhausted:. We found that after an act of self-control, subsequent unrelated self-control operations suffer.

    After resisting temptations, people perform more poorly on tests of vigilance and are less able to resist subsequent temptations. The more we draw on our willpower, the sooner it gives out. The broad resolutions we favor place unreasonable demands on our self-control. In order to muscle through a behavioral change, our willpower has to wrestle autopilot all day long—no wonder we cry uncle before we make it to the beach! Despite our determination to succeed, after a few weeks of valiant battle our willpower collapses, outmatched by the entrenched habits and preferences that quietly rule our lives.

    The willpower-driven resolution is a top-down approach to self-improvement—we command ourselves to be different and try to force our behavior and attitudes into line. The microresolution system is a bottom-up approach, focusing relentlessly on one or two significant behavioral changes until they are driven into autopilot, where they require no deliberate effort—willpower — to sustain. But working from the ground up we can see in detail exactly what is in our way.

    By focusing closely on fundamental behaviors and attitudes, we increase our self-awareness and accelerate our progress. A microresolution is designed to reform a precise autopilot activity and requires little willpower to succeed. The new year is a time of restless spirits.

    Small move, big change : using microresolutions to transform

    We seek out shortcuts and gimmicks that promise to speed our transformation, convinced there is some magic formula to make us what we wannabe. Fueling our impatience is the fear that if it takes us too long to achieve a goal, we will give up before we succeed. Our mindless rushing blurs our vision, and we fail to observe how quiet habits and hidden attitudes keep us from succeeding. The next time we try to self-improve, we make exactly the same mistakes.

    Transformation is a process, not an event. Even with the help of a fairy godmother, Cinderella ended up stranded on the road from the palace when her coach turned back into a pumpkin. And why would you want to skip the process? Consciously nurturing change makes us smarter, more self-aware, and builds a powerful foundation for continued growth.

    Being able to repeat our steps from A to B is the magic formula for making our achievements permanent. Familiar habits and behaviors sustain and comfort us in our daily lives. Our mental, emotional, and physical habits are closely tied to the family values and routines we learned in childhood. All that early conditioning—your parents pestering you to hang up your coat, chew with your mouth closed, clean your plate, and be a good sport—established behaviors and preferences that allow you to operate on autopilot with respect to many of the actions and decisions you make each day.

    Disturbing these routines creates awkwardness, mental fatigue, emotional stress, and a strong impulse to revert to what feels right— to autopilot. The more change we take on, the more mental and emotional resistance we arouse in ourselves, such resistance brewing often just beneath the surface of our consciousness. The intense focus of a microresolution helps expose our veiled mindset and the subtle interplay among habits, attitudes, and values that block progress. Like a scientific experiment that alters a single variable at a time in order to precisely observe cause and effect, the single-minded focus of a microresolution exposes the source of our resistance to change.

    Once identified, a negative mindset can be addressed, undone, even turned in support of our objectives. Microresolutions foster self-awareness and expose the hidden attitudes that thwart success. The ghosts of failures past haunt each new endeavor, making it harder for us to believe in our ability to sustain progress and influence outcomes. As our willpower wanes, we are oddly consoled by the familiar sensation of giving up and giving way. The way to free ourselves from cynicism and reverse our expectation of failure is to learn how to make resolutions we can sustain.

    It was only after discovering the microresolution that I began to understand why so many of the pledges we make faithfully each year fail over time. Desperate and frustrated in the wake of one such disappointment, I made my first microresolution and thereby stumbled onto a system for making resolutions that succeed on the first try and are sustainable for a lifetime. Resolution time again. What did I resolve last year? Oh, yes, I remember—to lose weight and exercise more.

    How did that turn out? So I picked a new category of self-improvement and resolved:. My resolution seemed straightforward and achievable, much easier than losing weight. I was energized and determined to succeed. I went out and bought organizers for my desk at home, with slots for bills pending and bills paid, items to file and items to read not surprisingly, container and organizer stores do their biggest business just after the New Year. I created new files with color-coded labels, cleaned up my work space, and caught up on old business.

    But soon the organizer slots were overflowing and my work area piled up again. I felt weary every time I looked at my desk. After three months of trying, I had failed. I was so horrified to realize that I had failed at my easy resolution that I refused to concede complete defeat. To be organized was, finally, an abstract goal. What was one concrete and specific action I could take that would make me more organized in a meaningful way? I examined all the ways in which I was disorganized that caused me stress. For most of my life I had been able to rely on my memory alone, recalling discussions, research, important details, upcoming meetings, and to-do lists with near-total accuracy.

    At home and at work, I had multiple notebooks of varying sizes that I would randomly grab when I needed to write something down. Often, I would write my notes and follow-ups directly on the agenda or presentation for a meeting. I collected notes throughout the day, with some ending up in my handbag, some on my desk at work, some on my desk at home. I lost valuable time hunting for meeting notes, an important phone number, a reference.

    I decided to focus my resolution solely on this single organizational issue. I resolved:. I bought a small, serious-looking journal to capture my notes. I was wrong. With paper right in front of me, did I really need to trot around my desk and retrieve it? I found my resolution both boring and irritating to keep. But because my resolution was obviously feasible, I felt tremendous pressure to succeed. The timing is bad. I stuck with it. I forced myself to put all my notes in my little red book.

    If I had an idea for a client, I wrote it in the book. Confirmation numbers—in the book. Recommended articles, Web sites, events—in the book. Random contacts I might never need again—in the book. Packing list—in the book. Priorities and to-do lists—in the book. Bullet points for my next presentation—in the book. Recipe from a friend—in the book. After weeks of reminding myself to use the notebook, I noticed my feelings of resistance and awkwardness fading as the notebook became second nature—I just did it without thinking, like brushing my teeth.

    As soon as I sat down in a meeting or at my desk, I reached for the notebook. Now I could locate what I needed almost immediately, without stress or drama. Notes I once would have deemed throwaways proved significant weeks on. The notebook rule that I had at first found intrusive and constraining I now experienced as empowering and liberating. My stress level declined. I had become more organized. Moreover, I had succeeded in keeping a resolution, building a good habit, and improving my life.

    Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently (Hardcover)

    Unlike the resolution to be organized , where I could have declared success only after sustaining multiple behavioral changes over time to reach some ideal definition of organized , my notebook resolution brought me an immediate and obvious benefit, as specific and concrete as the resolution itself: All my notes ended up in one place. Succeeding at my resolution and experiencing its rewards energized me, and I lost my sense of helplessness. I had made a project of it—a big, one-off project—to clean my desk, catch up, and reorganize my files.

    I had had a burst of organizational zeal that resulted in some progress, similar to going on a crash diet. But I had failed to develop systematic behaviors—habits—to maintain my organizational gains over time. I had tried to supersede my ingrained and unconscious behaviors and attitudes by willing myself to be organized without really asking myself what exactly I needed to do differently— forever —to succeed. The notebook resolution worked because I had focused exclusively on a single area of disorganization until I had formed a new habit and mindset that allowed me to sustain my new behavior without mental energy.

    My relentless focus on the notebook habit had driven it into autopilot. Experiencing my resistance to the notebook rule exposed aspects of my mindset that had never been clear to me before.

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    For the first time I realized that I had unconsciously associated strict administrative systems with dull bureaucracy, at odds with dynamism, creativity, and the naturally logical and organized mind. Experiencing the benefits of my new habit caused me to place a higher value on systematic behavior and upgraded my organizational instincts.

    As a result of my reformed mindset, some of my other organizational behaviors began to improve spontaneously. Inspired by my success, I decided to revisit the challenge of losing weight and see if I could successfully apply the lessons I had learned from my notebook resolution. What if, instead of resolving to be thin by summer, I examined my eating habits and targeted one specific behavioral change that would be achievable and impactful?

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    At that time I was working at a Wall Street firm that offered abundant snacks in conference-room settings. During meetings we passed around china plates lined with doilies and piled high with brownies, blondies, oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies. Eating just one of these rich treats produced a sugar high powerful enough to outlast the longest meeting.

    But it was hard to eat just one. Sometimes I would eat two or three , and each cookie was probably calories. I often left the conference room in a food coma, overfull and facing a sugar crash later in the day. Instead, I kept my resolution reasonable and limited and resolved only to forswear the ubiquitous and addictive conference-room cookies.

    Because my resolution was specific, success was easy to measure: I was in the conference room; the cookies were passed; if I passed on the cookies, I had succeeded. It was hard the first few times the plate came my way; over time it became automatic. I was glad not to leave the meeting feeling terrible about myself and mildly sick to my stomach. Eating the cookies in the conference room had been a habit, something I anticipated every time I entered a meeting.

    My targeted resolution broke that bad habit forever. I never ate a conference-room cookie again, and my resolution arrested the slow but steady upward climb of my weight actually losing weight required more microresolutions, as we shall see.



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