In 2016, take Caroline Arnold’s advice and make a microresolution or two.
Last year, I was driving my then two-year-old daughter around for her nap one afternoon when serendipity swooped right into my lane in the form of an NPR interview.
The program’s guest was one Caroline Arnold, a Wall Street manager and Wall Street Journal award winner for Innovation. She’s made her mark in the financial and tech worlds, but Arnold wasn’t talking about how to become a business leader or money guru.
She was instead discussing the idea behind her book Small Move, Big Change. In it, Arnold champions the wisdom of what she terms microresolutions.
What is a microresolution? According to Arnold’s webpage, a microresolution is defined as: “a commitment to a limited, specific, and measurable change in behavior or attitude that produces an immediate and observable benefit.”
In other words, it is the anti-New Year’s homage to epic self-denial and extravagant goal-setting.
For example: Let’s say you want to drop some pounds in 2016. A traditional resolutions might have you commit to 5x a week of mandatory, high-intensity gym time. But Arnold would instead suggest something small and immediate. Perhaps taking the stairs every day, or skipping the afternoon mocha.
NPR had several people call in and share their own successes with microresolutions. One man spoke of cutting out soda, which helped him stop gaining weight. Arnold herself shared a story of choosing to spend longer preparing dinner, solely because she could spend that time simultaneously talking to her husband, rather than shooing him away.
It was a switch from “get this done as fast as possible” to an investment in her relationship.
Maybe it was the fact of being pregnant, with all the requisite exhaustion and hormones, that made me particularly receptive to this idea of small changes. When you’re twenty pounds heavier than usual, and about 20x as emotional, the concept of huge, life-altering changes is overwhelming to the point of defeat.
I had not intended to make any resolutions at all.
But I felt up to a microresolution. Plus, I immediately had one in mind.
Our daughter used to only nap in the stroller or car seat. When we lived in temperate climates, I would take her on walks. But after moving to south Florida, you quickly learn the weather is unpredictable, and often prohibitively hot. So we’d gotten in the habit of driving, and I used the afternoon outing to visit the only drive-thru Starbucks anywhere near us.
The problem? The Starbucks was still a good twenty-five minute drive, and that’s if traffic cooperated.
I should note I was also using her sleep time to write. I’d haul my laptop out to the car, head down to Starbucks, get a coffee, then park and type. I had to budget the drive home into our excursions, because I did not want my daughter waking up while we still had at least half and hour between us and home.
Toddlers are lovely and charming, but they are mercurial creatures, particularly when wakening from naps. No need to subject both of us to excessive screaming and tears if such could be avoided.
But I’d been growing more and more frustrated with how much time I was losing in this long trek, not to mention wasting gas, and oh yeah – that beautiful thing we call the environment. We weren’t helping there either.
So I made the microresolution to invest in a few travel coffee mugs, make myself a to-go cup at home, and spin our wheels around the street a few times before my daughter fell asleep. Then I would just park a block away, roll the windows down, turn the car off, and write.
This seems so trite (and obvious), but I’d describe the impact of this microresolution as exquisite. I could not quite believe how much more time I’d given myself to work, how much better I felt about saving money on coffee and gas, and the good sense of better judgment in not subjecting nature to one more aimless driver.
The microresolution didn’t cost me anything, nor was it in any way taxing or brag-worthy.
It simply changed my daily life for the better.
Not too shabby, my friends.
So on the cusp of 2016, may I suggest to you a rejection of outlandish goals.
Photo: Flickr/MENI from ASO! & Soothe.