If you follow us on social media, you’ll know that in January we had a focus on Wellbeing; offering our best tips on wellbeing and supporting staff. We touched on the idea of micro-resolutions, and how they can help with those New Year’s Resolutions… which most people break on 17th January! (Some estimates say that people fail to keep 88% of the resolutions they make!) February 2nd is Groundhog Day, so if you’re feeling stuck in the loop of breaking those resolutions, here’s a more in-depth look at micro-resolutions.

Sometimes resolutions fail because you want things to happen without having a concise plan of how to achieve them. Say one of your promises was to “be more assertive”. Yes, you may want this, but it’s a very broad statement. How do you achieve it? There’s nothing built into this resolution that gives a start point. And without a start point, it’s unlikely that you’ll continue and reach your goal.

Another reason resolutions fail is that our habits and routines – the things we do without thinking – govern much of our behaviour. For example, making a cup of tea. You’ve done it so many times, you don’t consciously think, “I need to boil the kettle, fetch a tea bag, find a cup…”. This autopilot response help us save mental energy for the tasks that DO need your focus and attention. Autopilot habits are also responsible for many of our bad habits. They’re very powerful and very resistant to change – and of course, this makes the bad habits hard to break.

So what do you need to do to change your bad habits? Make micro-resolutions.

Micro-resolutions take your broad, unwieldy resolutions and turn them into precise, practical and achievable action plans. Rather than tackling a large problem, micro-resolutions aim to make one or two small, tangible changes in your life or daily habits.

Micro-resolutions are explicit, concrete orders that you can follow. Therefore, your micro-resolution must focus on a specific change in behaviour and not a result that could be achieved in a number of different ways.

Take the unspecific example of “becoming more assertive”. Maybe you have a weekly team meeting where you’re usually quiet – one micro-resolution might be “prepare something I want to say and mention it at the team meeting”. Or if your resolution is to “get fit”, your first micro-resolution might be to “climb six flights of stairs every workday after lunch”. By anchoring your micro-resolution to the moment you get up from the lunch table, you have an easy way to start building a positive habit. Once established, you will always remember to take the stairs after lunch, thus sticking to your resolution and leading a healthier life. There are no loopholes or possible excuses. Micro-resolutions give instant gratification – you can see the results immediately.

Of course, it will take some time for your brain to permanently adjust to following new habits. But after a few weeks, you’ll see new habits forming as your changes become incorporated into your autopilot. And once there, it’ll stick.

However, do resist the temptation to implement hundreds of new micro-resolutions. Limit yourself to one or two at a time. This way, you ensure that you have the concentration and endurance to undergo a complete behavioural shift. Once your new habits are part of your autopilot, that’s when you can start to build on more micro-resolutions.

To summarise, the big changes we want to make in our lives often fail precisely because they are so big. Instead, aim to make small, measurable changes – micro-resolutions – to put yourself on the path to improvement.

Or, to use the words of Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”.