What are micro resolutions? Why the New Year’s resolution alternative is gaining popularity - and a few ideas

A micro resolution might take less than a month to achieve, rather than a whole year (Photo: Shutterstock)A micro resolution might take less than a month to achieve, rather than a whole year (Photo: Shutterstock)
A micro resolution might take less than a month to achieve, rather than a whole year (Photo: Shutterstock) | Shutterstock

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A ‘micro resolution’ might take less than a month to achieve, rather than a whole year - and that’s why they’re proving popular

Which three words are likely to be met with a collective shrug and general apathy on an annual basis?

For the purpose of this article, I’m not talking about ‘April Fools pranks’, but ‘New Year’s resolutions’.

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New Year’s resolutions, which date back to the Romans if not before, have reached that point in their long, tired history where they only really exist in the media (*waves*).

Do you know anyone who sits down after Christmas and studiously makes a list of goals for the 12 months ahead, then actually tries to achieve them? Nope, me neither.

In fact, a 2007 study from the University of Bristol showed that 88% of those who do actually set resolutions fail them. (I’m just surprised it’s as low as 88%.)

There’s an old quip about having a perennial list of resolutions that you dust off once a year to have a glance at, before quietly filing it away to the back of your mind again.

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Over this Covid-imperilled festive period, which felt very much like the last one, there has been little appetite for California-style self-improvement here in the UK. Reading about other people’s grand plans just feels out of kilter with the real world right now.

That’s a big part of the problem with this kind of tradition: when it collides with the refracted mirror of social media, it just broadcasts egomania, envy and irritation on a huge scale.

It’s like the time Mark Wahlberg posted his daily morning regime on Instagram (“3.40-5.15am: workout… 9.30am: cryo chamber recovery”) and seven billion pairs of eyes across the world rolled simultaneously.

It certainly seems like there’s been even more of a backlash against New Year’s resolutions this year, which is backed up by comments from clinical psychologist Dr Marianne Trent. Talking to NationalWorld’s Helen Johnson, she explained how resolutions can make us more self-critical, especially if we’re prone to “all or nothing thinking styles and/or dysmorphic thinking styles around diet and exercise”.

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But there is hope for one modern by-product of the tradition: the trend for “micro resolutions”, which don’t involve reinventing ourselves in a new career or writing that Booker Prize-winning novel on an annual basis.

As the name suggests, these are smaller, more achievable goals. Rather than a full year’s effort, they might just take a few weeks to achieve - or even a few days.

It could be reading a book one night a week instead of watching TV, gaining a certificate from a short course online, or donating old clothes to charity.

Need some inspiration? There are plenty of micro resolution ideas here, here and here.

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The secret seems to be to keep it small, defined and - crucially - don’t stress out if you lapse in late January.

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