There’s a cartoon doing the rounds of social media in which a man on the podium, a leader of sorts, is asking the audience, “Who wants change?” and everyone’s hands go up, faces all bright and eager. In the next frame, the leader asks, “Who wants to change? This time, no hands come up, faces all sullen. If you identify with this audience, you are not alone. It’s the story of our lives—we want the world to change but are not ready to change ourselves. Like Mark Twain once quipped, “Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.”
The truth is, many of us do want to change, but still don’t. We have noble intentions to give up our self-defeating habits, to change our unhelpful attitudes and inculcate more productive behavioural patterns. But intention without action is only a mental abstraction. Rhyming apart, why do we resist action even when we know it’s good for us? The reason is lack of faith—in our ability to do what it takes. And this lack of faith, in turn, is due to the way we approach change—in leaps. Such an approach is designed to fail, as it almost always does. We start off highly motivated but are soon overcome by the old patterns. Mary Shelley, author of the gothic novel Frankenstein, would have been familiar with this very human tendency, when she remarked, “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
The best way to change, it turns out, is to start small. If we commit to just one small change, we could achieve results beyond imagination, says Caroline Arnold, the author of our cover story this month. Introducing a technique she calls microresolution, Caroline reveals to us the surprising power of small changes. She tells us how the real action in personal development happens at the margin of our behaviour. “While it’s heartening to believe that we can transform ourselves from the inside out with a single decree-to-self to become fit, slender, organised, on time, thrifty, or clutter free, the real traction in personal development comes from targeting marginal behavioural changes and practising them until they stick. In self-improvement, it’s working the margin that gives you the edge,” she writes.
Using examples of fitness, relationships and workplace, Caroline demonstrates the power of microresolutions in bringing about those much desired and long overdue changes we have been intending. She also puts forth four rules that will help you make, and carry out, your microresolutions so that you begin to see instant and tangible results.
Once you understand the power of small changes, you will never again find change daunting. Then, little by little, you can change everything that is not working for you, to finally build the life of your dreams. You can start by turning to page 20 in the June 2015 issue now.
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