Book Review: Small Move, Big Change

Habits are a big thing at the moment. Gretchen Rubin (of The Happiness Project) comes out with her new book Better Than Before: Mastering Our Habits In Everyday Life in March. In the meantime, pick up Small Move, Big Change by Caroline Arnold, a very good book on, dare I say it, how to go about changing your habits in a relatively painless way.

The premise goes something like this: make all your changes small enough that it is absolutely ridiculous not to implement them. Arnold calls these "microresolutions" and they are just that, very small, doable changes.

She discusses how most people attempt to completely overhaul their bad habits, trying to do such overwhelming things as "get organized", which in my view, stems from the natural impatience we have as humans of wanting to change things all at once. And as Arnold reminds us, this is usually a course for disaster. After that initial euphoria that comes from the start of a new project, our old habitual practices kick in. And it's true, think about how strong our ingrained habits are. None of us would even think of going to bed without brushing our teeth, because it's second nature in our society -- something we've been doing every night of our whole lives. Most people probably can't even remember learning to brush their teeth as they were so young when they did.

Arnold starts the book by giving an example of how she used a microresolution to "get organized". She found that she was always taking notes at work in various notebooks, on scraps of papers, or on printed out presentations or agendas during meetings. This meant that everything ending up in different places and she was constantly wasting time trying to find specific notes. Her microresolution: To put all my notes in one notebook. And because this resolution was obviously feasible -- although didn't prove as easy at it might seem -- she was determined to keep it.

The book walks us through Arnold's seven rules of microresolutions and she peppers the explanations of each with very concrete examples from her own life. Because I am incredibly nosy about how other people's brains work, what motivates them and how their structure their lives, I loved this detail. And it was very helpful in understanding how to apply her rules to my daily life. She also includes helpful chapters on each areas that most people want to change or improve, including fitness, diet & nutrition, clutter, relationships, spending, punctuality and organization. I also liked the fact that she provided to examples of the way in which she changed habits at both work and home, which is, in practice, the way we live, juggling the two sides to our lives.

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