MicroSteps – The Answer to Making Lasting Change?

MicroSteps – The Answer to Making Lasting Change?

There is an old saying that change is the only constant in life.  This is true, in the case that the world around us and the people in it are always changing.  2020 was definitive proof of that, when almost everything in our lives changed in totally unexpected ways.  We have to get used to dealing with change, and accepting things we have no control over and developing resilience when we feel out of control.

But CHOOSING to make a change… that is a different story.

Sometimes when the change is totally up to us, it can be difficult to make it happen.  We have probably all experienced that frustration about setting ourselves a goal or a resolution but just not quite having the self-management to make it happen.  Sometimes motivation is lacking, sometimes our lifestyle gets in the way.  And sometimes the change we expect might be just too much in one hit.

Perhaps taking a MICROSTEPS approach, as proposed by Arianna Huffington’s Team at Thrive Global, to personal change might be useful.

Microsteps are small changes that take us closer to our goal.  They might be a small step that helps us to take a bigger one, or a series of small steps that functions in a similar way to what James Clear calls “habit stacking”, where you attach habits to each other to make them easier to complete.  You can read more about Clear’s approach to habits in this previous article.

The Microsteps approach acknowledges that little happens on sheer willpower alone.  Starting small can be one of the most successful ways to create lasting change.  These small changes are easy to incorporate into your day, and take such little effort that they feel almost impossible to resist!

Let’s have a look at how they might work with a number of common things people would like to make changes to.


Many of us do not get enough sleep or do not get enough rest from the sleep we have.  Some microsteps you might take to sleep better include:

  • Making sure there are no devices in your room at night (invest in an old-fashioned alarm clock)
  • Turn the internet off at a designated hour to make it less likely devices will be used late into the night
  • Do a relaxing meditation before bedtime.

Reducing Time Spent on Devices

We all know that the modern world relies on devices – and yet at times we can resent this.  Sometimes you might just be walking down the street, enjoying walking the dog and a quiet morning coffee – and your phone pings and interrupts your reverie.  On the flip side, you might be noticing you are much too attached to your device.  Maybe this gets in the way of family dinner.  Maybe you are just alarmed by your weekly alert as to your average time spent on the device each day.  Reducing time spent on devices can be a challenge, but microsteps that may help include:

  • Choose times and/or activities in which your phone is locked away. Whilst exercising is a good one.
  • Put your phone on silent and leave it aside at mealtimes
  • Put your phone on airplane mode for the first proportion of the day to ensure you get more work done (possibly very important if you are working from home)
  • Reduce the amount of notifications you receive in your phone settings so you are tempted to look at it less

Eating Better

This one is always on my list!  Eating well is so important to feeling good – but sometimes a quick sugar fix is hard to resist. It also tends to take more time and energy – and so can be a real challenge for busy people.  Perhaps try:

  • Adding a vegetable or fruit to every meal (this is what Michelle Obama does!)
  • Prioritise healthy snacks that you enjoy – spend money on that punnet of berries if they are replacing a quick chocolate bar in the afternoon.
  • Sit down at the table every time you eat – you will soon realise how much mindless eating you do!

Getting More Exercise

Moving more is great for physical health as well as our mental wellbeing. But it takes time and energy – and again busy people can find making time for exercise a challenge.  Smaller steps towards being more active can be built upon and can help us find exercise that we enjoy. To get started you might:

  • Lay out your exercise gear to make it easier to get up and go in the morning. I have even known people who slept in their running or gym gear so they were literally ready as soon as they woke up!
  • Do five minutes of physical activity over doing nothing. Do star jumps or run on the spot.  Take choice out of the equation.
  • Create a motivating exercise playlist
  • Catch up with friends in a way that involves being physically active

Of course, microsteps can be used in these simple ways, or in more powerful ways to improve relationships, seek career success and even to find your purpose in life.  But perhaps more on that in another article!


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