Caroline L. Arnold is a Park Slope wife and mother who works on Wall Street. In her first book, Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently (Viking, $27.95), she espouses her personal method of self-improvement—the microresolution. The Date Report spoke with Arnold about how to use microsolutions as a guide to better relationships.A microresolution is a succinct, specific, conscious action that you can carry out everyday (or certain days of the week). “I don’t think there are any small behavioral changes,” Arnold says, and the smaller the change the better. A bad example would be, “be organized,” because it’s so all-encompassing and overwhelming. A good twist to get you started on this goal might be “as soon you’re home, hang your keys on a hook so they never get lost. “ Doing something that provides instant gratification helps rewire our brains to change our habits.
How to choose a microsolution and follow through:
- Recognize something that is causing you distress and/or hindering your ability to act in your own best interest
- Zero in on a single behavioral change that will help remedy the problem
- Select a change that sounds doable, not daunting
- Put your microsolution into practice
- Understand that you will feel mental and physical resistance to this new task.
- “Then just drill it relentlessly,” Arnold says. In four to eight weeks, the behavior will become automatic. “You’ll never have to think about it again.”
- Only attempt one or two microresolutions at a time
- If it takes you an average of five weeks to adopt a microresolution, you can take between 10 and 20 of these strides per year.
Before you start looking for someone special:
- Get to know yourself as best you can
- Conduct yourself with your co-workers as you would when trying to make a good first impression on a date (no one-upping, interrupting, etc.)
- If you tend to get defensive, try to figure out what triggers that response
- Ask yourself whether getting defensive helps or hurts the situation. When you decide to punish someone, is it justified?
For those navigating online dating sites:
- “Some people are too choosy and they don’t date anybody,” Arnold says. “You could make a microresolution to find one person a month that you’re willing to meet.”
- “Some people are going out every night, and might make a microresolution about the kind of bar they’re going to set,” Arnold says.
- Refrain negative thoughts into positives. Sub out “I still haven’t found anyone!” for “I’m bound to find somebody soon.”
On your first date:
- Be upbeat
- Meet in a comfortable atmosphere. Feel free to go for coffee instead of cocktails.
- Cut the other person slack if they run a little late, especially if they text or call. Don’t dismiss the fact that you might have a great time.
- Try not to forge a bond between shared dislikes.
- If you’re a chronic complainer, make a microresolution not to complain about one subject, such as work or traffic.
- Ask questions.
- “Make a microresolution to never gossip about someone you’ve dated with your current date,” Arnold says.
If you’re in a relationship:
- When your partner forgets something or makes a mistake, don’t pounce on it as a “gotcha.”
- Make moments everyday to give him or her your undivided attention.
- Don’t apologize for everything. “Then when you’re really sorry for something important you’ve completely devalued the word,” Arnold says.
- Quell tense exchanges with the phrase, “Can we start over?”
- “There’s a kind of sexiness to fighting when you’re young, that excitement, it’s a way to test people,” Arnold says. “Sometimes you just want to give them the ‘Full Monty’ of who you are and if they don’t like it, screw them. But you certainly don’t want to lose a relationship that you care about.”
- You are can only control your half of the relationship. “But no matter what the dynamic is, if you shift something it’ll shift back. You hope it will be a good shift in the other person.”