Queensland Law Society

Wellbeing: One microstep at a time

Does any of the following sound familiar? The colleague who has not exercised for years but joins the gym one day and vows to work out daily from now on. The friend with the legendary sweet tooth who tries to go off sugar completely. The social media addict who vows to delete all her online accounts.

As you may have guessed (or experienced yourself), these kind of lofty, ambitious goals are hard to achieve and usually end in frustration and disappointment. Why? Because goals that are incompatible with your current lifestyle - creating pressure to achieve a drastic, life-changing transformation in one giant leap - are more of a burden than a motivation.

Instead, the slower but easier road to success (aka sustainable behaviour change) is paved by microsteps. Arianna Huffington describes microsteps as small, incremental, science-backed which will have both immediate and long-lasting benefits to the way we live our lives.[1] In other words: microsteps help you achieve big goals by breaking them down into tiny but highly achievable ones.

Here are some tips on how to do this:

  • Go smaller than you think, even “ridiculously small”.[2] As an example, if your goal is to eventually integrate an hour’s worth of exercise on five days of the week (and you’re not doing anything at the moment), you could start by incorporating 10 minutes of walking on two days of the week. 
  • Attach the new microstep to an already existing habit, such as brushing your teeth or waiting for your coffee in the morning.  If your goal is to learn a new language, you could use this time to listen to recorded conversations or complete a vocabulary test.
  • Keep track of your achievements, because what gets measured gets done. This can be a really simple checklist which just involves putting a tick behind your micro-goal every time you have completed it. Swapped your sugary afternoon snack with a handful of almonds? Tick. Got more than 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep? Tick.
  • Don’t race ahead. Keep it small, to the point where you almost get bored. Your excitement and enthusiasm are wonderful tools in the change process, but sometimes they can work against us because they are rarely long-term. Don’t be tempted into early over-commitment which eventually leads to failure to maintain the behaviour.  
  • Find people to hold you accountable. Sharing your goal publicly (one or two other people can be enough sometimes) is a great motivator and significantly enhances your chances to see things through. Ask a friend or colleague to hold you responsible for a commitment you have set for yourself.

And keep in mind: from little things, big things grow!

If you would like to learn more, don’t hesitate to reach out to the QLS Solicitor Support service on ethics@qls.com.au or p. 3842 5843 to speak to someone in a judgement-free and supportive environment.  

Rebecca Niebler
Organisational Culture and Support Officer, QLS Solicitor Support (QLS Ethics and Practice Centre)
6 February 2020