Mon, 14 June 2021
BJ Fogg is the bestselling author of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything and the founder and director of The Stanford Design Lab, where he has directed research for over 20 years.
Back in 2002, BJ wrote a book called Persuasive Technology about how computers can be designed to influence attitudes and behaviors, which is still relevant nearly 20 years later. He was also named a “New Guru You Should Know” by Fortune Magazine.
A lot of times we resist change, especially when it comes to leadership because we believe it will take huge steps, big commitment, and a lot of willpower. But BJ’s Tiny Habits method proves that’s not true.
A different way to think about habits
He found that by scaling big goals back to smaller goals, adding it into his existing routine, and reinforcing it with positive emotion, he was able to quickly create habits that would have ripple effects in his life.
This formula works for anything health-related--nutrition, physical activities, mental well-being, it also works for productivity, creative activities, relationships, etc… The only area where BJ admits he doesn’t have expertise in and where his claims stop is with addictions. This formula may work for addictions, but BJ encourages people to get medical and professional help in that area.
As BJ shares, behavior change is a skill, and just like any other set of skills you can get better at it with practice and experience. But you wouldn’t put a brand new driver onto a highway and tell them to go 100 mph, and in the same way, we shouldn’t try to change our habits and behaviors in huge ways overnight. Start with the small things and as you succeed in those things and gain confidence then you can move up to bigger and more difficult things.
The Tiny Habits Method
A--Anchor your habit to something you do already. For example, if you want to start flossing your teeth, anchor it to brushing your teeth, something you already do every day.
B--This is the new behavior or the new habit you want to start. Remember to start small. If you want to floss your teeth, this can start with flossing one tooth a day.
C-Celebrate the behavior after you’ve done it. You want to associate the behavior with a positive emotion that will help you reinforce this behavior.
Another example of a behavior you may want to start is reading more. Using the formula you choose your behavior, which is to read more, and you keep it small. So to start out with you might want to begin by reading one paragraph each day. Then you anchor it to something you already do, maybe you drink coffee every morning and you choose to anchor it to that. So keep your book right next to your coffee machine and when you pour your cup, pick up your book and read your paragraph. And once you are done you will feel good about yourself and accomplished and you can close the book and put it back for the next day.
And you may even find that on some days you want to read more than a paragraph--if that’s the case do it. Read as much as you want. But if the next day you only want to read your one paragraph don’t force more, just do your daily goal and close the book.
“You will tend to read more and more, not just the paragraph. And you will also find other opportunities to read more. It’s like that habit will crop up in other parts of your life. And the key seems to be just to plant a seed somewhere and nurture it. And then that grows. But it also spawns other little habits like it elsewhere in your life, for that kind of thing like reading.”
How to know which habits to pursue
Because you are not going to get better at playing an instrument if you only play one scale per day. And you’re not going to read very many books if you only read one paragraph a day. That is a fine place to start, and it is important to start small, but you should feel so positive about the result of your new behavior that you should want to do more of it. Think of the tiny habit as the gateway to greater improvement and growth in an area of your life.
There may be days now and then that you don’t feel like spending 40 minutes playing your instrument or you don’t feel like spending an hour on chess lessons, and that’s okay. But if you notice that you are not enjoying a behavior and it feels like drudgery, then it’s probably not the behavior for you, and it’s okay to walk away from it and try something else.
As BJ says, “Now, let me just be really clear. If you are doing a habit and it feels like drudgery, Step back and question that and think is this a habit I really want? And if the answer's no, let it go and develop the habit you actually want.”
What are golden behaviors?
If you want to be healthier and you’re trying to figure out which type of exercise to implement, don’t try to walk on the treadmill every day if it’s not something you enjoy doing. Eventually, you’re going to stop doing it. If you decide you want to run with your dog every morning, but your dog can’t or won’t run, it’s not something that’s feasible, so don’t force it.
There are two main principles when it comes to tiny habits. The main one is to help yourself do what you already want to do. And the second is to help yourself feel successful. Keeping those two things in mind, BJ says, will keep you on the right path.
Why our perception of creating habits is wrong
There are some things that we can do for a very short period of time and they very quickly become a habit. While there are other things we may repeat over and over and they never become a true habit.
When working on tiny habits it is important to be consistent, but that’s not the same as repeating something and thinking it will stick just because you do it over and over. There is much more that goes into creating a long-term habit.