The Small Changes That Change Everything
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Have you ever wanted to change a habit but never quite got around to it? It can be hard to change your life. You might feel you’re too busy, or that what you want to do is too great a challenge. But even small changes can have a big impact on your life and they don’t have to take long.
Fogg shows the power of breaking down your goal into tiny behaviors. These tiny behaviors can help you achieve your goals and dreams. Fogg’s behavior formula shows you can achieve significant changes by starting small. You can create habits that are good for you and help you live a more balanced life full of positive energy.
Tiny Habits is a culmination of BJ Fogg’s 20 years of human behavior research at Stanford University. He learned that there are only three things that will change your behavior eventually. You can easily control only two of these three. First, you can change your environment. Second, you can engage in tiny behaviors. Tiny Habits shows how humans cannot put in place healthy habits like a new diet or regular exercise. But you can solve these problems by focusing on things you can control.
“[BJ’s] groundbreaking research is finally accessible to a public eager to change their behaviors and, by extension, their lives.”– Brad Lauster, former director of product design at Weight Watchers
About BJ Fogg
BJ Fogg is an American social scientist, author, researcher, teacher, and TEDx speaker. He founded the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University, where he directs research and innovation. Fogg is also known as the “Father of Captology (Persuasive Technology)”. He also teaches industry innovators how to use his models and methods in behavior design.
Fogg has a BA and MA in English from Brigham Young University. He also holds a PhD in Communications from Stanford University. Fogg worked at Stanford as a teaching assistant for Philip Zimbardo, who is best known for the Stanford Prison Experiment.
Fogg’s notable students include New York Times bestselling author, Ramit Sethi, and Mike Krieger, co-founder of Instagram.
StoryShot #1: Only Engage in a Behavior When Your Motivation Levels are High
For a long time, Fogg had been interested in changing his behavior. However, the tiny habits he had created to improve his life became the inspiration for his new model. For instance, every time he needed to go to the bathroom, he would perform two push-ups. This habit became a part of his daily routine, and it helped him lose 20 pounds. His mental strength also improved. This led to him being more effective and productive.
These tiny habits are effective as they are easy and only need minimal motivation. You can learn from the “action curve”. We only engage in a behavior when our motivation levels are “above” the curve. This curve shows we should only engage in difficult actions if we are motivated. For example, you would be motivated to run into a burning building if your child was still inside. Comparatively, brushing your teeth every evening is so easy that it requires minimal motivation. Tiny habits are beneficial because they reduce the amount of motivation needed to do a task. The behavior then goes down the curve to become an easier task.
StoryShot #2: There are Three Challenges to Developing Healthy Habits
Challenge No. 1: Don’t Judge Yourself for Failure
The first challenge in developing healthy habits is that we get hard on ourselves when we fail. Arguably, the most common example of this is when people pick up a new diet. Breaking the diet is just one example of how people can spiral out of control. They exaggerate this failure and let it take over the healthy habit. This cycle is often repeated over again by serial dieters. You will never change your habits by feeling bad for yourself.
Challenge No. 2: Don’t Mistake Aspirations for Behaviors
A behavior is something that you can do at a specific time. This could be right now or at a defined point in the future. An aspiration is not something you can achieve at a specific time point. Aspirations require you to put several healthy behaviors in place. For example, if you want to improve your sleep quality, avoid eating within an hour of your bedtime.
Challenge No. 3: Don’t Rely on Motivation to Help You Achieve Goals
There is a common misconception that our motivation helps us reach our lofty goals. But, Fogg highlights that our motivation levels are highly variable. So, you cannot rely on motivation to keep on track with your goals. You need triggers to encourage greater motivation. Yet, you also need the skills required to achieve these goals. You should create tiny habits instead of relying on motivation when you set goals.
StoryShot #3: There’s A Three-Step Formula for Building Tiny Habits
Step 1: Find an Anchor Moment
Anchor moments are existing routines or events that happen frequently. Examples include getting dressed, or the sun rising every morning. These anchors are stable, so they are effective in reminding you to engage in a tiny behavior.
Step 2: Make Behaviors Tiny
Focus on small actions that you can complete in less than thirty seconds. These tiny behaviors should be positive, like doing ten-star jumps. Plus, the tiny behaviors should also immediately follow the anchor moment.
Step 3: Celebrate Accomplishments with Shine
If you have done something with creative, positive emotions, then do not wait and hold them for a more “perfect” moment. Instead, respond immediately with a celebration of your accomplishments. This might be a statement, such as ”Fantastic!”, or treating yourself to a leisure activity you enjoy. This activity cannot be done hours or days later. It needs to be done directly after the tiny behavior.
Habits are like a tree. Nurture and feed the habit until it grows and forms strong roots in your life. Providing your habit with some “shine” will help the habit grow into something huge. The book describes shine as the feeling you get after an accomplishment, or “authentic pride”. We often struggle to develop habits because we are only willing to bring some shine to our lives when we do something massive, like getting a new job. It might seem odd at first, but you need to learn to celebrate every small accomplishment.
This is the key to developing habits. Like training a dog, you must reward every positive behavior rather than only rewarding exceptional achievement. Giving a reward to your dog for those positive behaviors will allow your dog to develop habits that are crucial for success. The same is true for you. Giving yourself shine after engaging with tiny habits will help you stay above the action curve.
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StoryShot #4: Follow the Fogg Behavior Model
We can conceptualize behavior as a formula. Specifically, behavior is a combination of your motivation, ability, and prompt (B=MAP). Fogg provides an analogy to support this formula. While exercising, he received a text from the Red Cross asking for a donation. Fogg had already considered donating to this charity, so he already had the motivation for this behavior. The donation merely required him to reply to the text, so he could actualize the behavior. Finally, Fogg was prompted to donate by an external source: the Red Cross texted him first. This example shows that behavior relies upon the alignment of each of these factors. If one factor had not been sufficiently met, then he would not have engaged in the behavior of donating to the charity.
When these factors are clear and the behaviors are easy, these behaviors will become a habit. Hence, if you have a bad habit, you can work toward breaking it by removing one factor from the Fogg formula. Similarly, if you want to establish a healthy habit, then you need to establish each of these factors.
Tiny Habits Toolkit and Worksheet
Editor’s Note and Disclaimer
This article was first published in 2021. It was revised on 5 Jan 2023. The content here is an unofficial summary and analysis.
We rate Tiny Habits 4/5.
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