Healthy Behaviors,  Wholesome Living

Tiny Habits For Big Changes

How many times have you said to yourself, “I should start doing X regularly”? X might be core exercises, writing a to-do list daily, meditate for a few minutes, etc., etc. And maybe you did the activity once, twice, three times. But how many times have those thoughts and even activites turned into a new habit? If you are like most of us, not often!

It is human nature to want to do things better, make a plan, but fail to continue to execute. There can be any number of reasons for this, but we most often blame either our memory, our willpower, or our lack of time. I recently heard about a method that takes all those things into account, and allows you to succeed. It’s called “Tiny Habits,” and it was developed by BJ Fogg, PhD., a Stanford University Behavior Scientist.

The key word in the method is tiny. All too often we set lofty goals for ourselves: I’ll do 50 pushups everyday, only eat non-processed foods, finish “Moby Dick” this week, etc. The tasks end up being overwhelming and we often quickly discard them. We may also pick things that we think we SHOULD do, but don’t really WANT to do. Not every new habit can or should be doing something we really enjoy, but if we really don’t want to do it, it is going to be hard to succeed.

The Tiny Habits Method

The Tiny Habits method makes so much sense to me because the steps are tiny, AND, they are associated with something else you are already doing. A tiny habit is defined as a behavior you want to do everyday, takes 30 seconds or less to do, and requires little effort. You may say, what’s the point then, but it gets you started on the goal.

Here are some examples:

  • After I brush my teeth, I will floss one tooth.”
  • After I pour my morning coffee, I will open my journal.”
  • After I pee in my home toilet, I will do two pushups.” (This was one of Dr. Fogg’s tiny habits, and he now does 40-60 pushups a day!)
  • After I wake up in the morning and before I get out of bed, I will think of one thing for which I am grateful.”

Note that all of the After activities are things you are already doing without really thinking about. They are the anchors for the new habit. Then notice that the I Will actions truly ARE tiny. Many people end up needing to modify their tiny habit the second week because they made them too big. That’s ok! The method takes some learning. You might also need to attach the tiny habit to a different anchor if the anchor isn’t a constant or perhaps isn’t that conducive to the habit. That’s ok too!

Another key aspect to the method is to feel accomplished after you do your new habit. It may be tiny, but you weren’t doing it yesterday. Success is worth celebrating no matter how small. Positive emotions help reinforce and solidify the new habit. So when you do your tiny habit, do something to celebrate. It might be a fist pump, or saying “Go me,” or just saying “Yes!”

As Dr. Fogg describes, the more skilled you are at celebration, the faster you will form a new habit. So, the celebration and positive emotion is a critical step in the tiny habits method. We are all too quick to remember where we fell short. Be sure to use your tiny happy to feel success! Saying to yourself “Even if everything else goes wrong today, I’ve accomplished this!” can be enough. But, honestly, success often sets us up for success, so if we can view one tiny step as an accomplishment, we are likely to be more produtive throughout the day.

How to Start a Tiny Habit

Dr. Fogg and the Tiny Habits folks have a free 5 day Tiny Habits program. Here is a link. If you decide to sign up, you will receive email instructions and you will have a Tiny Habits coach via email for the 5 days. This can be a good introduction to the method to see if you like it. I did the 5 day program in January and have been really good about one of my habits, so-so on another, and not great on another. But, as I write this, I realize that I did not focus on celebrating my success, so I think I will try again and focus on that aspect.

By now, most people who made New Year’s Resolutions have given up on them. If that includes you, consider trying the Tiny Habits method. Remember to keep it tiny, probably much smaller than your resolution, and to celebrate your success. Then, let us know if helped by dropping a comment below!

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