Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything

Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything

by B.J. Fogg

Tiny Habits is a step-by-step guide to help us live our best lives. BJ Fogg has found that if you want to create long-term change, it’s best to start small. The essence of Tiny Habits is this: choose a behavior you want, make it tiny, find where it fits naturally in your life, and nurture its growth by celebrating your tiny successes every day. Instead of shame, frustration, and unhelpful behaviors, we can be guided onto a clear path to achieve our aspirations and live our dream lives.

Summary Notes

Prime Your Day For Success

“The more stressed you are and the less time you have, the more appropriate this method is for you.”

We all have a list of healthy habits we know we ‘should’ cultivate to improve our lives, and of poor habits we would like to eliminate. We also have life circumstances to contend with and ways of thinking that may hold us back. Tiny Habits is a system that allows us to start right now. It meets us where we are - whatever our life situation – and helps us to change and move forward.

When people try to make big changes, the new behaviors often don’t stick. They may require too much time, effort, or discomfort, to maintain. The Tiny Habits method focuses on small actions that take less than thirty seconds. By starting tiny we can begin to change without worrying about the time or effort involved. Habits are quickly adopted and grow naturally.

Simplicity is the most effective way to change any behavior. Design habits which are tiny in size but big on impact and you will save yourself unnecessary hassle. When the changes you make are tiny, it’s easier to follow through and you don’t need to rely on motivation and willpower. 

You’ll likely experience some occasions when you revert to old habits. These are not failures of character - if you simply adjust your perspective, you will realize that they actually provide insight into how you can improve in the future. To achieve positive change, you need to feel good - not feel bad.

Actions to take

Start Small

“Applying go big or go home to everything you do is a recipe for self-criticism and disappointment.”

Most people operate under the assumption that they’ve got to go big or go home. They think kicking a bad habit or de-stressing involves taking radical actions. For example, they may go cold turkey on an addiction, sell their house and move to the beach, quit their job. 

Whether the change you’re aiming for is big or small, start by developing habits in a tiny manner. Tiny steps are successful and sustainable. Habits are formed easily by:

  1. Designing a Starter Step: Taking one small move towards your desired behavior 
  2. Scaling Back: Evaluating the behavior you want to accomplish and shorten the associated process

For example, let’s say your goal is to walk a mile every day. Your Starter Step could be simply putting your walking shoes on. Then, you could Scale Back by setting your next milestone as a walk to the mailbox every day, and nothing more. 

Putting those shoes on will shift your perception. Walking suddenly won’t seem so hard. Most days you’ll head out the door and take a spin around the block after putting your shoes on. This is one way Starter Steps and Scaling Back can turn into bigger habits. But don’t rush to make the behavior bigger prematurely. It’s always okay to not walk after putting on your shoes if that’s all you want to do. By keeping the bar low, you keep the habit alive and ensure that you’re capable of doing the behavior no matter how your motivation fluctuates.

Actions to take

Eliminating Bad Habits

We often want to engage in actions that lead to little or no success. For example, we’ve all been guilty of binge-watching Netflix! Luckily, there is a method to help us stop engaging in unwanted activities:

  1. Address the prompt for the behavior 
  2. Manipulate your ability to do the behavior.
  3. Address your motivation for the behavior

Behavioral prompts act as “reminders” for you to engage in specific activities. For example, if you are trying to cut down on snacking, walking past a bakery may be a prompt. Taking a different route then addresses the prompt by eliminating it. 

If you can’t remove, avoid, or ignore a prompt, move on to the next step, which is to manipulate your ability to do the behavior. There are five factors involved: time, money, physical effort, mental effort, and your current routine. Each factor needs to be examined to identify how they can be manipulated to make your habit tougher, trickier, more difficult, awkward, demanding, troublesome, or more challenging to do. 

The last option is to change your motivation, but this is the hardest way to change a behavior.

Actions to take

Getting Closer To Your Goal With The Right Habits

“Whether you are designing a habit from scratch or troubleshooting a habit that won’t stick, you’ve got to figure out what will prompt you to do it every time.”

Aspirations are abstract desires, like wanting your kids to succeed in school. Outcomes are more measurable, like getting B’s or above during the second semester. While both are great places to start when developing new “good” habits, aspirations are more flexible and less intimidating than outcomes.

Once we know what our aspirations are, it’s pretty easy to identify the behaviors that align with them. These behaviors typically fall into three categories:

  • What behaviors would you do once? For example, you could download a meditation app.
  • What new habits would you create? For example, you could stretch for two minutes after every meeting.
  • What habit would you stop? For example, you could stop checking emails after 7pm.

Not all the behaviors that help us achieve our aspirations are ones that we want to practice. The ones that do qualify are known as “Golden Behaviors”. Some of our behaviors have a bigger impact than others, some are more practical and feasible, we may be more motivated or able to practice certain ones, etc. 

Once we’ve identified our Golden Behaviors, it’s time to implement them in our lives. There are various strategies you can use to do this - it’s all about what you feel most comfortable with!

Actions to take

Embedding Good Habits In Your Daily Routine

“Choose behaviors that set you up for success increases your confidence and mastery as you go, thus increasing your natural motivation to do bigger and bigger behaviors.”

Those 5-10 minutes after you turn the shower on and wait for the water to warm up is an excellent opportunity to insert a tiny piece of positivity. “After I turn on the shower (and while I wait), I think of one thing about my body that I’m grateful for.” Although it seems like a small activity, it is small activities like this that help us build more positivity in our overall lives.

This method of using everyday, unavoidable “prompts” for positive habits can also help in annoying situations. After all, we can’t entirely avoid people who get on our nerves or situations that irritate us. However, we can take control of our reactions by using these irritants as prompts.

Using someone else’s behavior as a prompt for a healthy response as opposed to a self-defeating one can work for all sorts of situations where we feel powerless. We create a habit which helps to protect ourselves and changes a terrible situation.

By using an irritating situation or behavior to prompt positive behavior on your part, you become happier. You may find that your newfound calm rubs off onto other people – even those who were causing you stress. Moving out of anger, shame, or discouragement; you will be able to think more clearly and perhaps even find compassion for those whose behavior is toxic.  

Keep in mind that rehearsing a habit helps it stick much better. When you physically act out your habit, it goes into your muscle memory and becomes an almost automatic reflex. Don’t forget to rehearse yourself celebrating your habit too! Associating a positive feeling (via celebration) with the habit you want to practise will make you more motivated. Plus, it will help you feel happier overall. 

Actions to take

Celebrate Yourself!

“Celebration will one day be ranked alongside mindfulness and gratitude as daily practices that contribute most to our overall happiness and well-being.”

Celebration is a powerful tool. You can use it to cheer yourself up, develop good habits, and cement them in your everyday routine. In fact, if you want to be the best version of yourself, all you need to do is take a moment to feel good about yourself instead of bad.

Simply pay attention to moments when you do something good and reinforce these good behaviors with celebration. Celebrating helps wire in good actions and you will automatically begin to feel better. Celebrating behaviors we want in our life is a powerful way to change how we feel about ourselves. Remember that you change best by feeling good.

After a few weeks of celebrating habits, most people notice a major shift in their lives. They feel more positive and confident, and they even start celebrating actions, moments and little wins that aren’t habits.  

Your confidence grows when you celebrate not only because you are now a habit-creating machine but also because you are getting better and better at being nice to yourself. You start looking for opportunities to celebrate yourself instead of berating yourself. 

Gradually simple tiny habits and celebrations morph you into a different type of person. That is the world-changing, life-altering power of celebration. It subtly and very effectively alters your life. The type of person you are now can become whatever type of person you want to be.

Actions to take

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