Change can be easy. That's right. It's possible. At least according to the world's leading expert on habit formation. BJ Fogg's book Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything show us all how to have happier, healthier lives by starting small.
3 Things Required in Order To Design Successful Habits:
- Stop judging ourselves
- Take our aspirations and break them down into tiny behaviors
- Embrace mistakes as discoveries and use them to move forward
First, we all can be too hard on ourselves. Usually we are our own worst critic. Fogg recommends that once we identify our aspirations, that we determine the little steps to making them happen. Inevitably, there will be mistakes. Making mistakes means that we're moving towards our goals. The important thing is acting on our dreams!
3 Things That Create Lasting Change:
- Have an epiphany
- Change our environment
- Alter our habits in tiny ways
Just what is an epiphany? According to the dictionary, it is "a sudden, intuitive perception or insight into reality, or the real meaning of something". This new understanding "can come from something simple or commonplace". However, we can't make ourselves experience an epiphany.
Alternatively, we can change our environment. For example, maybe the people closest to us do not have the best influence on us. However, we cannot always walk away from our environments. Unfortunately, innkeepers will host some guests that are not as friendly or likable as others.
With BJ Fogg's tiny habits method, he recommends that we focus on small actions. These are things we can do in less than 30 seconds. According to the author, "the only consistent, sustainable way to grow is to start small." By taking this approach, he affirms that change can be easy.
The Anatomy of Tiny Habits:
- Anchor moment: an existing routine or event that happens and that reminds us to do the new tiny behavior
- Behavior: a simple version of the new tiny habit we want to do immediately after the anchor moment
- Celebration: instantly celebrate to create positive emotions (such as saying aloud, "Good Job!")
Determine the routines that we do from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed. It is by pairing the new habit with an established habit that we are more likely to consistently act.
The behavior is the new habit that we do right after the anchor moment (the existing routine). For example, innkeepers can pair the action of tactfully responding to online reviews when they get their mail each day.
Celebrating these new steps will encourage us to continue doing the new habit. Moreover, feeling positive emotions, reinforces our desire to consistently do the new habit.
Most importantly, author BJ Fogg says that we can change our lives by changing our behaviors. Furthermore, that only three variables drive those behaviors.
Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Prompt
For instance, the more motivated we are to do the behavior, the more likely we will do it. Conversely, the harder a behavior is to do, the less likely we are to do it. Thus, the amount we have of one affects the amount you need of the other. In other words, more motivation requires less ability. Alternatively, less ability requires more motivation. Moreover, no behavior occurs without a prompt.
- The behavior is effective in realizing our aspiration (impact)
- Desire to do this behavior (motivation)
- We can do this behavior (ability)
The key is to choose a behavior that helps us make an improvement we desire (impact). It is vital for us to want this behavior (motivation). Lastly, we must be able to do the activity (ability). Of course, it is pointless to choose something that we will never be able to do. We must be aware of our own limitations (including height, strength, speed, knowledge, etc.).
Steps in Behavior Design:
- Get clear on our aspirations: be as specific as possible
- Explore behavior options: many different behaviors can lead to our goals
- Match with specific behaviors: choose effective behaviors that we can do
- Start tiny: we can always go bigger once our new habit becomes consistent
- Find a good prompt: determine an appropriate pairing of behaviors
- Celebrate your successes: create positive emotions for reinforcement
In addition, BJ Fogg reminds us that every day we do the behavior, we build a bit of strength, flexibility, and skill. Thus, change can be easy over time. Therefore, we can make lasting change.
- Time: Do we have enough time to do the behavior?
- Money: Do we have enough money to do the behavior?
- Physical effort: Are we physically capable of doing this behavior?
- Mental effort: Does the behavior require a lot of creative or mental energy?
- Routine: Does the behavior fit in our current routine or does it require us to make adjustments?
Thus, our time, resources, physical strength, mental stamina, and the ease of which we adjust to our routines, all play a role in determining our ability to implement these new habits.
2 Important Questions:
- Discovery question: What is making the behavior hard for us to do?
- Break through question: How can we make this behavior easier to do?
If we are facing challenges, author BJ Fogg recommends we ask these two questions. We need to reflect on what is making the behavior difficult for us. Furthermore, we should think what would make it easier to implement this new desired habit.
- Increase our skills
- Get tools and resources
- Make the behavior tiny
First, to create a new habit, we need to find a behavior it should come after. In other words, this will be our anchor. Therefore, the author argues, change can be easy when we pair it with an existing habit.
Identify Our Anchors:
- Match the physical location: same place
- Meet the frequency: done the same amount of times
- Match the theme/purpose: for a similar result
For example, it would make sense to pair an old habit that we do in the kitchen with a new habit we'd like to do in the kitchen. Secondly, to meet the frequency, if we brush our teeth 3 times a day and we want to read for 30 minutes a day, then we could read for 10 minutes after each time we brush our teeth. Thirdly, we can pair items done for the same purpose. For example, when we do laundry, we can line dry our sheets (which may be a new eco-friendly practice we want to make routine).
Why Celebrating Is Key:
- Celebrating small wins gives our brains something to re-pattern our lives
- Emotions create habits and make behavior more automatic
- The feeling of success is a powerful catalyst for change
The author explains why celebrating the little victories along the way does wonders to make our new behaviors more automatic. Moreover, when we experience feelings of success, we are further motivated to make changes.
Skills of Change:
- Behavior crafting: knowing how many new habits to do at once (focus on what interests us, embrace variety, and stay flexible)
- Self-insight: knowing which new habits will have meaning to us (the new habit affirms a piece of the identity we want to cultivate, the new habit helps us approach an important aspiration, and/or the new habit has a big impact despite being tiny)
- Process: knowing when to push ourselves beyond tiny and ramp up the difficulty of the habit
The more we practice our new habits while pairing them with existing habits, the easier it will become to do this consistently. It is essential that we desire to make these changes.
Behavior Change Masterplan:
- Phase 1: focus on creating new habits
- Part 2: focus on stopping the old habit
- Phase 3: focus on swapping a new habit for an old one (if needed)
Once we successful create new habits, it will be easier to stop old habits. The author recommends that, if necessary, we replace a habit we want to stop with a habit we want to start.
Redesign Ability in Order to Stop Old Habit:
- Increase the time required
- Boost the money required
- Increase the physical effort required
- Raise mental effort required
- Make the habit conflict with important routines
When we make it harder for us to continue the old habit, it is easier for us to stop it. Whether more time, more money, more physical or mental effort, or a schedule conflict, we literally can redesign our ability.
Scaling Back the Change:
- Set a shorter time period for stopping the habit
- Do an unwanted habit for a shorter duration
- Fewer instances of the unwanted habit
- Do the unwanted habit with less intensity
Alternatively, we can scale back bad habits by committing to stopping for a specific time (rather than forever). Second, we can reduce the amount of time we do the unwanted habit. Thirdly, we can have fewer occurrences of this unwanted habit. Lastly, we can do the unwanted habit with less intensity.
How Ability and Motivation Influence Habit Change:
- Ability and new habit: make the new habit easier to do
- Ability and old habit: make the old habit harder to do
- Motivation and new habit: make the new habit more motivating
- Motivation and old habit: make the old habit less motivating
First, the author explains why change leads to more change. As we build confidence and skills, we will become open to other types of changes. Moreover, author BJ Fogg encourages us to view our behavior as a puzzle to be solved. Similarly, the changes we make shape our work, family, friends, and community. Thus, step by step, change can be easy. In conclusion, it starts with tiny habits.
Top Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography