“Tiny Habits” by BJ Fogg: Baby Steps

Behavioral researcher BJ Fogg, PhD, authored 2019’s Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything. In it he professes that “only 3 things will change your behavior in the long term“:

Option A:  Have an epiphany
Option B:  Change your environment
Option C:  Take baby steps

However. Spoiler Alert! Epiphanies are extremely hard to come by, so B and C are really your options. It’s all spelled out in Tiny Habits, but he also offers a free five-day program; just click on https://tinyhabits.com/join.

Selected Quotes from Tiny Habits

How long does it take for habits to grow to their full expression? There is no universal answer. Any advice you hear about a habit taking twenty-one or sixty days to fully form is not entirely accurate. There is no magic number of days. (See my previous post on this topic.)

In order to design successful habits and change your behaviors, you should do three things. Stop judging yourself. Take your aspirations and break them down into tiny behaviors. Embrace mistakes as discoveries and use them to move forward.

The essence of Tiny Habits is this: Take a behavior you want, make it tiny, find where it fits naturally in your life, and nurture its growth.

Big spikes of motivation are awesome for doing really hard things – once. Rescuing your child. Quitting your job. Throwing away all the junk food in your house. Sprinting through the airport to catch a flight. Attending your first  AA meeting. Writing a letter to the editor. Keeping all ten of your New Year’s resolutions…for a day. But high levels of motivation are both scattershot and unsustainable.

Doing three squats in the morning and rewarding yourself with a movie that evening won’t work. The squats and the good feelings you get from the movie are too far apart for dopamine to build a bridge between the two. The neurochemical reaction that you are trying to hack is not only time dependent, it’s also highly individualized. What causes one person to feel good may not work for everyone. Your boss may love the smell of coffee. When she enters a coffee shop and inhales, she feels good. And her immediate feeling builds her habit of visiting the coffee shop. But your coworker might not like the way coffee smells. His brain won’t react in the same way. A real reward — something that will actually create a habit — is a much narrower target to hit than most people think.

Celebration will one day be ranked alongside mindfulness and gratitude as daily practices that contribute most to our overall happiness and well-being. If you learn just one thing from my entire book, I hope it’s this: Celebrate your tiny successes. This one small shift in your life can have a massive impact even when you feel there is no way up or out of your situation. Celebration can be your lifeline.

Success leads to success. But here’s something that may surprise you. The size of the success doesn’t seem to matter very much. When you feel successful at something, even if it’s tiny, your confidence grows quickly, and your motivation increases to do that habit again and perform related behaviors. I call this success momentum.

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