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The new year rolls around and there is much talk about resolutions and cultivation of a life we wish to live. It is old news to share that many resolutions are unfulfilled; however, BJ Fogg argues that perhaps we have had a faulty instruction manual to be successful in our pursue of lasting change.
Released just this past Tuesday, December 31st, Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything asserts in fact that it is the small, seemingly easy changes of habit we make in our lives that will lead to grand transformation of ourselves and therefore our overall lives, even our relationships and especially our health and overall contentment.
After devouring the book in two days during my getaway to the coast, I wanted to share with you eight takeaways that will introduce you to this shift in approach. I have already begun to implement two new tiny habits into my daily routine and look to add a third when my teaching schedule resumes this week.
The good news, if you have already written your 2020 resolutions, is that upon reading the book, you will be able to look at them more closely and construct and approach them in such a way, according to Tiny Habits to ensure their success. And if you have not created resolutions, maybe you have decided due to previous frustration that doing so is just a waste of time, taking a look at the list of takeaways below may shed some light on why past years were less fruitful than you would like and even encourage you to try again and see better results.
1.All behaviors happen due to the occurrence of a prompt
“The Fogg Maxim #1: Help yourself do what you already want to do by designing a good prompt”
Fogg shares many different examples of how prompts permeate all areas of our lives. The example that resonated with me was his example regarding taking a shower, “After a shower, I always dry off. After I dry off, I always walk into the bedroom”, etc. etc. etc. There are three different types of prompts that we can choose from and that we are guided by in our behaviorial routines: person, action and context prompts. Action prompts, such as the one shared above are the most useful because they serve as an anchor. Attach the behavior you want to happen to a behavior/action that is already happening and will happen habitually. One I have incorporated over the years and have continued to do without fail (which surprised me at first how quickly it took hold) whether I am in my house or traveling is upon going to bed (which will happen every evening), I take a glass full of water with me and place it by my bed. Upon waking in the morning, the only way it is returned to the kitchen is if it is empty. A hydration habit that encourages me to drink more water.
Fogg also discusses what he titles “Pearl Habits” which are habits that are prompted by an irritant outside of our control. As I shared in the first post of the year, we can only create the change we seek when it involves ourselves and internal responses or behaviors; in other words, to set a goal that involves the behavior of someone else is a futile goal as we have no control over the other person without manipulation. When it comes to Pearl Habits, use the irritant as a prompt to do something that is positive or helpful for your everyday life. The example shared in the book is an ex-wife who coparents with a husband who is quite negative and her response each time his unwanted behavior or comments arise is a prompt to her to practice a mini moment of self-care in her daily routine. Each of our irritants and habits will be unique to our situations and lives, but even the unwanted events beyond our control can be helpful in pursuit of the change we seek in the new year.
2. Remove unwanted prompts
“You can disrupt a behavior you don’t want by removing the prompt.”
From removing unhealthy food and drink from your cupboards or refrigerator to moving the television into another room to inspire more conversation and gathering in the main living area, removing the prompt that tempts us to return to behaviors and habits that are not helpful is one of the simplest solutions to instituting the permanent change we seek.
3. Understand this truth: You change best by feeling good — not by feeling bad
“What happens in your brain when you experience positive reinforcement isn’t magic —it’s neuro-chemical.”
Fogg refers to Instagram in his example of how positive emotions help to quickly create a habit. We snap a photo, we easily filter the image, we share. The feeling of sharing a “unique artistic creation” bolsters your sense of capability and thus inspires you to continue to use the app. Not only was the Ability part taken care of as it was very simple to do, it was also positively rewarding – the must-have ingredient of emotion. “Emotions create habits. Not repetition. Not frequency. Not fairy dust. Emotions.”
4. Celebrate to permanently integrate the habits you want into your life
“Celebration is the best way to create a positive feeling that wires in your new habits . . . in addition, celebration teaches us how to be nice to ourselves — a skill that pays out the biggest dividends of all.”
In episode #163, the show shared how improving happiness in your life is a rewiring of the brain, a creating of new neurological tracks. We truly can change how we see the world and go about our days and thus experience more happiness and contentment if we consciously choose to do so. This is where celebrating comes in, and I LOVE this component. 🙂
Quickly, celebrating is not equivalent to rewards (Fogg explains this in detail), but after reading his explanation: celebration need not be a giving of something to yourself (that is a reward), but celebration must come immediately after you have completed the new behavior you wish to become a habit – that is when the rewiring in your brain begins to take place. It is possible for a reward to simultaneously be a celebration, but not easy to do as it must come immediately afterward. The good news about this distinction is that it will cost you nothing. Celebration is just as it sounds – a burst of exultation, a happy dance, a humming of a happy tune that just makes you happy each time you sing it, a jump into the air with a grand grin on your face.
It may sound silly at first, but think about instances with young children who are learning any skill, even when I think about my pups and training them, when we give immediate praise to those who are under our care, we demonstrate what is wanted and thus makes them feel good due to the praise. This is nurture at its most basic, and we’ve been nurtured by others our entire lives whether we knew it or not – applauded for certain choices and behaviors, etc. Once we realize we can do this for ourselves to incorporate positive habits into our daily lives, we can be the cheerleader for ourselves, and we need to be. The simple act of celebration begins to gradually and then significantly rewire our brains to seek out the space for the behavior to happen as it actually will prompt the release of dopamine, the feel good hormone.
5. Improve relationships by understanding Fogg’s Behavior Model
What is Fogg’s Behavior Model (the book provides many helpful visuals), simply it follows this equation: Behavior = Motivation & Ability & Prompt. When these three components converge at the same time, the habit takes root, and Fogg disputes the claims that have been made endlessly, (even here on TSLL, so I am correcting myself now) that there need to be a particular amount of repetitions of a new habit for it to become habituated. Not so, he states because if it feels good to engage in the new behavior (#3), the habit will form very quickly (he brings the readers attention to a teenager receiving a new smart phone and their habit of checking it incessantly if given the freedom to do so without practice).
When we understand the model, and how it works in our lives, we can better observe and therefore, understand the behavior in others. We may not be able to change the behavior as other people need to make their own choices, but if we are providing the prompt, or if we are making the ability easier or if we are providing the motivation, that is what is in our control, and we can change each of these if we do not like the behavior that is the result. Similarly, as a parent or a partner or a loved one, we can have conversations that are based on logic and reasoning allowing the emotion that may have caused electricity in prior conversations (and not the good kind of electricity) for potentially a more productive dialogue.
6. Cultivate an environment that prompts the change you seek
“The skill of redesigning your environment makes your habits easier to do.”
Earlier I shared how removing the negative prompts is helpful, but so to is cultivating an environment that encourages the change you seek. If you are working on improving your eating habits, create as Fogg and his partner have done – a SuperFridge – glass containers filled with food ready to eat – food that is healthy, delicious and beckons them to enjoy it. Not only is the food supportive of the healthy habits they seek, but it is also aesthetically pleasing to look at, inviting to the eye. The Motivation component of Fogg’s Behavior Model is tended to which then adds to the Ability component and the Prompt is as simple as being hungry and opening the door of the fridge. Boom! A new positive behavior begins.
7. Master your mind, and step into the identity you wish to embody
“When you can let go of old identities and embrace new ones, you will soar in your ability to go from tiny to transformative.”
Fogg explains how psychologically “all humans have a strongly rooted drive to act in a way that is consistent with their identity . . . there is a good evolutionary reason for this —when food, shelter, and other resources depend on group unity and collaboration, it is critical to reliably predict what a person is going to do.” Simply by understanding why our current identity is something that may be hard to step away from, but also knowing that when we “successfully embrace an identity shift in one area [we] often prompt change in other areas”, we increase the skill of mastering our mind.
Fogg suggests going to events or learning the language or spending time or reading books by experts in what you are trying to learn, understand or improve. Simply by shifting your environment, you begin to shift your identity. For example, if you are want to improve your skills in a particular sport or physical activity, attend events or read books or attend lectures by experts in the field. If you wish to improve your ability to cook with ease in the kitchen without recipes, seek out those chefs or cookbooks or even watch Chopped which shares people doing exactly what you hope to do so that you can with ease step into your kitchen each day and cook a delicious, yet far-less-time-consuming meal.
8. Tiny successes, when cultivated consistently, will lead to transformative change
“Start where you want to on your path to change. Allow yourself to feel successful. Then trust the process.”
Chapter 6 focuses on the transformative change that can take place when you grow your habits through the Tiny Habits process (a confluence of Motivation+Ability+Prompt). But more importantly, we must begin with a clear idea of the change we wish to make. Fogg uses the analogy of designing a garden we wish to grow into a beautiful and abundant space of Mother Earth in our own backyard. Once we know what want to grow, we can then begin cultivating the behaviors that will enable what we plant to successfully reach their fullest potential. Where to begin? Start small (refer back to the quote above). Start so small, it is almost too easy to think, you are creating new habits. Fogg began his flossing habit, but simply flossing one tooth at a time. Yep, one tooth. This allowed him to feel successful from the first attempt. And as he reminds, “Success leads to success”. The reason for the first attempt to be successful is that you want to create momentum, so remove the “demotivators. This allows the natural motivator (often it’s hope) to blossom, which in turn can sustain the new behavior over time”. Once your motivation begins to rise, you begin to see your confidence in your own ability to make the necessary change rise, and you begin to understand you can do harder behaviors as well.
The more I read Fogg’s book and came to better understand his Behavior Model, the more I realized what he claimed to be true in the introduction: Many of us have had the wrong instruction manual all along, and while some of us may have been successful in spite of the misdirection, none of us should blame ourselves for not being successful in our pursuit to welcome positive change into our lives. I am of the understanding that as Marie Forleo shared and titled her new book Everything is Figureoutable, and as Tiny Habits reveals, we just need to understand more fully how the mind works when it comes to habit creation. Thankfully, it truly can be more simple than we may have thought. We can feel good throughout the process of improving our health, relationships, daily routines, etc. We do not have to punish ourselves and we do not have to have an expensive reward to motivate us to try to do something that seems difficult. We need only to increase the motivation, remove the unhelpful prompts, chose an easier task so we believe we can do it from the beginning and then celebrate immediately when we complete the new behavior each time.
I am confident we can each apply this method.
I shared at the top of the post that I have already begun to implement two new tiny habits into my daily routine after reading the book, so I wanted to share:
- Removing all tech from my bedroom (I had removed my phone a handful of years ago, but my iPad snuck into my sleeping space as it provides an alarm and my music in the morning, and then, you guessed it, scrolling in the morning as well). How? I am removing the prompt – the iPad will be placed outside of my bedroom, but still be able to be heard and then be placed on a sleep timer at night (I enjoy listening to music to fall asleep).
- Incorporating more ab strength exercises into my routine. My busy schedule has found me being inconsistent in my strength routine, so I am scaling back, but doing only one rep each work day morning upon getting out of bed. The motivation is that it seems easy and insignificant (but it’s not!) and the prompt will be stepping out of bed each morning to let the boys outside (while they are outside, I will quickly tend to one rep of strength).
- And then the celebrating takes place immediately after each successful behavior. 🙂
If you are determined, as I am to institute changes into your life that will fundamentally support the quality life you wish to live, I highly recommend BJ Fogg’s new book Tiny Habits. Hopefully today’s episode gave you insight into what the book entails. I appreciated his detailed explanations and visuals, and his ability to share a multitude of examples helped tremendously.
~Learn more about the book: —BJ Fogg, PhD., author of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything (Dec. 31, 2019)
~SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~The Road to Success is Paved with Happiness, episode #194
~Attaining the Change You Seek in the New Year, episode #241
~15 Everyday Habits to Live a Life of Contentment, episode #93
~Little Women, the film, Greta Gerwig’s adaptation
95% – Rotten Tomatoes; Roger & Ebert 4/4 stars
~Listen to Audible’s new version of Little Women, read by Lauren Dern (I highly recommend after listening during a 7 hour car ride over the holidays – multiple character voices and sound effects). Remember to go to audible.com/simplesophisticate to earn a 30-free trial AND one free audio book.
Opening weekend and Christmas Day release earnings: $16.5-million weekend and a five-day total of $29 million since its Christmas opening, a major performance for a smaller-audience film with a budget dwarfed by the top two films. —U.S. News, source
- One Way Greta Gerwig’s ‘Little Women’ Film is Radical, The Atlantic
- This Is ‘Little Women’ for a New Era, The New York Times
- The Compromises of Greta Gerwig’s ‘Little Women’, The New Yorker
- Why ‘Little Women’ is a Triumph, BBC
- Why Little Women is for Everyone, GQ
- PBS Newshour, a discussion with Greta Gerwig (listen to the conversation below)