By Bev Bachel
Run a marathon.
Declutter the entire house.
So often we’re encouraged to think big about our goals. But one of the things I’ve found most powerful when it comes to achieving my goals, and helping others achieve theirs, is to begin by thinking small. And one of the best small thinkers I’ve come across is BJ Fogg, PhD, founder of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University and author of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything.
His simple yet powerful approach centers not on big goals or wide-sweeping behavior changes, but on tiny, positive actions that can be completed in as little as 30 seconds a day.
While such actions may seem inconsequential, when repeated consistently, they become habits. And those habits, even when tiny, can deliver powerful results (e.g., less stress, better relationships, stronger muscles, improved mental well-being, etc.).
What’s more, amping up the positive and developing tiny habits can launch you on the path to success when it comes to achieving much bigger goals.
The Tiny Habits recipe
Why are tiny habits so powerful? One reason is because completing them doesn’t rely on motivation or willpower, two things often in scarce supply in our busy, overscheduled lives. Instead, Fogg’s approach uses a simple, repeatable “recipe” that features three ingredients:
- An anchor moment, such as an existing routine (e.g., shutting off the alarm) or an event (e.g., a ringing phone) that reminds you to do your tiny behavior.
- Your tiny behavior, which you perform as soon as you experience your anchor moment.
- An instant celebration, such as saying “I did a great job!” or pumping your fist, which you do as soon as you complete your tiny behavior.
Here are a three examples, any one or all of which could become part of your morning routine:
|Anchor moment||Tiny behavior||Instant celebration|
|When I turn off |
my alarm clock…
|I will get out of bed |
|Then I will say, |
“It’s going to
be a great day.”
|When I finish brushing |
|I will floss my teeth |
(or even just
|Then I will look in the mirror and smile.|
|When I first walk |
into the kitchen…
|I will empty |
|Then I will make |
a pot of delicious coffee.
While simple, these actions, when repeated each morning, deliver a life-changing punch: Fogg’s research shows that 70 percent of people who practice tiny habits for five days begin doing other new tiny habits naturally, and about 20 percent go on to use their tiny habits to develop bigger habits.
That’s what I did. I started out with what Fogg, who lives part-time in Maui, calls the Maui Habit:
|After I wake up and |
put my feet
on the floor…
|I will say, “It’s going to be |
a great day.”
|Then I will |
Then I added two other health-focused tiny habits to my morning routine:
|After I enjoy my |
first sip of coffee…
|I will take my vitamins.||Then I will clap |
loudly 3 times.
|After I turn off |
the coffee pot…
|I will do my physical therapy.||Then I will text |
sister to say
While these habits, which take only a few moments to complete, aren’t life-changing in and of themselves, they do make me feel better about myself, and that, Fogg says, is the key to success as “we change best by feeling good, not bad.” And the better we feel, the more likely we are to achieve our goals.
Here are three additional tips that can help you turn your tiny habits into big change:
- Set your alarm. A few years ago, I decided to develop the habit of completing a Duolingo Spanish lesson each morning. To make sure I don’t forget, I have set a daily 10 a.m. alarm on my phone.
- Keep track. In January, I decided to do a better job of reaching out to others. So, I now call one friend or family member every odd day of the month. I put a gold star on my calendar each time I make a call.
- Enlist a buddy. Enlisting a family member, friend, or colleague who’ll join you or to whom you report can help you stay motivated.
To learn more about Tiny Habits:
- Listen to this episode of the Retirement Wisdom Podcast featuring BJ Fogg, PhD.
- Schedule a free call with Joe Casey, a Certified Tiny Habits® coach at Retirement Wisdom, about his 4-week one-on-one coaching program to build the habits you want.
- Sign up for BJ Fogg’s free Tiny Habits Five-Day® Email Program.
Bev Bachel is a Twin Cities freelance writer and a long-time Tiny Habits fan.