Tiny Habits, BIG Results

Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.

—Jim Rohn

How do you circumvent – or at least minimize – the need for motivation to reach desired goals? Stanford behavior scientist, researcher and professor BJ Fogg has been solving that puzzle through his work at the Behavior Design Lab. His quest began with a simple formula, the Fogg Behavior Model:

B=MAP or Behavior (B) happens when Motivation (M), Ability (A), and a Prompt (P) come together at the same time.

Fogg’s book Tiny Habits is an instruction manual for behavior change summarizing what he has learned in nearly 2 decades of research and coaching based on the application of that formula. He presents a system that tackles behavior shifts in increments, simplifying the science behind behavior and offering exercises to help you put the theories into practice.

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.

– BJ Fogg

Successful behavior design begins by considering the outcome you want to achieve. Then, outline the behaviors that lead to that outcome and break those behaviors down into tiny increments. Finally, connect the incremental behavior to something you’re already doing.

Fogg uses the technique of habit stacking, combined with the idea of creating shifts that are so small that they can be accomplished easily and with minimal resistance. He brings it together in an ABC model: Attach a new habit (BEHAVIOR) to something you already do regularly (the ANCHOR).

After I [ANCHOR/EXISTING HABIT] I will [BEHAVIOR/NEW HABIT]

You’ve probably done this naturally (Some examples: Before I brush my teeth, I will take my medication. After I eat breakfast, I will take my vitamins. After I get up, I will immediately make my bed.)

This can be applied in your work life as well:

  • After I eat lunch I will take a 10 minute walk.
  • After I get off a call, I will stand up and stretch.
  • After I sit down at my desk in the morning I will choose a question to ask as many people as I can that day.

The last but very important piece in this technique is to notice and CELEBRATE when you’ve followed through on the new habit! As silly as it may seem, immediately creating a positive emotion is incredibly effective in cementing a new habit. This can be as simple as a smile and a “yes!” or “awesome!”, a high five, fist pump, happy dance or whatever works for you!

After I (Anchor) I will (Tiny Behavior)…then I (Celebrate)!

For a more customized approach to other types of behavior change, check out The Behavior Wizard. You can get an overview of BJ Fogg’s earlier work in his own words by watching his TedX presentation or hear his own summary of Tiny Habits and the research that is behind it in several interviews found on YouTube.

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