Tiny Habits, or habits implemented in very small segments, have the power to change your life, your health and even your financial future. Linda Fogg Phillips is the sister of BJ Fog who wrote the book Tiny Habits and is director of the Tiny Habits® Academy. BJ runs the organization Behavior Design Lab at Stanford, but Linda is the brawn behind the brain for the programs. You will enjoy hearing more about her in the Podcast with raising eight children and how she found her purpose in the organization.
The Fogg method, which is Tiny Habits®, is a three-step process for behavior change. Linda calls this system a breakthrough systematic approach. What is extraordinary about it is there is an emphasis on the fact that it should take no real effort or pain. That statement should be appealing to most reading this. Creating new habits gets a bad rap with the thought of making difficult changes that disrupt your life.
Many new habits are equated with resolutions many have made most every new year. Do you know how long it take to break those resolutions? Don’t think too hard here as it’s not long! The New York Post verified when polling 2,000 Americans, it took just thirty-two days for the average person to break their resolution. In fact, sixty-eight percent broke their resolutions even sooner than that. Gym memberships, according to a Bloomberg report, last but a few weeks. Unfortunately, you may have been one of the statistics.
Three Parts of a Tiny Habits Recipe
If you’ve ever cooked anything, you know how important it is to gather the ingredients before beginning. If you don’t, your recipe will either not turn out as expected when you quickly grab a substitute or when you leave out even something that seems small and insignificant.
The three parts of the Tiny Habits® recipe is just as important. The recipe includes an anchor moment, a tiny behavior and an instant celebration. They are very simple, small parts of the recipe, but very significant. The first and basic part of the recipe is an anchor moment. It is a moment that always happens in your life, such as getting out of bed. That seems so very simple, but this part of the tiny habits recipe will help you attach a tiny behavior.
When making pancakes, one-half teaspoon of baking powder is also a very small, seemingly insignificant ingredient. However, without it your pancakes will turn out hard as hockey discs instead of a light and fluffy mouth-watering treat. Identifying an appropriate anchor moment is not difficult but takes some thought as you will serve as a connection point.
A Tiny Behavior
I will never forget one spring break in college where I thought I’d pick up the violin in two weeks. Anyone who is a string player is already laughing. A two-week period of time to learn the violin is quite ridiculous, but with a sister who played professionally for years, I figured I could pick up enough to be at least decent as I had been her accompanist. Wrong.
A tiny behavior should be very tiny and very obtainable. My violin goal was neither and I’d bet you have set some very unobtainable goals as well. If you broke them down into miniscule segments, they then could probably be obtainable. I could learn the violin if I took very small steps to do so and if I started at a much younger age it would have benefited me even more.
Phillips shared how she would begin each day as she got out of bed, placing both feet on the ground saying a phrase like, Today is going to be a great day. This was during a very difficult time in her life where she needed to face her day with more optimism and hope. It worked to add just that one small phrase as her feet hit the floor. Notice that the tiny behavior was attached to the anchor moment of getting out of bed and putting her feet on the ground. Two other books that speak of these attachments, based on some of the research in BJ Fogg’s book are Atomic Habits and The Power of Habit. Both are excellent reads to put on your list.
An Instant Celebration
A celebration is different than a reward. When you receive a trophy or ribbon for an accomplishment, you set it on the shelf, admire it for a short time, then watch it get dusty. Instant celebrations are consistent, renewable, and take place right after you accomplish your tiny behavior.
An instant celebration is also different than a reward of fitting in that new outfit for an upcoming reunion after you lose ten pounds. Rewards are wonderful of course, but an instant celebration, if created and linked immediately after a tiny habit, is consistently affirming and sends you positive brain waves. In this way, you can reverse a victim messaging to a victor message such as changing I’m not good enough to I’m good enough! This small step can help reinforce an action enough to build upon it, especially sending alpha waves to the brain, which can reduce depression and encourage relaxation.
With one of the most common messages of feeling not good enough or dealing with an imposter syndrome, these small celebrations are affirming and positive. They are small actions that will help you move you forward.
When a grain of sand or other irritant in an oyster creates friction, the mollusk secretes a fluid to coat the irritant. As layer upon layer of this coating is deposited, a beautiful pearl is formed. When life’s annoyances and difficulties create friction, what we learn from them can bring about something beautiful in our life. When experiencing this friction, it’s easy to feel like nothing good could ever come from the situation. Its difficulty may make you feel like there’s no way out. (Free Goal Setting Worksheets here!)
But we can see through the historical cycles of hope that even through the Depression, war, health challenges and a worldwide pandemic, good can come from each decade’s difficulty if we look for it. The friction in our lives creating irritants can be coated with small celebrations of triumph. In this way, a new habit, career or even relationship can be developed with a healthy mindset of perseverance.
How This Applies to You
When you set a goal, break it down in the smallest increments possible. I will use the act of practicing a musical instrument as an example. Determine an anchor moment first. Practicing could take place right after breakfast. Break it down even further. Right after you rinse your dish and put it away, get your instrument out. That’s it. Do that for a number of days, then add one more step.
After you get your instrument out, tune it. That’s it. Do that for several days. What you are doing is creating a new routine that won’t be difficult to manage. Though it is simple and feels like you’re not really doing anything, the routine will become automatic. Your case will become easier to open and tuning your instrument won’t take as long. Soon you’ll be practicing regularly. This small example can apply to most any task. Ideas: creating a regular exercise routine, cleaning your desk at the end of every work day, planning your week before it begins, writing blog posts, writing a book.
There are so many ideas to add this principle in your life. Compare yourself with your own goals and aspirations, not with others. The small steps can be applied to most any task and the list of ideas can be as long as you make it! I hope this helps you move forward to accomplish a dream you never thought possible! Get your free downloads: Goal Setting Worksheets.
Compare yourself with your own goals and aspirations, not with others.
Thought Leader, Keynote Speaker, Author
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