My previous post about Tiny Habits by B.J. Fogg described transformation as incremental — the result of many small behavior changes over time. B.J. refers to these changes as Tiny Habits, and each one consists of three elements.
An ideal Tiny Habit:
- Fits with your existing behaviors
- Takes less than 30 seconds to do
- Is easy — something you will do even when your motivation is low
- Is something you can do right now
- Is something that you truly want to do
- Instead of saying that you’ll floss all of your teeth, plan to floss just one.
- Instead of saying that you will meditate for 20 minutes, plan to just take one mindful breath.
- Instead of saying that you do yoga for 30 minutes, plan to just step on your mat.
- Instead of saying that you will walk for one hour, plan to just put on your walking shoes.
Do these examples seem absurdly small? They did to me at first. But after experimenting with Tiny Habits, I confirmed something that B.J. says: Small behaviors tend to expand over time. Flossing one tooth leads to flossing more teeth. Taking one mindful breath expands into 10, 20, and more.
In addition, keeping the behavior small allows you to feel successful right away — a pivotal factor in behavior change.
Once you choose a tiny behavior, figure out exactly where it fits in your day. Your best bet is to do it after an existing habit that’s stable. B.J. calls this habit an anchor.
Common examples of anchors include:
- Getting out of bed in the morning
- Taking a shower
- Starting a coffee maker
- Brushing teeth
- Turning on the shower
Finally, plan to reward yourself for actually doing the tiny behavior. According to B.J., what creates stable habits is not repetition but positive emotion: “People change best by feeling good, not by feeling bad.”
There are many ways to celebrate. Your way of celebrating is unique to you. It can be as simple as saying Yes! to yourself or smiling while nodding your head.
Put it in writing
Capture your Anchor and Behavior in a single sentence with this syntax: After I…I will.
- After I brush my teeth, I will floss one tooth.
- After I wake up in the morning, I will open a window and take a few deep breaths.
- After I put on my shoes in the morning, I will go outside to soak in the natural light.
- After I turn on the shower, I will say a quiet prayer of gratitude.
- After I pour my coffee or tea, I will open my journal.
Add your method of celebrating, and you have a complete recipe for your Tiny Habit. B.J. recommends that you rehearse this new behavior and celebration 7 to 10 times immediately after you design it.
This ABC recipe for Tiny Habits — Anchor, Behavior, Celebration — is deceptively simple. Finding an appropriate anchor, choosing a behavior that is small enough, and celebrating in a way that feels authentic is not easy.
The key is to see habit design as a skill. And like any skill, habit design evolves through practice and feedback. As the old slogan goes, it’s about progress — not perfection.