According to Stanford psychologist B.J. Fogg, the most important skill in behavior change is celebrating success.
In fact, he singles out celebration as the main takeaway from Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything.
“People change best by feeling good, not by feeling bad,” B.J. writes. Celebrate every time you do a habit that you’ve designed — no matter how small.
Celebration changes shifts our mindset. This is not “positive thinking.” It is simply noticing what works.
Many of us find it easy to beat ourselves up about failed behavior change. Designing Tiny Habits and celebrating them undercuts our collective negativity bias.
Ways to celebrate
What you would do if:
- You received an email telling you that you got your dream job?
- Your favorite team won a championship in the last seconds of a game?
- You threw a piece of paper into the recycling bin and it landed perfectly?
Your answers to these questions reveal your personal celebration preferences. Experiment with a variety of methods until you discover what works.
In Tiny Habits, B.J. gives many examples of celebration, such as:
- Say, “Yes!” while you do a fist pump.
- Do a subtle head nod.
- Smile big.
- Do a double thumbs-up.
- Think of your favorite teacher saying, “You did a great job!”
- Raise your arms and say, “Victory!”
Include at least one power celebration — a potent method to use when you want to wire in a new habit immediately.
Feel like you’re faking it?
The trick is finding ways to celebrate that feel authentic for you.
If you ever feel that you’re faking celebration, keep the following points in mind:
- It really is a big deal to design a new habit and actually do it — no matter how small the behavior.
- Remember how your habits connect to your core aspirations, such as being more happy, productive, or loving.
- Positive emotion helps you develop stable habits.
- Celebration is a skill that improves with practice.
When to celebrate
Make your celebration immediate and intense, doing it:
- When you remember to do the habit.
- While doing the habit.
- After doing the habit.
In addition, you can celebrate any positive behavior — even those that you don’t design.
Also experiment with a celebration blitz. For example, go the messiest room in your house and spend three minutes cleaning it. Celebrate every single item that you toss an item or put it away.
You don’t have to celebrate a habit forever. But you can choose to celebrate it when you:
- Start doing it again after falling off
- Increase the intensity of the habit (such as doing deeper squats)
- Increase the duration of the habit (such doing 20 push ups instead of 2)
B.J. has a term for the positive feeling that comes with successful habit change — shine. Every time that you celebrate a habit change, you add a little more shine to the world.
This is a service to yourself and others. As B.J. notes:
Celebration will one day be ranked alongside mindfulness and gratitude as daily practices that contribute most to our overall happiness and well-being. If you learn just one thing from my entire book, I hope it’s this: Celebrate your tiny successes.