B.J. Fogg on Behavior Design (8): Stay Flexible and Have Fun

In his book Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything, psychologist B.J. Fogg tells the story of Sukumar, who struggled with weight loss for years.

After learning about B.J.’s model of behavior change, Sukumar designed two Tiny Habits: doing 2 pushups after brushing his teeth and a 5-second plank. Eventually he “grew” these behaviors to 50 pushups and a 5-minute plank every day.

Habits grow and multiply

Sukumar’s experience is not an exception, B.J. writes. Well-designed habits scale naturally from tiny to transformative. And, this happens without extra doses of motivation or ability.

Here B.J. distinguishes between two kinds of Tiny Habits:

  • Growth Habits, such as expanding from 2 pushups daily to 50
  • Multiplication Habits, such as doing 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.), which leads to also making your bed.

Trust the process

Growing and multiplying habits does not call for new strategies. These benefits flow naturally from the fundamentals of the Tiny Habits method:

  • Start with a clear aspiration or outcome that matters to you.
  • Design habits that 1) you want to do, 2) you can do, and 3) will make a positive impact on your life.
  • Choose an effective anchor for each new habit (most often, an existing habit).
  • Choose whether to ramp up a habit or back off to your baseline behavior — whatever works for today.
  • Celebrate every time you do a habit.
  • Focus on frequency — having many small and immediate successes rather isolated big ones.

B.J. predicts that success in habit change will gradually shift your identity positive ways. You turn into the kind of person who actually “walks the talk” by aligning your behaviors with your values. This is deeply satisfying, and it builds momentum for creating more new habits.

You can do simple things to assist this process:

  • Socialize with people who share your aspirations.
  • Find products and services that support your habit changes.
  • Share your experiences with habit change on social media.
  • Get coaching in habit change.
  • Coach other people in habit change.

Lighten up

Habit change is like learning to cook. View each habit that you design as a recipe. Tinker with the ingredients (anchor, behavior, celebration) to get your desired results.

I like this analogy. It underscores the value of staying open, curious, flexible. View habit changes as experiments, and troubleshoot until you find behaviors that “stick.”

Above all, says B.J., have fun. There is no failure on this path — only feedback. Play with the possibilities until you discover what works.