Tiny Habits

I was talking about reciprocity the other day. And I bought a book last year because of reciprocity. The book is Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg.

Fogg teaches behaviour modification. Or habit formation. He breaks down the creation of habit into a “recipe.” You associate a behaviour that you want to do with a behaviour that you are already doing. And then you celebrate when you do the behaviour so that it gets reinforced.

The recipe formula is “After I do X (the behaviour I already do)… I will do Y (the new behaviour)… And celebrate by doing Z (some small gesture).

Simple.

And you start small. You start Tiny.

So, if you want to start a habit of flossing your teeth, the tiny habit is to floss one tooth. So, let’s assume you brush your teeth but you don’t floss. After you brush your teeth, you floss one tooth. And then do a mini-celebration.

You can floss more than one tooth, obviously. But you commit to doing one. So on the days that don’t feel like doing the big version (all your teeth), you can still do the tiny version (one tooth).

Fogg has a free five day course where you go through the process to try it on your own. I was impressed at how easy it was to start a new behaviour or habit.

So, when I found out that Fogg was writing a book, I decided to buy it. Reciprocity. I felt I had received enough value from his mini-course that I wanted to support him.

To be honest, I was expecting the book to be a bunch of “recipes”. How to start flossing your teeth. How to go to bed earlier. How to stop watching so much TV.

I was pleasantly surprised that the book goes much deeper into habit formation. And it’s all practical.

The big takeaway for me was that you don’t rely on willpower to establish a habit. It’s the least reliable tool you have. If you aren’t doing the habit that you want to do, you adjust your recipe.

Maybe you need to make it tinier. Or change the behaviour you’re anchoring it to. Or maybe it’s not the right time to start that behaviour.

He also give tips on how to turn negative things into something positive. Fogg calls them “Pearl Habits”. An oyster forms a pearl to protect itself from the sand irritating it.

A negative experience can help create something positive. If you develop the habit to transform it into something else.

And of course, there’s a chapter about untangling negative habits.

I enjoyed his book much more than I was expecting. I bought it because I wanted to be supportive. I ended up getting something that gave me more value than I anticipated.

© 2021 Peter Gruner

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