Tiny Habits tells us that we are currently viewing change wrong. Forget the ‘big picture thinking’ grandiose ideas and instead jump straight in and focus on the small actions that matter.
Get the book here: Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg
How to approach change
There are usually only three ways to make a change: Have an epiphany (which is unlikely), change our environment or change our habits. When looking to create change, Tiny Habits describes how starting “tiny” is the most appropriate way. He also describes how change should be viewed less as a sage trying to look into the future and more like a scientist looking into a petri-dish; with curiosity and objectiveness.
The tiny habits approach to change
The Tiny Habits method aims to focus on small actions that you can complete in less than thirty seconds. Do you want to get stronger and do more push-ups? Start with doing as many as you can for 30 seconds each morning. Over time, as you become more competent you can build and work harder for longer, however, when developing a new habit: start tiny and build from there.
Tiny habits can become big habits
There is currently a myth surrounding change that can be misleading: You must either go big or go home. We live in a culture where success is determined by instant gratification. If you don’t go for the top prize, then you might as well not go for anything. Because of this, incremental or “tiny” progress is not even considered – which is unfortunate because it is exactly what you need to create long-term change.
Although one small action – say those 5 push-ups you managed – do not feel significant, they are the actions that allow you to gain momentum and develop the ability and skill to scale bigger and higher mountains. With diligence and perseverance, you will reach the top before you know it.
Tiny habits in three steps
Step 1: The Anchor Moment – This is when you remind yourself to complete the new behaviour. When you wake up in the morning, say to yourself, “Before I do anything else I will get these push-ups done”.
Step 2: The Behavior – To put it simply: Complete the task.
Step 3: Instant celebration – Once you have finished what you are looking to complete, it is imperative that you give yourself a mini-celebration. That doesn’t mean you go off the rails and party; it just means that you recognize you have achieved an important milestone for the day.
The formula to understanding behavior
Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Prompt
Our behaviours can be summarized by this simple formula. How motivated we are, our level of ability and whether we have any prompts to complete it.
Troubleshooting negative behaviors in three steps
There comes a time when we want ourselves or others to do a behaviour, but no matter how much we try, nothing seems to work. These 3 steps are a checklist you can follow to help you determine why you or someone else may not be doing what is required.
Step 1. Check to see if there is a prompt – It’s best to start at the beginning: Is the person even being prompted to perform the said behaviour? If not, why not remind them (leave out the drama or politics) and just design a good and effective prompt and remind them respectfully.
Step 2. Does the person have the ability to complete the behaviour – If you are asking somebody to complete a task that somebody in a similar position couldn’t complete then it’s not fair to expect them to complete it? Ask them what is making the task difficult, gauge whether they have the ability to perform the task, if they don’t have the right abilities, get to the root cause of the problem and determine your next moves.
Step 3. Is the person even motivated to complete the task – If the other two above reasons are all fine, then this is the most likely culprit? Try to find a way to motivate the individual – through motivational or punitive measures – and give them a reason to complete the task.
The three steps to stopping a bad habit
Step 1. Write down three of your worst habits that must be stopped. Try to be specific – instead of writing ‘stop eating bad food’ it should be ‘stop going for burgers at lunch.
Step 2. For each problem think of the ways that might remove the prompt and desires to perform that habit – you might make a healthy lunch the night before and make sure you bring it in.
Step 3. Think of ways to make the habit difficult to perform – you might hide your cash in the car to prevent you going to getting it.
The trouble with motivation
It can be easy to trick yourself into thinking motivation is the true engine of behaviour change: The panacea that will solve all of your desires and lead you towards a better future, but it can be misleading. The author describes motivation less as something to rely on and more like a party animal friend: they’re good for a fun night out, but you wouldn’t rely on them to pick you up at the airport at 2 am.
Here are some reasons why we shouldn’t rely on motivation to get us anywhere:
1. Motivation is complex
Motivation can either come from inside of us – whereby you want to already do that behaviour – or it can come from external factors like punishments, context and our current environment. While it can be powerful for getting us to do things, the influencing factors can also compete against each other. Some days you might be motivated to exercise and become a better athlete, but you may also be motivated to rest and enjoy yourself before having to work. Because of this, you cannot rely on motivation to get you to do things.
2. The Motivation Wave
When you have a big spike of motivation, it might get you to complete a few tasks; however, it’s not sustainable long-term. Our motivations reach a high point and then come crashing down. A good example of this is people enrolling for online courses, although the enrolment rate is high, the number of people who continue and complete the course is low. This is because once their initial desires wear out, they have no interest in continuing.
3. Motivation Fluctuation
Our motivations can fluctuate day to day, hour to hour or even by season. Some pretty common ones are getting the Christmas decorations out. Once Christmas is over, there’s no motivation anymore. The same is for self-improvement, whilst on a Thursday evening you want to improve yourself, come Friday night, you would prefer to be out partying.
How to make behaviors easier
Step 1. Increase your skills
When you’re better at something, it is easier to do. When you get better skills, you are turning up your ability in the behaviour equation.
Step 2. Gets the correct tools and resources
Sometimes small things like unwashed lettuce or mismatched Tupperware lid can be the difference between eating healthy and getting a burger. The right tools can make whatever you’re looking to do more bearable. Looking to start running? Get the correct equipment – it won’t only make you feel better, the act of purchasing it will also drive you to do it!
A quick start guide to stating tiny habits
Step 1. Clarify the aspiration
What do you want? Where do you want to be? Write them down; they will probably change, so it’s perfectly okay to update them.
Step 2. Explore behaviour options
This is where you come up with a bunch of different behaviours that can help you achieve your aspirations.
Step 3. Match with specific behaviours
A golden behaviour has 3 criteria. It’s effective in realizing your aspirations; you want to do that behaviour and you have the ability to complete that behaviour.
Step 4. Start tiny
We want our behaviours to be so easy to complete that the unpredictability of motivation does not mess up our success.
Step 5. Celebrate your success
Whenever you have achieved something: celebrate!
Thanks for reading. I hope the tips in this summary helped! Make sure to check out the full version below. All the best!
Get the book here: Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg