In October 2019, I bought the book Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything in anticipation of the official issue date in January 2020. I usually wouldn’t buy a book that hasn’t been released yet. But in this case, the information I had read about the concepts that would be covered in the book had aroused my interest. An advantage of pre-subscribing was that I would receive some extras. And I must say that the author did more than I had anticipated. As icing on the cake, he even organized 11 online sessions for those interested. In these sessions, he extensively explained the book’s concept. He also left plenty of room for questions and answers. I must say that I enjoyed reading the book and following the online sessions. But more importantly, I followed the advice on building Tiny habits that he covered in his book and put them into practice.
New York Times Bestseller Brilliant, Effective and Transformative
A habit expert from Stanford University shares his breakthrough method for building habits quickly and easily. With Tiny Habits, you’ll increase productivity by tapping into positive emotions to create a happier and healthier life. Dr. Fogg’s new and extremely practical method picks up where Atomic Habits left off.
How do you change your behavior?
Step by step. By using a system.
It must be a strange sight for an outsider to see this: as soon as I wake up and my foot reaches the ground, I say to myself, “It’s going to be a great day.” Next, I do a sun salutation. I finish it off with a push-up, squat, and a celebration. I celebrate by looking triumphant and shouting YES.
However strange this may seem, this routine fits perfectly in with the content of the book.
Why is it so challenging to change your behavior permanently?
The answer is because many behavioral changes fail. After all, you need motivation and willpower. And we only have a limited amount of that.
Just ask yourself this question.
How do you get yourself into action? And how do you manage to persevere and hang on?
You need a lot of motivation and willpower to do all you need.
With only motivation and willpower, you will not make it. Our willpower is limited, and motivation is a lousy driver of behavioral change.
The Tiny Habit method
Over the years, many excellent books have been written about changing daily habits. One that appealed to me is called the Tiny Habit principle.
BJ Fogg of Stanford University developed the Tiny Habit method based on research. The strength of this method lies in its simplicity.
BJ Fogg claims that motivating yourself is not the best strategy to change your behavior. And he should know because he specializes in behavior and behavioral changes. Furthermore, he founded the Stanford Behavior Design Lab.
BJ Fogg is one of the great thinkers in the field of scientific research on the topic of influencing behavior. Perhaps you have heard of the concept of ‘persuasive technology’ or even ‘persuasive design.’ The BJ Fogg Behaviour model is a smart and easy-to-use tool in this field. It explains which three buttons you have to press to be able to convince or influence someone. Or as BJ Fogg explains it himself. Three elements have to take place simultaneously to change behavior: ‘motivation,’ ‘ability,’ and ‘prompt.’
According to Fogg, these three elements play a role in achieving a goal. If your behavioral change does not occur, at least one of these elements is missing. When you discover the missing building block, you know what you can work on.
Behavior Design Model
This model helps you think clearly about behavior.
The elements of the Fogg Behavior Model are:
- Motivation: to what extent are you motivated to do something.
- Ability: how difficult or easy it is for you to do something.
- Prompts: what prompts you to do something.
The BJ Fogg Behavior Model shows us that behavior results from three specific elements coming together at one moment in time.
Behavior = Motivation x Ability x Prompt
Motivation – Ability – Prompts
Motivation and ability are easy to understand.
If your motivation is high and the new behavior is easy to do, you will start doing it.
If your motivation is high and the new behavior is challenging to do, it becomes a bit harder.
The Tiny Habit method emphasizes the importance of the third element: the prompts.
Your new behavior needs to be triggered.
According to Fogg, behavioral change often fails because it lacks triggers. You will probably recognize this: things you want to do or change and still don’t do. Usually, this is because you don’t think about it at the right moment.
Even if your motivation is high and the new behavior is easy for you to implement, you still need triggers.
How do you trigger yourself?
You trigger yourself by unraveling the new behavior you want to learn in small steps or learning goals (Tiny) and linking it to already existing habits (Habits).
And that’s the crux
The secret lies in all existing behavior. If you are already used to doing something, it is easier to add new behavior.
Performing a Tiny Habit after an existing habit (routine) makes it easier. The routine you already have is the prompt to execute your Tiny Habit.
Three simple questions to ask
What makes the model so easy to use in practice is that every time you want to understand why you aren’t doing something, all you have to do is ask three simple questions. And then you find out pretty quickly what is missing to allow desired behavior to take place:
- Are you motivated enough? *M*
- Is the desired behavior easy (Ability) to perform? *A*
- Is something/someone prompting you to do that behavior? *P*
The BJ Fogg Behavior Model
The BJ Fogg Behavior Model is a useful model that comes from studying behavior. It is a model to understand behavioral influence. If you want to change behavior, three elements must be present simultaneously: motivation, ability, trigger. Also known as B=MAT. The advice is to always start with ability. Make the desired behavior as easy as possible. Or make the unwanted behavior as difficult as possible.
Have a look at the picture above.
Along the vertical axis is the level of Motivation for behavior. It can range anywhere from high to low.
The Ability to do a behavior can be found along the horizontal axis. It ranges from easy to do to hard to do.
If somebody is above the Action Line (the relationship between motivation and ability) when they are prompted, they will do the behavior. If they fall below the action line, they won’t do the behavior.
Habit formation is a skill. Learn it via Tiny Habits
Tiny Habits Examples
Think about quitting smoking. If you don’t want to stop smoking (low motivation), you can prompt yourself as much as you want, but nothing will happen. Because quitting smoking is very difficult to do (low ability). In that case, you are on the lower left side of the model. If someone is very motivated to stop smoking (high motivation), it is still tough to do (little ability). In this case, you have to think about making this easier for someone (greater ability). An answer to do this can be to think about a smaller step. In short, make the desired behavior easier by breaking it down into smaller steps.
For example, you can order free nicotine patches (is easy, high ability). You can start by putting the patches on your arm. And from that point on, you can convince someone to do something more complicated. For example, reduce the number of cigarettes per day.
Behavior Design Method
The B=MAP Model applies to all human behavior.
When you make the step from the theoretical model to designing a behavior forming, the Tiny Habits method helps.
What’s important is that your Tiny Habit:
Based on his research, Fogg comes up with a simple and behavior-changing method: actions that cut you into small habits, a tiny habit.
What are the criteria for Tiny habits?
- they don’t last more than thirty seconds;
- you can do them easily;
- they don’t require willpower;
- you can do them every day.
By making the Tiny Habits small, you avoid discussions in your mind that undermines your motivation and willpower:
- “I don’t feel like running right now. Yeah, but it’s healthy for you. I’ll do it tomorrow.
You avoid the inner resistance that arises because your brain has no desire for new, tiring actions.
Tiny habits work. Teaching yourself many small habits increases your self-confidence. You learn that you can change things. No matter how small, and that extends to other areas in your life.
Well, if you still want to, you can also achieve something big with all those tiny habits:
There are two ways to do that:
Expand a tiny habit
You can expand the tiny habit: instead of doing one push up, do 2, 3, 4, or 10.
Instead of writing one sentence as a new habit, write three sentences. And from three sentences, go to ten.
Create a lot of tiny habits around a theme
You can create a lot of tiny habits that will bring you closer to your goal.
For example, if you want to write more, you can create several tiny habits that will help you do so.
- After you entered your study, put paper and pen on your desk.
- After you have been to the toilet, write down a word.
- After you put down your coffee cup, you write a sentence.
- After you checked your mail, write a sentence.
- After getting out of the door, describe in your head what the sky looks like.
An excellent way to put your Tiny Habit into words: AFTER I… DO I…
A few more examples:
- After I had my first cup of tea or coffee at work, I think of a question with which I can cause change.
- After I finished a conversation, I think about my contribution.
- After I leave the office, I say something positive to myself.
- After I notice that I am working hard during a conversation, I lean back more in my chair.
- After I turned on my computer, I use the start-up time to take three conscious deep breaths to start the day quietly.
It would be best if you linked what you do to daily action. Then your tiny habit quickly becomes a habit, something you do automatically.
Don’t forget to celebrate!
Rewarding your behavior is a great way to make it an automatism. Your brain then understands that the behavior is a good thing.
By constantly triggering yourself to make a small part of your change your own, you achieve success. And this increases your self-confidence. You experience that you can change things, no matter how small. And that reflects in your daily life!
My tip to you
Make an inventory of your current habits and add a tiny habit to them that will help you reach a bigger goal.
Small steps towards big changes: the power of Tiny Habits