Millions of people pledge to make meaningful changes in their lives every year. We want to eat healthy, exercise more, and get more sleep. We work out for a bit, exchange veggies for fries, and make sure by 11:00 p.m. we’re tucked in bed. And life feels terrific.
But something happens then. These new behaviors are starting to slip as the weeks go by. We’re missing out on a day, then a week, then another. We’re back to square one soon enough. Why is it so hard, we ask ourselves, to make lasting changes to our everyday lives?
There is a response from Stanford-based behavioral specialist BJ Fogg: we actually take on too much at a time. So we begin with a grueling 2-hour daily workout schedule instead of taking it easy with, say, a new 10-minute exercise routine at home. The issue with this method is that we are upending our lives for improvement. And once the initial excitement ebbs and our body starts to protest, motivation plummets and the new membership of the gym becomes nothing more than a guilty memory of failure.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. In the book, Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything, author BJ Fogg presents an alternative – creating sustainable change, one “tiny habit” at a time.
Everyone needs improvements to be made. Some people aspire to get in shape to lead healthy lives; others concentrate on being more creative or finding their imagination outlets. But the flood of media stories about rising rates of obesity, insomnia, and work dissatisfaction suggest that something is wrong. There is a substantial difference between what we want to do and what we actually do, they say. Usually, we assume that this disconnection is due to our lack of willpower. That’s not real, however.
Creating positive change can be simple, but a new approach is needed. There’s a fair chance you’ve blamed yourself if you’ve ever failed to implement a meaningful new habit into your life. If only you were more diligent and driven, you might have done it, right?
All right, not necessarily. There is no evidence, as we will see later on, to support the theory that motivation is the sole key to behavior change. This suggests that you are not the true culprit-it is your approach to alter.
Think of it this way: you’re going to struggle if you try to assemble a flat-pack chest of drawers, but notice that the directions are incorrect and key pieces are missing. It’ll be frustrating, but you won’t blame yourself, of course. No, you’re going to contact the manufacturer and demand a refund. But we let the’ maker’ off the hook when it comes to self-improvement.
That’s got to adjust. What? How? Try a two-step, different approach. Avoid blaming yourself first off. If in the past you have found it difficult to adjust, you’ve probably been doing it wrong. And the cause is easy: years of advice that is well-meaning but unscientific. When you comprehend how human activity actually functions, change can be simple.
Second, you need to take your goals and break them down into manageable, bite-sized bits, such as winning a lifetime battle with obesity or saving enough for an early retirement. Sustainable change produces this approach. And it’s not a hypothesis alone. Over the years, with over 40,000 individuals, the author’s Stanford Behavior Design Lab has studied, road-tested, and perfected this methodology. Let’s see what it works.
Second, you need to take your goals and break them down into manageable, bite-sized bits, such as winning a lifetime battle with obesity or saving enough for an early retirement. Sustainable change produces this approach. And it’s not a hypothesis alone. Over the years, with over 40,000 individuals, the author’s Stanford Behavior Design Lab has studied, road-tested, and perfected this methodology.
Start small if you want significant long-term improvement. By dismantling a popular myth, the Information-Action Fallacy, let’s start things off. This is the idea that they can change their perceptions and actions if you only give people the correct truth. Unfortunately, while it’s a neat idea, it doesn’t really hold water in the real world; mere facts are just not enough.
If you want substantial long-term enhancement, start small. Let’s start things off by dismantling a common theory, the Information-Action Fallacy. This is the principle that if you just give people the correct reality, they will alter their attitudes and behaviors. Unfortunately, while it’s a neat idea, in the real world, it doesn’t really hold water; mere facts just aren’t enough.
That leaves tiny habits so-called. These are tiny acts that, like flossing only one tooth, take less than a minute to complete. The premise is that starting small makes it simpler to complete the assignment. And the more often you do so, the better you feel. This produces a feedback loop that “wires into” new patterns over time. And most importantly, something you should start doing right now is a little habit.
Let’s talk about one of the tiny behaviors of the author, so you can get an idea of how they work in reality. He calls it the Maui Habit, where he first learned it, a reference to the Hawaiian island. He uses the same word every morning as he places his feet on the floor for the first time: “It’s going to be a great day.” And he attempts to summon up feelings of hope and positivity as he says this. This mantra has become an automatic response over time. “Even if he’s sure it’s going to be hard for the day ahead, he’ll still say, “It’s going to be a wonderful day—somehow.
It’s been a tiny but life-changing hack for him. Because the door to a good day is still mildly obnoxious, no matter how hard things get. You probably already know that you have to change your actions in order to change your life. What you may not know is that there are just a few variables that decide whether you’re going to succeed or not.
Human behavior is influenced by three main variables: motivation, ability, and prompts. Both habits are fairly similar when you really get down to it. They emerge from the same three causes, whether it is making coffee, showering, or brushing your teeth. Second, motivation is there, meaning the ability to do something. Second, there’s the opportunity to do that stuff, or your ability. There are prompts, thirdly, which are the triggers that lead you to do so. Now, let’s look at an example of how, in real life, these three variables work.
Activity becomes even more probable when all three variables coincide. Sure, inspiration alone often encourages people to do incredible things, such as mothers to raise cars to save their kids. But the motivation levels of people are usually not that high, which is why they will only take acts that are easily within their ability. And even that only occurs when a simple prompt is present.
Take a practice that many of us want to drop: first thing in the morning, updating our social media pages. We end up doing it because it puts into play these three factors. It’s fun for one, which is inspiring. Second, it’s simple, because the phone is in our hands already, after all. And last, why are they there? Since smartphones are alarms, too, which is what causes us to first pick them up.
All of this suggests that the simpler an action is, the more likely you are to do it. And this experience will help you make undesirable habits less possible and desirable habits more likely, as you will discover in the next couple of blinks.
Check out my related post: How to change your habits to live longer?