Building Tiny Habits to Make Big Changes

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Jordan Harbinger #306

In this podcast, Jordan talks to BJ Fogg, the founder and director of the Stanford Behavior Design Lab, and author of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything.

I first listened to this episode back in February 2020, and was immediately struck by how simple the idea seemed. It reminded me of the practice of building positive habit loops. Arguably they are similar conjoining theories. 

Anchoring Positive Behaviour Patterns

BJ Fogg says that behaviour is a system. There are systematic ways to understand it, and systematic methods to design for it. Those methods are:

  • Self prompting; this is not particularly reliable as you are the person in control of the prompt and the action. Which means without your own prompt, you will not fulfil the action
  • Environment Prompting; where you put a post-it note, or set an alarm, or ask another person to remind you to do something.
  • Anchoring; this is the Tiny Habits method. Where you use your existing routine to be the prompt to anchor a positive habit.

Examples used in the podcast are; flossing reminds you to brush your teeth. Or starting your coffee maker in the morning reminds you to stretch.

You are not relying on notes or memory. You are designing Tiny Habits into your routine, by attaching a new habit to something you already do in your everyday life. 

Once you have a solid anchor, you can use that to develop different positive habits. It’s important to stay flexible in your habits and evolve them over time to match what you want and what your life needs. But finding those anchors are key to change.

It reminded me of things I had implemented over the years. Small changes attached to an everyday routine which compounds to bring great results.

My Anchoring Habits

  • First intrepid Steps: When I began my new journey of health discovery, the first thing I implemented was a simple morning tonic to kick off my day. I anchored this to switching the kettle on which I did every morning anyway.
  • Squatting in a lift: Every time I am alone in a lift, I practise a deep squat.
  • Single pull-ups: Each time I walk under the bar at home, I do one single pull-up.
  • Office push-ups: Every time I walk into my office, I do 5 push-ups.
  • Stretching while watching TV: Every time I watch TV, I do not sit on the sofa. But instead sit on yoga blocks or the floor to stretch or mobilise myself.

Tiny Habits Instead of Doom Scrolling

There are many types of tiny habits you can anchor to everyday routines. This very much depends on your own circumstances.

So you need to consider the things you do every day and what you can apply where.

One thing to consider is replacing random social media scrolling, with a positive Tiny Habit. Your doom scrolling has become embedded as a tiny habit. But this is a negative habit which brings you nothing.

So remove that negative anchor, and replace it with a positive one. Something which can compound over time to bring you greater rewards. Such as, reading a book, learning a language, or listening to a podcast.

Positive habits build on top of positive habits and become easier to apply as time goes on. It is very easy to get into negative habits, and somehow we just accept these as part of life.

But they do not need to be. They can be easily replaced by applying the practices and theories discussed in this podcast.

Listen and learn about:

  • The main reasons we fail at behaviour change, even when we rationally know the long term benefits heavily outweigh any short term discomforts.
  • The B=MAP Fogg Behavior Model that can be applied universally to understanding (and correcting) every type of behaviour there is.
  • How starter steps and tiny habits work as effective ways to “trick” our change-resistant human brains into radical behaviour change.
  • Why BJ prefers the term “untangling” rather than “breaking” in reference to habits we want to discontinue.
  • Why repetition is often repeated as being the catalyst for creating habits. Why this tidbit of popular misinformation is wrong, and what is a better catalyst to use.
  • And, as always, much much more……….

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