December 12, 2013 3 Comments
I was browsing Gwyneth Paltrow’s website, goop, a few nights before Thanksgiving. I really like her style and there were quite a few articles I enjoyed. Well, one of them was all about making and breaking habits. It caught my eye right away because I have been having a
bazillion few thoughts about habits lately. I figured it might be possible to clear out some of the mental clutter that had accumulated. I was happy to see helpful, practical tips instead of what most articles about habits have (general, non-helpful advice). After reading all the way through, the wheels in my head were turning (more than normal!) and then I saw a small section at the bottom about something called Tiny Habits.
Now, in the author’s brief explanation of the program, I found that it was a concept designed by a Stanford University professor named BJ Fogg. Basically, it was a five-day (M-F) series that I could sign up for to form three new tiny habits. I would have email correspondence during those five days, and I would learn about habit-making in the process. Sounded interesting. “How much does it cost?” is what I wanted to know next.
Nothing! Isn’t this kind of self-help thing usually expensive? For some reason, not this time. Maybe because he advertises it as learning about habit-making, not self-help.So, I signed up for the following week and started thinking about which three habits to choose.
The criteria for a “tiny” habit are as follows:
- it must be able to be done in 30 seconds or less
- it mustn’t be something you’ve always wanted to do (no emotional baggage)
- it must be easy, not causing any pain
He gives a nice list of possibilities, if you have a hard time coming up with your own.
The key to forming the tiny habits (and, ultimately, other new habits) is choosing already-existing habits to be your anchors. You choose any behavior you do at least once a day (M-F) and then add a new behavior on right afterward.
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I started the week with three tiny habits that I liked pretty well. They were behaviors that I thought would be beneficial, but not things I’d ever been meaning to get around to doing. Here are the habits I chose:
- After I drink my first sip of coffee, I will read a Bible verse.
- After I go to the bathroom, I will do three stretches.
- After I get in bed, I will think of one thing my husband did that made me happy that day.
Notice the pattern? After I __, I will __. That is the format by which new habits are formed in Dr. Fogg’s program.
I found that the first two days were super easy. I was thinking about habits a lot and I was focused on learning about how they work. By Wednesday, I was remembering to do them before the anchor behavior, but sometimes forgetting to actually do the new habit right away afterwards. :/ On Thursday, I was feeling quite confused. I wanted the habits to be set in stone, but they weren’t. The Tiny Habits coach, whom I was emailing back and forth, said I needed more positive reinforcement after doing the new habits. I was struggling with this aspect of the program; I couldn’t find it in me to cheer for myself after stretching or reading a Bible verse. It was unnatural and I wasn’t really “proud” of myself, so it didn’t work. However…
I had started doing a new “habit” in the same week, that I wasn’t doing it as part of the program. My toes get stiff feeling after a week or so, and using toe separators (you know, the ones you use when painting your toe nails?) to space them out really helps. So, I started separating my toes at night and sleeping with them like that for a little while (before kicking them off). Well, that behavior ended up being the thing that taught me about habits!
I didn’t forget to it any of the nights, nor did I have to think about it much. I would be just about to get in bed and then I’d see the toe separators on a shelf next to my bed and it would trigger the memory. I think, for me, the behavior DOES have to mean something, and it has to be something with a physical reminder that I can see.
I learned a lot about how my mind works and how habits are made, so I’m really glad I did the program. While choosing little behaviors that were insignificant didn’t help me, the process did help! I will soon be replacing some old habits with new ones, and I know I will be using what I’ve learned recently in that process.
You can do Tiny Habits too! Register any Friday for the following week (and confirm by Sunday). You can choose to have a coach email you or you can opt to have automated emails. Find out more here.