If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude. – Colin Powell
If you’re anything like me there are a lot of things you want to do.
From losing weight and getting fitter to developing your career and creating more options, there are more things to do than there are hours in the day in which to do them.
And something always seems to fall off because it’s too hard to make sure everything stays on track.
Which is why B.J Fogg’s book Tiny Habits seems worth a look.
The book is based on Dr Fogg’s research and experience at Stanford University, and he comes up with a simple model that you can use to install a new behaviour.
Let’s say you want to start exercising daily.
Deciding to go to the gym for an hour every day is a big ask – and you could start by doing that but the chances are that you’ll stop after a while, as you get bored and other priorities take over.
Fogg argues that you should instead start with the smallest possible, the tiniest possible behaviour that will meet the criteria for what you are trying to do.
For example, with exercise, deciding to do two pushups probably qualifies as a tiny habit.
Let’s say you decide to do two pushups – then you have to decide when you’re going to do them.
It helps if you create some kind of prompt – something that will remind you that you need to carry out this behaviour.
This is also called an anchor.
For example, you could do your tiny two pushup habit every time you go to the loo.
The action of going to the bathroom acts as a prompt – something that reminds you to do the behaviour you want to do.
And then Fogg suggests having a little celebration.
He shouts “Victory!” but that’s a little too expressive for some of us, and I might settle for a quiet self-congratulatory fist pump.
Now it’s easy to be sceptical of something like this without trying it, so the first step is to actually try it out.
Which is what I’m going to do with the exercise routine – but I probably have an example of where I’ve followed this model and it has worked, although I didn’t know about Fogg at the time.
A few years ago, in late 2016, I decided that I wanted to keep a blog.
But, I didn’t know what I wanted to write about, so I started by simply writing something in a text file every day.
It only needed to be three paragraphs or so – a sort of freewriting – with no expectations that it would turn into anything else.
After a few months of this, however, it started to become easier.
Later on, in 2017, going from freewriting to writing a blog post every day wasn’t that big a step.
Going from writing something to adding in a drawing didn’t seem too difficult.
Now, over 700 posts and 440,000 words later it’s probably fair to say that I’m starting to get the hang of this.
But it all did start with a tiny habit.
And I do let myself have a little celebration after I finish each post, although it involves watching a programme I like.
So, I’m going to give tiny habits a try for the next few years and we’ll see if it works when it comes to health as well.