Are Your Habits Helping You To Reach Your Goals?
Do you wake up early in the morning or do you sleep in late? Do you eat a healthy breakfast or do you grab a donut on the way to work? Do you concentrate and finish the report at work or do you chat with co-workers? Do you complete the online learning course or indulge in social media? Do you go for a walk after dinner or do you sink into the couch and watch TV? If you are like most people you have done both the desirable behaviors as well as the undesirable behaviors. Some days, we are almost perfect! On other days? Well, let’s just say we could be a lot better!
If you are like most people you have done both the desirable behaviors as well as the undesirable behaviors. Some days, we are almost perfect! On other days? Well, let’s just say we could be a lot better!
The Fogg Behavior Model:
What are the factors that determine whether we do or not do a specific behavior at any given time? According to Stanford researcher B J Fogg, https://www.bjfogg.com/ – our behavior at any given time is a result of three factors. All three factors have to be present at a given moment for the behavior to occur. It is very elegantly explained using a chart and a simple formula.
B = M + A + T
Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Triggers
The vertical axis of the graph is the motivation level at any given moment. When our motivation is high, it is possible for us to “hard” things or difficult behaviors. For example, if you are motivated you can wake up early and jog for an hour. On the other hand, when motivation level is low, you will rather press the snooze button and get some extra sleep.
The horizontal axis is our ability level. Hard or difficult behaviors require a very high level of motivation. However, when any behavior requires “low” ability (easy to do), we can do it even when the motivation level is low.
Triggers are cues or prompts that remind us to indulge in the specific behavior. For example, the alarm clock buzzing in the morning is a trigger for you to wake up and go for a jog.
In order for a person to perform a targeted behavior, he or she must be
1. Be sufficiently motivated
2. Have the ability to perform the behavior
3. Be triggered to perform the behavior
The Key to Triggering the Desirable Behavior:
On the graph, the green curve is the action line. Triggers succeed to initiate the desirable behavior above the green action line and fail below the action line. To initiate any specific behavior, we can increase the motivation. However, motivation is often unpredictable, unreliable and unsustainable. You cannot count on motivation to be present when the alarm goes off in the morning.
A better way is to indulge in behavior that requires “low” ability. When things are easy to do, we can pull them off even with a “low” motivation level. The bottom right end of the action line is an excellent place to start a new behavior and sustain it. B J Fogg calls this method “Tiny Habits”.
1. Decide on what behavior you want to start and turn into a habit. B J Fogg wanted to start flossing his teeth and form a habit.
2. Start so small that the behavior requires very “low” ability. Fogg decided that he will floss only one tooth immediately after brushing his teeth.
3. Find a cue that is part of your daily routine – some activity you do regularly even without having to think about it. This cue was brushing his teeth in the morning.
What is the advantage of this method? The motivation and the ability needed to perform this behavior are very low. As a result, this puts him above the action line where the trigger succeeded in behavior change. A very small behavior change of flossing a single tooth.
Doing this consistently will help form an automatic habit of flossing the tooth immediately after brushing. Fogg did this for a few days and added flossing another tooth to this routine. Eventually, he was flossing all his teeth every single time he brushed his teeth.
Tiny Habits Giant Results!
Fogg also applied the “Tiny Habits” method to start exercising – do push-ups. The process and the steps are the same – just applied to a different behavior.
1. Decide on what behavior you want to start and turn into a habit. B J Fogg wanted to start doing push-ups and form a habit.
2. Start so small that the behavior requires very “low” ability. Fogg decided that he will do a single push-up immediately after using the washroom.
3. Find a cue that is part of your daily routine – some activity you do regularly even without having to think about it. Fogg used his bathroom breaks during the day as a cue.
Fogg used the washroom a few times a day. It wasn’t very difficult to do one push-up after using the washroom. He also “celebrated” every time he completed the tiny habit. Over time as this became a habit and he added more push-ups after every bathroom visit. Soon enough, he was doing 60 pushups in a day!
Simple Template to Change Your Behavior:
You can apply the “tiny habits” method using this simple template.
After I ______________________(fill in your trigger-ideally part of your current routine),
I will _______________________( fill in your new “tiny” behavior).
Here are the filled templates for B J Fogg.
After I brush my teeth, I will floss one tooth.
After I use the washroom, I will do one pushup.
Every time you perform your “tiny habit” congratulate yourself and celebrate this small accomplishment. This increases your motivation and conditions your brain and to do this behavior again.
Great Ideas to Start Building Tiny Habits!
Here are some ideas for “tiny habits”
- After I turn off the alarm in the morning, I will stretch for 30 seconds.
- After I get dressed in the morning, I will text my dad.
- After I take shower, I will apply one drop of sunscreen.
- After I change into night clothes, I will read two lines from a book.
- After I turn my laptop on, I will meditate for 30 seconds.
- After I stop at a traffic light, I will take 2 deep breaths.
- After I see the commercial break on TV, I will do 2 push-ups.
These are just a few ideas, the possibilities for more triggers and tiny habits are infinite. Tiny habits eventually lead to big and sustainable changes.
Which tiny habits are you going to try? What are the triggers that you will use? Remember to celebrate every single time you perform a tiny habit. Share your thoughts, successes, and challenges in implementing tiny habits in your life – in the comments section.