BY MARY-ELIZABETH HARMON
Founding Mother, Chard & Stripes
PART 1: Making Over An Old Post
I loved my co-workers (mostly) but working at Greenpeace stopped working for me.
Like totally—as soon as I walked in the office, I was itching to get out.
But somehow, I devised a way to use that feeling as a force to stay hydrated, which I hadn’t been good about. My scheme was that I couldn’t go home until I’d finished a two-liter jug of water.
Highly motivated to leave the office, my jug was empty by lunch time on most days. But once I resigned from Greenpeace, I returned to my dehydrated ways.
Without HIGH motivation, BIG resolutions don’t work.
Tiny habits do better over time at changing our behavior than resolutions or will power.
One day while binge-watching YouTube, I saw a TEDx talk by a guy named BJ Fogg. His talk title about sums up his remarks: Forget big change, start with a tiny habit.
Fogg runs the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford, and his research on Persuasive Technology has informed the design of popular products, including Instagram. His former student, Tristan Harris, talks addictive and exploitative technology in The Social Dilemma on Netflix, but I’m getting off track…
Wanting to change his own behavior, BJ tweeted out his weight in a ploy to slim down. It didn’t work and his followers hated it. But by making a series of tiny habits, he lost almost 20 lbs.
Had I seen BJ’s talk before devising my (ultimately failed) plan to drink more water, I wouldn’t have committed to drinking two liters off the bat. By drinking less but consistently—thus making my task easier and needing less motivation or will power—I’d have stood a better chance at drinking more water over time…had I remembered to do it.
Tying tiny habits to a trigger helps us do them consistently:
After we do [existing habit], we’ll do [desired tiny habit], kind of thing.
To get started, pick something you do as frequently as you want to do your tiny habit.
Let’s say your goal is to do 10 squats twice a day. You brush your teeth twice a day (at least, I’ll presume), so setting up your tiny habit might look like this:
After I brush my teeth (existing habit), I will do two squats (tiny habit).
Two squats twice a day isn’t the goal, but it’s an easy place to start and make stick.
And BJ says you should celebrate accomplishing your tiny habit.
(He suggests a happy dance but thinking Yay! is more my thing.)
Then, over time, ramp up your tiny habit. I’m thinking something like making two squats, four. And when that sticks, making four squats, six. Then six squats, eight, then ten.
But BJ’s the guy to get advice from about that, and I discovered he’s distilled insights from his research and coaching 60,000+ people into a new book:
Its website says, “At the heart of this book is a startling truth:
Creating a happier, healthier life can be both easy and fun.”
By the time he gave the talk I watched, BJ had amassed over 20,000 tiny habits from various people. Here are some examples to inspire you to create your own.
After I step on the scale,
I will thank God for a new day.
After I start my morning coffee,
I will tidy one item in the living room.
After I start the dishwasher,
I will take my vitamin.
After I enter my house at the end of the day,
I will kiss my wife for 10 seconds.
After my head hits the pillow,
I will think of something I am grateful for.
PART 2: Making Over My Money Maker
Though my friend and I joked we’d get jobs dancing in bikinis if grad school became too much, the money maker I’m making over is my voice, not butt (which is holding pretty steady).
If you haven’t read my post “Honing your most money-making instrument,” you may want to do that so the rest of this makes sense. For everyone else, here’s where I fulfill my promise to tell you my mistake in trying to make a habit of reading out loud:
Despite knowing about tiny habits, I bit off too much at once.
Sistergirl (that would be be) launched into ten minutes of reading every day, instead of starting tiny and working up to the prescribed 20-30 minutes, 3X weekly.
So now, I’m course correcting with a 3X3 strategy:
Three minutes of reading out loud after I do my journaling on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Or actually, maybe not:
I just signed up for a Free 5-Day Program with BJ so I may devise a new strategy during that. The program starts every Monday and takes less than 35 minutes total.
Wanna join me?
Dr. Mary-Elizabeth Harmon is a scientist turned storyteller and Founding Mother of Chard & Stripes, a “school” of prosperity making and word-of-mouth marketing platform for businesses in food, fashion and more. Subscribe to her weekly newsletter here.