I don’t quite remember how I stumbled upon the Tiny Habits System by Dr B J Foggs of Stanford. Perhaps it was during the mindless clicking around on FB that I do after having read fitness and tech articles (and resolving for the 129th time that I am going to eat clean, exercise and start working on data analytics).
We are not even settled in 2017 and more than 92% people in the world have already dropped their new year resolutions (most not for the first time). Is it not all about making resolutions and motivation and self-helping ourselves to our lofty goals? Unless you have been living in a cave, you have doubtlessly heard that greatness is achieved by forming and sticking to habits. It is not genius but habits. Habits is what made Benjamin Franklin, Mahatma Gandhi, and others so awesome at what they did. Stephen Covey wrote on the 7 habits of highly effective people.
If you think carefully most of these exhortations like “get up early”, “stay focused”, “never take your eyes off your competition” are useless because they are stuff you already know and yet don’t know how exactly to go about mastering. There is no algorithm, no flowchart, no methodology. Just large behaviors and empty promises. No wonder you are struggling to take a daily bath, not being able to brush your teeth or finish drinking 4 liter of water daily! So much for forming habits to achieve greatness!
It was at this juncture of my life that I joined the Tiny Habits system. Dr Fogg says that there are only 3 ways to form a new habit
1. Have an epiphany
2. Change your environment
3. Take baby steps
Having an epiphany is ruled out by Dr Fogg (he has no mystical powers). I have had epiphanies in the past (I do have mystical powers!) but they do not have broad applications. Changing your environment (new home, new job, new partner or new city) can be expensive and never lasts beyond a few days. Sigh! This leaves us with taking baby steps towards our goal. For example, instead of doing 20 pushups every day, start with just 2. Instead of writing the novel/book/poem/script, write just 2 lines . Do something eenie meenie teenie ridiculously babyish which lasts less than 30 seconds and is trivially done. Sounds easy? Good.
The second wisdom offered as the result of over 20 years of research at Stanford is that you need to do it AFTER an existing habit. This becomes your anchor. Something which you already do daily without fail every day will become the anchor for launching your next habit. The anchor has to be chosen carefully and it is very critical that you do your next habit after the anchor, not before it.
Finally, you do a mini celebration after you have done this new tiny habit. Like say, “I am awesome”, or “Victory, Yay!” or pat yourself on the back (if you are flexible enough). This is positive reinforcement. I know it sounds silly but please bear with Dr Fogg. He knows his stuff.
The program provides detailed explanation for which habits to chose, how to chose your anchor, a list of examples, Dr Fogg’s own new tiny habits (one of them is hilariously funny) and common pitfalls. You have to respond to an email every day. This goes on for a week.
My experience with Tiny Habits System
Here are the 3 tiny habits that I chose:
1. After I wake up, I will do child pose and cobra pose
2. After I wash my hands, I will do alternate nostril breathing for 1 round
3. After I log out of FB, I will write a blog topic
The first tiny habit takes me 20 seconds as I am pretty good with stretching my body (although I am far from being Yogi level flexible). My idea is to eventually increase it to doing full 30 minutes of Yoga every morning.
The second habit is related to my practice in doing breathing exercises Pranayama and Sudarshan Kriya (which I have not been regular with of late and want to restart).
The third habit, of course, is about blogacious.com 🙂
However, I chose it after a nasty habit (addiction?) which I am not very proud of.
Here y means I did that habit and n means I did’t do it at least once (note that 2 of my habits are anchored multiple times in a day). So I did forget a few times, especially when I was washing my hands in a different location, I remembered it later and then did it while walking on the road! Shouting “victory” and “I am awesome” was slightly tricky 🙂
The most surprising is my result with the third habit anchored after logging out of FB. I never forgot it and ended up reducing time wasted on FB (I became conscious) and ended up writing scores of blogging topics for my clients and myself. Victory! I am awesome!
I am still in the hugely supportive FB group of Tiny Habits and want to increase my tiny habits to full fledged regular habits. Not to mention, I have started brushing my teeth and bathing my body daily! Will I eventually transform my life and give a TED talk one day and thanks the Tiny Habits system? Let us wait and see 🙂
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