Everyone I talk to is trying to either form a new habit or stop a bad one.
They eat unhealthy and want to work out more.
They want to watch less TV and read more.
They want to spend more time with their spouse or family.
Maybe “everyone” is an exaggeration, but it’s a slight one.
But there is so much competing advice out there on the best way. 30 days… 66 days… complex methods.
But there is one person I trust over all others and he happens to approach it very simply.
That guy is BJ Fogg. BJ is a behavioral scientist at Stanford who created the Fogg Behavioral Model in 2007. Over that time he has tested his findings on over 20,000 people, meaning he knows what he’s talking about.
As a result of that research, he wrote the book Tiny Habits, in which he lays out the formula for habit formation.
The Fogg Behavioral Model is simplified into this:
Behavior (B) happens when Motivation (M), Ability (A), and a Prompt (P) come together at the same moment.
- Motivation: your desire to do the behavior
- Ability: your capacity to do the behavior
- Prompt: your cue to do the behavior
To establish a new behavior (habit) you need to pull one of these levers.
To help you think about it simply:
- Higher motivation makes the behavior more likely
- Making something easier to do makes it more likely it’ll get done
- No behavior happens without a prompt
- All three have to align for the action to happen (see the picture)
So, how does this translate to creating a new habit?
To put it in its simplest form:
- Choose the behavior
- Make it tiny
- Make it natural
- Nurture it until it grows
Choose the behavior
It seems everyone has something they want to change.
Think about what you want to change and identify one specific behavior you’d like to make a habit.
Let’s say I want to floss every day.
Make it tiny
Now, thinking back to B=MAP, we want to make it small enough that it can be done easily, even when motivation is low.
It should take less than 30 seconds.
Instead of flossing all your teeth, make the bar one tooth.
Make it natural
Now, insert the habit into a routine you already have.
Because flossing goes with brushing your teeth, insert the flossing habit after you finish brushing.
Using the following statement to help: “After I _______, I will ________.”
The prompt has to be clear.
After I set down my toothbrush, I will pick up the floss.
The real power comes in creating habit sequences.
Use arriving at work as an example:
After I enter work, I will put my phone on DND
After I set down my bag, I will pick one task to do for 45 minutes
After I pick the task, I will set my timer
After I set my timer, I’ll put on headphones to signal to others I’m busy
After my timer goes off, I will take a break
Nurture it until it grows
Once you’ve done the habit, it’s important you create positive emotion.
Find a way to celebrate the win.
Examples would be saying “Yes!”, smiling, or a fist bump.
“Emotions create habits. Not repetition. Not frequency. Not fairy dust. Emotions.” – BJ Fogg
Remember to keep it simple, give yourself grace, and embrace failure as a way to grow.
“When it comes to habit formation, simplicity wins.” – BJ Fogg
Attacking bad habits
We can also reverse this to attack bad habits.
“This isn’t always easy, but removing the prompt is your best first move to stop a behavior from happening.” – BJ Fogg
We’ll dive into this more at a later date.
I released a podcast this week that deep dives even further into the book, Tiny Habits.
You can listen to it by clicking here.
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