Tiny Habits

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I went through most of my twenties without seeing a dentist. I had never had any issues with my teeth and I got super complacent. It wasn’t until I had my daughter that I started feeling like I’d better be a good role model for health stuff. I made my return to the dentist’s office.

It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great. I had to undertake a kind of oral health rehabilitation plan (my description, not theirs) including my first ever fillings and regular appointments with the hygienist. Not heaps of fun. From that point on I started flossing obsessively.

According to BJ Fogg there are three ways to initiate behaviour change. An epiphany like my dental reckoning, which is something that you can’t contrive or create. Redesigning your environment or context which can be very effective but not always practical to achieve. And by forming tiny habits.

There are a couple of podcast episodes you can listen to with BJ Fogg as a guest. There’s some decent content in this one but also a lot of ads and stuff so I’d skip to around the 10 minute mark.

This one’s also interesting

It’s the New Year so I’m betting that many of you are thinking about your own behaviours right now. And if you’re in the business of caring then its likely that you also deal with behaviour change of others in some way. Whether it be talking with someone about their eating habits, remembering to take medicines, quitting smoking, or even keeping the house tidy, there are so many behaviours that impact people’s health and well-being. And of course, our own behaviours impact are own self-efficacy as well.

What BJ Fogg does with behaviour change is similar to James Clear and Atomic Habits. Both of them make behaviour change manageable by breaking it down into practical components and focusing on building positive, reinforcing psychology around the habits you want to create. And you start by making the habits tiny.

Fogg argues that behaviour is a function of motivation, ability and trigger. He suggests that you should design habits based on the assumption that motivation will be low. Because motivation is not constant, it ebbs and flows. So one of the most effective approaches to building a habit is to make it easy to do. Assume your motivation will be low and set the bar low. Very low. Celebrate your successes every time you do it and if you don’t just ignore it, don’t punish yourself or make it a big deal.

The main idea is that you’re trying to build positive connections in your brain associated with the behaviour you’re trying to adopt. Over time, this changes the way you feel about that behaviour, and how you feel about doing it which creates a positive shift in how you feel about yourself.

An example he uses is doing one push up after visiting the bathroom (or squat if he’s in a public facility), anchoring a habit you’re trying to create (exercising more) to one that you’ve already formed (going to the toilet) creating a trigger for action. You might be thinking “what’s one push up going to do?”, well that’s not the point. So if you’re thinking that, listen to one of the podcast episodes and learn more about it.

Another interesting read about this from the Journal of Health Design

And James Clear’s newsletter from this week

Improvements are only temporary until they become part of who you are.
-The goal is not to read a book, the goal is to become a reader.
-The goal is not to run a marathon, the goal is to become a runner.
-The goal is not to learn an instrument, the goal is to become a musician.
This year, focus on the identity you want to build.