Tiny Habits Summary
One Paragraph Summary Tiny habits will show you how you can bring lasting, positive change to your life with an innovative life-hack that does not require extraordinary willpower.
Tiny Habits—The Small Changes That Change Everything
A book by BJ Fogg
By writing this book summary, I learned the following three things:
- A list of powerful Tiny Habits
- Action anchors do work
- Willpower is overrated
Simplicity is what reliably changes behavior.—B.J. Fogg
Why is it so challenging to bring lasting change into our lives? Why does it seem nearly impossible to stick to one's new year's resolution?
According to BJ Fogg, a behavioral analyst, we simply take on too much at a time. Take, for example, new year resolutions. We promise ourselves that we will start to work out every day, that we will eat healthier, and that we will get more sleep.
And in January you probably will go to the gym several times, you will eat healthier, and you will make sure to go to bed early. You are motivated, and you can bring up enough willpower to get started with all your lifestyle changes.
But when your motivation recedes to normal levels, your willpower is depleted, and when life gets in the way, you will have no time to go to the gym or cook a healthy meal. For short, you will find yourself being back on square one.
The problem is that you tried to take on too much at once. It is better to bring small changes in your life which do not demand extraordinary willpower or motivation.
Here is the good news; your willpower is not the problem that lets you fail to bring positive change into your life, nor is your motivation. You just used the wrong approach. Changing your behavior can be effortless when you use the right approach.
There are only two steps needed to follow this new path:
- stop blaming yourself
- breaking down your bigger goal into bite-sized chunks
In the past, you probably tried to bring significant changes to your life and promised yourself that you would muster enough willpower and motivation this time to make it a reality.
After a while, when your willpower had been depleted, you blamed yourself for the failure.
The better approach to bring lasting change into your daily routine is to use a new methodology: tiny habits. The author has tested this method in his Stanford-based Behavior Design Lab.
Most often we think, just tell me what I need to do and I will do it. In theory, this sounds good, but it will probably not produce the desired outcome. The belief that information alone can bring change is known as the Information-Action-Fallacy.
The simple fact that you know something will not guarantee that you take action consistently. So what will?
The author's research shows that epiphanies, environmental changes, and tiny tweaks to existing habits can result in behavioral change.
You cannot decide to have an epiphany, so it will be hard to use epiphanies to bring new habits to your life.
Environmental changes can support the forming of new, positive habits. But, changing the environment can be hard to nearly impossible. You cannot force all people around you to practice yoga because you want to make yoga your new habit.
Only tiny tweaks to your existing routines or tiny Habits, as the author calls them, can bring lasting change to your life.
Tiny habits are small actions that take less than a minute to complete. Flossing just one tooth, making three pushups, or putting on your running shoes are all examples for small actions you can take to support your bigger goals.
The reasoning behind tiny habits is that you want to bring positive feedback loops into your life that will support your long-term goals and which will result in newly formed habits.
There are three things that one needs to address to change one's behavior: motivation—the desire to do something ability—your capacity to do something prompts—a stimulus that triggers some action
Take your behavior to check your social media accounts. You enjoy reading the messages from your friends and family; therefore, it is motivating. Browsing your social media stream is easy, and you have the ability because your smartphone is always with you. The notifications you get on your phone are the prompts that trigger the action.
You can use this knowledge about motivation, ability, and prompts to break existing bad habits or to form new positive ones.
We overestimate the power of motivation. Motivation is useful if you need to do one-off feats. For example, the motivation you have on New Year's Eve while making your resolution will result in signing the gym membership, but it will not guarantee that you will go to the gym once a week over the next 12 months.
Motivation is not enough to bring a sustained change, like going to the gym regularly. It is suitable for doing hard things once, like attending your first Toastmasters meeting.
Sustained change, on the other hand, is not supported by your motivation. Losing ten percent of body fat cannot be done with motivation alone.
Your aspiration is telling you what you want to achieve; it is not telling you how to get there. A change in behavior will get you to the desired outcome.
We all know that changing our behavior is hard. Several factors contribute to this:
- your schedule
- physical capacity
- mental energy
Imagine that you have the long-term goal to become more fit. You decide to make twenty pushups every day to reach that goal. Have you ever tried to implement a similar exercise routine? Did you succeed? Are you still following that routine today? Probably not.
To make a change last, we need to consider the above-listed factors.
Time should be no problem, as you can make twenty pushups reasonably quickly. The schedule shouldn't be a problem as it does not matter when you do your new exercise. Pushups are free and do not require a gym membership; therefore, money isn't an issue at all. But physical capacity can be a problem, depending on your current fitness level. And the mental energy is a problem that will hinder you in doing it permanently.
So what shall we do with our planned exercise regimen then?
You can address the problem of physical capacity quickly by finding an exercise that is easier to do but still supports your long-term vision. You can replace the twenty pushups with five wall pushups. This more comfortable routine will also reduce the barrier of mental energy.
To find a smaller, better routine, you can think of the minimum effective dose. What is the smallest thing you can do, which still supports the change you want to see in your daily life?
Once this new routine is part of your daily life, you can increase the difficulty of the exercise by enhancing the repetitions. When you master twenty wall pushups, change the practice, and do three regular pushups instead. Well, you get the idea.
Having found which new routine we want to follow leaves us with the last problem we need to tackle. How can we ensure to take that action consistently?
Throughout the day, we carry out many actions unconsciously. Most of these existing habits get triggered by prompts that surround us.
There are three types of prompts: contextual prompts, person prompts, and action prompts.
A contextual prompt is a prompt in your environment.
A person prompt is something inside you triggering a particular behavior. For example, the pressure in your bladder will trigger the action to visit the bathroom.
Action prompts are habits you are already performing consistently. Brushing your teeth or making your bed first thing in the morning can be such habits.
Now, when you have the habit of brushing your teeth before going to sleep, you can design a prompt to floss one tooth before you brush your teeth to start the new pattern of flossing your teeth.
Action prompts work reliably because you already have a habit you can build upon, which you do day in and day out. In his book, Atomic Habits the author, James Clear, calls this method habit stacking.
You have to be careful when you design your new prompts. Not all habits can be combined equally. When you create your new action prompt, you should consider the location, the frequency, and the theme of each practice.
Locations of the current behavior and the new habit should match.
Frequencies of the current habit and the new routine should match as well.
The underlying theme of two habits you want to combine should match as well. For example, when you brush your teeth, the underlying theme is care; if you water your plants in the bathroom, the theme is also care; therefore, these two actions fit well together.
We become what we repeatedly do.―Stephen Covey
Here is a list of tiny habits that I want to introduce to my life:
- Daily journaling
- Working out for five-minutes
- Meditating for five minutes
- Setting a reminder when I make a promise
- Eating raw food with every meal
- Stretching every hour, on the hour
- Keeping a personal mantra
- Doing a 5-minute daily review after my work
- Responding to all invitations with I'll check my calendar
- Writing one thank-you note to someone close to me
- Waiting three seconds before I give an answer
A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit.―Erasmus
In the past couple of years, I read quite a few books on habits. Therefore I already experimented a lot with introducing new practices into my life. The most important thing I found out is that action anchors do work.
Whenever I tried to train myself to adopt a new habit in isolation, that means without anchoring it to another existing practice, the experiment failed.
But when I linked a new habit to an existing routine, it worked because I did not forget to perform the desired action.
For example, two years ago, I decided to drink one big glass of water every morning. I linked this habit to my existing habit of washing my face first thing after getting up. In the last two years, I did not skip a single day.
The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.―Samuel Johnson
Some say that you can train your willpower like a muscle. When you use it often, it will grow.
Others say that willpower is like a glass of water. You have a certain amount of it when you get up in the morning. And when it is empty, it only can be refilled by sleep.
I think both statements carry some truth. You can train your willpower to a certain degree, but a muscle cannot grow endlessly.
The best thing is when you can change without needing extraordinary willpower. With tiny habits, this seems to be possible.
BJ Fogg is a behavioral analyst that shows us how we can bring long-lasting change to our life. Forming or breaking new habits is not about how much willpower you can muster, but which approach you follow to reach your long-term goals.
By analyzing your big aspirations, you can find which simple and easy changes in your behavior will support that long-term goal you have.
Implementing those tiny habits can be tranquil when you design the right prompts and link them to existing routines in your life.
- Start with small changes, that support your bigger goal
- Do not deplete your willpower
- Stop to blame yourself, your missing willpower, or motivation when change is not permanent
- Break down your bigger goal into bite-sized chunks you can handle and stick to
- Use tiny habits to bring significant changes to your life
- When you want to break a bad habit make it more difficult
- When you want to start a new practice make it easy
- Do not focus on your aspiration, focus on how you can bring it about
- If you know how to get to your desired outcome, find changes that will support that goal
- Make new habits easy to adopt
- Respect factors like time, schedule, money, physical capacity, and mental energy when designing new tiny habits
- Combine habits that have the same location, frequency, and theme
- Use an existing practice as the action prompt for a new routine
- Design prompts to trigger desired behaviors
- Start small when you want long-term change
Read more about BJ Fogg on his.