In a nutshell: Start with a tiny version of the desired new habit, anchor it right after an existing routine (e.g., “After I get in the car, I will take 3 deep breaths”), immediately celebrate it in some way to “wire in” the new habit with feel-good brain chemicals, and practice it (tweaking as needed) till it becomes automatic.
That’s a warp-speed overview of the Tiny Habits method created by Stanford University’s BJ Fogg, who has studied and coached tens of thousands of people with this simple, but powerful and effective method.
I’m a certified Tiny Habits coach and can help you with all aspects of this, by the way!
I’m talking about the magic of structure + flexibility, which is built in.
A lot of us can add in a new habit (e.g., green smoothies, exercise, early bedtime, etc.) for a few days or maybe a few weeks, but if it’s not inherently motivating, then we stop doing it. This is especially true if we try to make the new habit very ambitious (a big, abrupt change), insist on doing it perfectly, and beat ourselves up if we don’t.
So relying on structure alone and praying to the god of discipline usually doesn’t work for long.
We also know from experience that too much flexibility leads to too many decision points and almost inevitably, a default to the old way. And more self-judgment. To keep doing “the right thing” we depend on willpower and motivation, which are fickle at best.
We can combine both structure and flexibility, though, to get amazing results and the feeling of freedom that we truly want! Tiny Habits is all about this, and about making things easy so that they last.
Here’s an example. I had a client who wanted to get to yoga class, but never found the time. She tried to make herself go, but always ended up skipping the class for this or that reason. Weeks went by like this and she felt terrible.
So instead of trying to force her to go to class, we implemented a tiny habit to just do 2 sun salutations (a typical short yoga sequence) right after brushing her teeth at night, every night. She kept her mat out, right next to the bathroom, and it was easy for her to do these few yoga moves, in her pyjamas, right then and there!
The beautiful thing is that on any particular day, she could choose to do the minimum version (and celebrate it fully!) or, do some more. Some days she felt like spending 10 or 15 minutes on the mat. The point is, you have an automated tiny habit that you keep alive (a structure anchored into your day), that you appreciate and give yourself full credit for doing, and optionally, you can do more when you want (flexibility).
With Tiny Habits, you can do the tiny version even on bad days when you have very little time or energy. You keep the habit alive this way. Automation for the win! So let’s work with our human nature and not against it.
From there, the sky’s the limit! You always have options but you have a solid anchor to start from. This method makes it easy to get into a virtuous cycle. Do you have to be a little patient to do this? Yes. Will you finally get results that last? Most definitely.