We’ve all heard it: New Year, New You. We’ve done everything we’re
“supposed” to do: joined a gym, cleared the fridge, sharpened our pencils, upgraded our software, and installed that zen-like Meditation app on our phone.
Here’s the problem: most habits don’t have the sticking power to see you through 2017. You might start to break them before you even make them—and throw in the towel before you’ve even brought it to the gym. Maybe that’s because you (secretly) don’t like the treadmill; or you start to fidget when you’re told to “relax”; or a salad with dressing on the side just doesn’t fill you up. Understandably, willpower erodes quickly.
A new approach to change called the Fogg Method reboots the self-inflicted “torture” – think of any diet regimen, abandoned painting project, or dust-gathering gym pass – that inevitably crumbles, backfires, and drains our resources. The psychologist behind the method, B.J. Fogg, lists three steps to focus on training your brain to succeed at small adjustments, celebrate small victories, and draw confidence from them to create momentum and rewrite the “scripts” from inevitable failure to resounding success.
- Identify your outcome. Do you want to feel more energetic, less stressed, more focused, less rushed? Do you want to lose 10 percent of your bodyweight, score that promotion, or pull yourself out of debt? And how will that change make you feel? Grounding resolve in our feelings clarifies our decisions, our goals, and our actions.
- Identify the “tiny habits” that will help us, incrementally, approach our goals. It’s not necessarily working out at the gym; maybe it’s walking with a friend. Instead of working longer hours, maybe it’s working smarter – requesting that faster computer or second monitor, for example. If meditation makes you antsy, lunch with a friend or cuddling your pet might relax you more. And that’s okay.
- Find a trigger – a pre-existing habit – and graft the new habit onto it, in a diluted version that requires little motivation. Examples: putting an apple on the counter when you make coffee, doing one push-up after using the bathroom, flossing one tooth after brushing them all, tossing one piece of garbage from your car each time you park, or lacing your sneakers after washing the dishes. You don’t have to actually eat the apple, crank out calisthenics, floss all your teeth, vacuum your vinyl seats, or head out to jog—yet. This will come in good time. In the meantime, as the Fogg online health coach phrases it, “You’re rewriting your identity as someone who succeeds.” Small victories aggregate into large changes. To join Tiny Habits, visit tinyhabits.com.