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For lasting change, vow to adopt tiny habits

The new year is here, and it’s natural to think of how we can make a fresh start. Enter New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, researchers* have found resolutions often don’t stick.

The problem with most resolutions are that they’re too general. The top five for 2014 were:

  • Lose weight
  • Get organized
  • Spend less, save more
  • Enjoy life to the fullest
  • Stay fit and healthy.

You can probably see that without specific tactics, it’s hard to achieve these resolutions.

The numbers people at Statistic Brain reported that 2014 research from University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology, indicated that only 8% of people who make resolutions achieve them, 49% have infrequent success, and 24% fail each year.

Is there something you want to do better? A habit you want to add to your daily routine? Try adopting tiny habits, a program started by social scientist and part-time Stanford professor BJ Fogg. This is the thinking behind Fogg’s Tiny Habits program:

Instead of large, sweeping goals, consider how adopting small habits over time can result in lasting, automatic behavioral changes. The beauty of habits is that they are automatic and creating more automatic behaviors makes change effortless.

How does this matter to us as writers? Habits and routines are key to creating a successful writing practice. What if a series of tiny habits every day could lead to more efficiency and a better writing routine?

How Tiny Habits work
For starters, Fogg’s Tiny Habits method helps you practice the skill of creating new habits, which sets a foundation for lasting change.

Tiny habits are about adopting a behavior that’s linked to an existing habit — something you already always do. This existing habit is an “anchor” that triggers the new tiny behavior. Think about one thing you always do and then what makes sense to do right after it. For example, Fogg began a habit of flossing a tooth right after brushing.

Pick something you can accomplish in 30 seconds or less.
One of my tiny habits is to take my vitamins right after I put my breakfast dishes in the dishwasher. At first, when I wrote down this tiny habit, it was, “Take vitamins after breakfast.” I knew I wanted to take the vitamins with food. But eating breakfast isn’t a strong enough anchor. The act of putting my cereal bowl in the dishwasher is more specific.

Consider how you need to change the environment around you to achieve your tiny habit. You may need to rearrange the space you live and work in to make it easy to adopt your new habit. For me, I need to have my vitamins ready in the kitchen.

Celebrate your tiny habits victory. This is a key step, Fogg says. Saying to yourself, “Yay me!” or “I’m awesome,” combined with a fist pump or a thumbs up, will solidify your victory and wire your brain for success. See more ways to celebrate success on Fogg’s website.

Rehearse your tiny habit. When he’s preparing to adopt a new tiny habit, Fogg likes to mentally or physically rehearse the existing anchor then the new behavior 5 to 8 times, quickly. He also includes the victory celebration.

Once you create several tiny habits, you can add more, Fogg says. Pick ordinary behaviors to be your tiny habits. This practice of establishing tiny habits sets you up for achieving bigger habits and changes in your life.

Start by signing up for the free program
Fogg has a free five-day program to help you adopt tiny habits. Sign up at his Tiny Habits website. He starts a new session each Monday and the next session is Jan. 5-9. Sign up by Friday, Jan. 2 to be included in the next one.

Making large sweeping changes isn’t realistic for most people, but automatic habits stick and can create big progress over time. What do you want to change in your life?

*“New Year’s Resolution Statistics – Statistic Brain.”
2014 Statistic Brain Research Institute, publishing as Statistic Brain.


3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Love this idea of tiny changes, Carol! Have you ever seen this article about the Team Sky cycling team changing 1 per cent of what they did to win? It’s great. Hope all’s well with life after Goddard.

    January 8, 2015
    • Thanks for your comment Karen! This is a fascinating article you mentioned about the power of small changes reaping big rewards. Very inspiring!

      January 9, 2015

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