Tiny Habits Summary: If you want to read the condensed version of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything by BJ Fogg, PhD, you will find this summary useful. I have written it chapter by chapter.
Click the link if you want to read more about the author who is a behavior scientist.
Who is This Book For? If you want to form new habits, remove old unwanted habits, or want to learn and use a new approach to change your behaviors and habits, I recommend you read this book.
What you will learn in this book: BJ Fogg shares his Behavior Design model, which is “a comprehensive system for thinking clearly about human behavior and for designing simple ways to transform your life.”
It is a system for change. You will be able to design new habits that will lead you to have a more harmonious, healthy and meaningful life. It will positively affect everyone around you. With the knowledge you gain, you will be able to defend yourself against undermining influences.
He provides three exercises, in easy tiny steps, at the end of each chapter so that you can start practicing the lessons you have learned immediately.
Introduction – Change Can Be Easy (and Fun)
BJ Fogg says that most people blamed themselves when they failed each time they attempted to change. They concluded that they failed because change is hard, that they were not motivated, or there is something wrong with them.
The actual reason why they failed: they used the wrong approach.
“Building habits and creating positive change can be easy—if you have the right approach. A system based on how human psychology really works.”
His research and experience show that you got to do three things to create successful habits and change your behavior.
1.Stop judging yourself
2. Break you goal down into tiny behaviors
3. Accept mistakes as discoveries and use them to move forward
When you blame yourself, you will feel bad. This is why the common approach doesn’t work.
“With Tiny Habits you change best by feeling good—not by feeling bad.”
He tested the process to change behavior by experimenting on himself first. He analyzed things when it didn’t work. He practiced to change his weakness into strength. Six months after he started, he has built dozens of tiny new habits which has transformed his life.
He has tested more than 40,000 people during the years of his research and refinement and is confident that his method works.
To create lasting change, you do three things:
1. Have an epiphany, which means having a moment of sudden and great revelation or realization.
2. Change your environment
3. Change your habits in tiny ways
The first one is difficult and most likely impossible. The other two options will work if you follow the right program. And the best place to start is to create tiny habits because it will lead to bigger ones.
Reasons why it is best to start small:
It is fast. You may feel that you never have enough time to make changes. With tiny habits, you can do each small action in less than 30 seconds. The author suggests that you start with three very small behaviors.
You can start now, regardless of whatever situation you are in. He suggests you start doing this one simple new habit which you can start immediately and do it every morning. He calls it the Maui Habit.
Starting small is safe because no one will sabotage you, which reduces the pressure on you. And because the behaviors are small, there is no emotional risk and no real failure.
It can grow big. He says, “Over the last twenty years, I’ve found that the only consistent, sustainable way to grow big is to start small.”
Even though a tiny action looks insignificant at first, you will gain incremental progress. You build momentum to meet bigger challenges and speed up your progress.
You don’t have to rely on motivation or willpower, which are unreliable. Because the changes are tiny, they are easy to do.
Tiny is transformative and life-changing. With the tiny habits method you celebrate the successes each time you take deliberate action. It cues your mind that you are feeling successful, which helps it wire in new habits. And it motivates you to do more.
The Anatomy of Tiny Habits
Anchor – it is the trigger to remind you to do the new behavior
New behavior – it is the simplest and tiniest action of the habit you want to build.
Instant celebration – you do something immediately after you do the new behavior to create positive emotions. It can be something such as saying, “I did a good job.”
Chapter 1 – The Elements of Behavior
Using the Fogg Behavior Model, you can deal with any behavior change and challenge, which helps you avoid feeling stuck. It also enables you to be the person you want to be.
“A behavior happens when the three elements of MAP—Motivation, Ability, and Prompt—come together at the same moment. Motivation is your desire to do the behavior. Ability is your capacity to do the behavior. And Prompt is your cue to do the behavior.”
If one of the three elements is not present, you would not do the behavior.
Both bad and good behaviors are built using the same model. But those two don’t feel, look, and act the same. On top of that, each person’s MAP is different in any given situation.
When you want to change a behavior, you need to adjust the components of the MAP; motivation, ability, or prompt. You need to find out yourself which combination works best for you.
When your motivation is high but you have no ability, you will feel frustrated when you are prompted. If you have the ability but don’t have the motivation, you won’t do the behavior even with a prompt. It will annoy you instead.
When your motivation is high, you are more likely to do a behavior. And when your motivation is high and you are prompted, you will also do difficult things.
But when your motivation is at an average level, you will only do a behavior that is easy.
You will more likely do a behavior when it is easy to do; both the good and the bad.
Motivation and ability work together. If one is low, the other needs to be high for you to do the behavior. So, if you can’t change motivation, change ability and prompt.
No prompt, no behavior. Without a prompt, your level of motivation and ability don’t matter. Prompts are vital to behavior.
To disrupt a behavior you don’t want to do, remove the prompt. This should be the best first move to stop a behavior from happening.
Three Steps for Troubleshooting a Behavior
You don’t start with motivation when you troubleshoot your behavior or that of others. You first check if there is a prompt to do the behavior. Next, you see if the ability to do the behavior is present. And then you find out if there is motivation to do the behavior.
Only when the presence of a prompt doesn’t work, do you check if there is ability. If both prompt and ability are present but yet you or someone else won’t do the behavior, it is a motivation issue. When this happens, focus of finding a way to get motivated.
When you use the above process to troubleshoot a behavior, you will stop blaming yourself when you don’t do a behavior. Instead, you will look if a prompt was missing.
When you don’t do a behavior, it is usually not a motivation issue. By finding a good prompt for the behavior, you make the behavior easy to do.
The author suggests that you see the world through the behavior model lens because it is fun. And it enables you to “break things down along the lines of motivation, ability, and prompt so you can identify what’s driving your own behavior—or anyone else’s.”
Chapter 2 – Focus on Matching
Motivation is unreliable when it comes to self-improvement of all types.
The author says that the belief most people have that rewards and incentives can help you create habits is wrong.
It is true that motivation is one of the elements that drive behavior. But you cannot rely on it because it is fickle. You can use motivation for behaviors that don’t require it.
“Motivation is a desire to do a specific behavior (eat spinach tonight) or a general class of behaviors (eat vegetables and other healthy foods each night).”
Motivation is complex. Motivation comes from either one of these:
1.Inside a person – you already want to do the behavior.
2. Action – a benefit or punishment associated with a behavior – the carrot and stick.
3. Context – the current environment, for example all your friends are doing it.
These three – person, action, and context or PAC – are the fundamentals for understanding human behavior.
The source of motivation for doing a behavior could be anything that would push you toward or away from an action.
“Maybe it’s the desire to be accepted by a group, or maybe it’s the fear of physical pain. Maybe your motivations are moving you toward an action, or maybe they are moving you away.”
But you can also have conflicting motivations in which you want to eliminate one thing and at the same time you want to have it. It becomes more problematic when you don’t see or understand where the competing and conflicting motivations come from. So it becomes more difficult for you to motivate yourself to make a lasting behavior change.
Motivation can come in big spikes. This is great for doing tough things such as quitting your job or throwing all junk food in the house. The behavior is a one-time action. This kind of high level motivation is haphazard and not sustainable. The author names it the Motivation Wave. It peaks and then comes crashing down.
Why do you get defeated by the motivation wave? A common trap is that humans are overly optimistic and overestimate future motivation.
“When you are prompted to act in a way that seems like a good idea, even a necessary one, you feel something. Whether you feel desire, excitement, or fear, it doesn’t matter—whatever is motivating the behavior will be quickly rationalized by your brain. It suddenly feels totally logical to do this thing that might be costly, time-consuming, physically demanding, or disruptive to our everyday lives. We start from emotion, then find the rationale to act.”
But motivation fluctuates and willpower decreases from minute to minute. The shifts in your motivation levels are among the reasons why you cannot take control of your motivation.
There is one way to make motivation last or not to change quickly. He calls the enduring motivations: aspirations.
“An aspiration is an excellent starting point for changing your life.”
But you can’t achieve outcomes or aspirations even if your motivation is high because as mentioned earlier, motivation is unsustainable. You need to focus on ability and prompt because they are the two key components that drive behavior.
Here’s how to make your aspirations happen without motivation:
Step 1 – Get clear on your aspirations or outcomes
Examples of aspirations:
- I want to reduce screen time.
- I want to sleep better.
- I want to lose 12 percent body fat.
Step 2 – Explore behavior options
You select only one of your aspirations. Then you come up with a list of specific behaviors that can help you achieve your aspiration. To determine which behavior you want to do or put into practice, you will match yourself with specific behaviors.
“No matter what kind of change you want to make, matching yourself with the right behaviors is the key to changing your life for good. In Behavior Design we have a name for the best matches: Golden Behaviors.”
A Golden Behavior has three criteria.
- The behavior is effective in realizing your aspiration (impact)
- You want to do the behavior (motivation)
- You can do the behavior (ability)
To help you pick the right behavior matching, you can get help from a coach, trainer, doctor, a dietician, or use his method which he calls focus mapping.
You know you have picked a golden behavior or a good match when you can imagine or see yourself doing it even when you are feeling unmotivated or when you are facing the hardest day of the week.
“The purpose of a Focus Map is to match yourself with easy behaviors that you want to do and that are effective in getting you to your aspiration. When you start with the easiest, most motivating thing, you can ladder up naturally to bigger behaviors”
How it works.
You begin by choosing your aspiration or outcome, for example to reduce stress. You then write down a list of small and specific behaviors that you think might help you achieve the outcome. You then ask the following question for each potential behavior you listed.
“How effective is this behavior in helping me to reduce my stress?”
After you have answered the question, you categorize each behavior as high-impact or low-impact. High-impact behaviors imply that the behaviors will have the most effect on the outcome and won’t increase your stress level.
After you have categorized the behaviors into high and low-impact, the next step is to ask,
“Can I get myself to do this?”
This question is important because you are addressing your ability, the feasibility, and practicality.
If you find that you are unsure whether you can get yourself to do the behavior, ask the next important question.
“Do I want to do this behavior?”
This question determines whether you have the motivation to do the behavior.
“When we match ourselves with behaviors that we already want to do, not what we think we should do, there is no need to fuss with motivational tricks or techniques later.”
Matching yourself with behaviors that you want to do is the key to lasting change.
The author says that unlike other approaches on behavior change, his method focuses on habits you already have the motivation to do. If you do a behavior because it is a “should do”, you will struggle to maintain it. When you choose behaviors that set you up for success, you increase self-confidence, mastery, and motivation to do bigger behaviors.
Chapter 3 – Ability – Easy Does It
To make life changes and to create successful habits, start with small changes. Compared to taking big bold moves, making small changes works better and it is sustainable.
When you make big bold moves, you might slip away when the going gets tough. Furthermore when you do big things, it can be painful because you often push yourself beyond your physical, emotional, or mental capabilities.
The most reliable way to drive any behavior, or make big or small change, is to make things easy to do.
Why make a behavior easy to do? Why start tiny?
Because motivation is unpredictable and unreliable, it can mess up your future success. If you make a behavior easy to do, you don’t need much motivation. By keeping the behavior tiny, you can develop the habit into your routine.
When you begin a new habit or behavior, what you are doing is designing for consistency. Simplicity is the key.
If you want to do a habit consistently and since your motivation will vary over time, you adjust your ability or behavior by making it easier to do. You ability will improve the more you repeat the habit and that increase in ability helps your habit grow.
By doing the behavior every day, you develop more muscle strength, flexibility and skill. And the behavior becomes easier and easier to do. It makes you feel successful, which will increase your motivation.
The Discovery Question: What is making this behavior hard to do?
“When I say “hard to do,” keep in mind that I don’t just mean very hard. I mean any amount of hard to do that would keep you from doing the behavior.
Based on the author’s research and experience, he says that your answer will involve at least one of the five factors. He calls it the Ability Factors.
1.Do you have enough time to do the behavior?
2. Do you have enough money to do the behavior?
3. Are you physically capable of doing the behavior?
4. Does the behavior require a lot of creative or mental energy?
5. Does the behavior fit into your current routine or does it require you to make adjustments?
The purpose of the discovery question, “What is making this behavior had to do?” is to discover which factor is likely to cause you the most trouble. It will identify the weak links in your ability chain so that you can focus on finding the right problem to solve.
The Three Approaches to Making a Behavior Easier to Do
1.Increase Your Skills – By gaining skills, you get better at something. When you get better, it is easier to do it. You increase your skills by doing the behavior over and over.
You can acquire the skill in many ways such as, asking someone for tips, taking It is best to do it a class, or doing online research. It can be a one-time action. The best time to do this act of “skilling up”is when your motivation is high.
2. Get tools and resources – “Getting the right tools to make a behavior easier could mean anything from getting a better set of kitchen knives to finding more comfortable walking shoes.”
Without the right tools or when you are least equipped, you might feel frustrated to do the behavior and thus, it will not become a habit. In addition to that, you will experience “decision fatigue” if you feel burdened to make a choice.
When you have the skills and the right tools but lack the motivation to do the behavior ask, “How can I make this easier?”
3. Make the behavior tiny – this is a foolproof way to make something easier to do. It is a good place to start regardless of your motivation levels.
Making your behavior tiny falls into two categories: Starter Step and Scaling Back.
For the starter step, you make one small move toward the desired behavior. It becomes your tiny behavior and the only crucial step or action you need to do to start of your new habit.
For example: “If you want to make a habit out of walking three miles every day, your Starter Step might be putting your walking shoes on… Tell yourself: I don’t have to walk. I just have to make sure I put on my shoes each day.”
That tiny action will shift your perception. You will feel that walking doesn’t seem so hard.
He cautions you not to raise your bar prematurely or not to rush the behavior bigger. This is because by keeping the bar low, you keep the habit alive and ensure that you are always capable of doing the behavior no matter how your motivation fluctuates.
Every time you do the starter step, you are keeping the habit alive. It creates momentum and propels you to the next step with less resistance.
Scaling back is the second way to make a behavior tiny. “This means taking the behavior you want and shrinking it. As a result, your Tiny Habit will be a much smaller version of your desired behavior.”
An example: If your goal is to walk a mile every day, you scale back by walking to the mailbox. This is the baseline behavior and the only thing you have to do every day to cultivate the walking habit.
Which approach should you start with to make a behavior easier to do? Do you increase your skills, get the tools and resources, or make the behavior tiny?
“Even though you don’t have to do all three things to make something easier to do, using all three options is a great way to set yourself up for success by making sure your behavior is as simple as it can be.”
To decide which to start with, look at your motivation level. If your motivation is high, acquire the skills and get the tools. These two are often more difficult but are one-time actions. If your motivation is low, you jump start by taking the third option, which is making the behavior tiny.
You can use the tiny habits approach to everything, not just habits, because of its simplicity. “Simplicity is what reliably changes behavior.”
One of the benefits of using this approach is it helps you overcome procrastination. By completing tasks you generate momentum, boost your self-confidence, which will increase your motivation to do the entire behavior.
Chapter 4 – Prompts—The Power of After
After you have matched ourselves with the right behavior (behavior matching) and pick the right behavior that is easy to do, the next step is to design a good prompt for the behavior you want.
In this chapter, the author teaches readers how to design prompts. He says, “Prompts are the invisible drivers of our lives.”
Examples of prompts that we experience each day but barely notice them include:
- Hitting the gas when the stoplight turns green.
- Eating a cheese sample when you are offered at the grocery store.
- Clicking a notification pop-up on your computer screen when it lets you know you have a new email.
A natural prompt: You open your umbrella when you notice a few drops on rain on your arm
A designed prompt: the smoke alarm blares so you open a few windows and rescue that forgotten pizza in the oven.
“Whether natural or designed, a prompt says, ‘Do this behavior now.’ But this is the crucial nugget: No behavior happens without a prompt”
If you don’t notice the prompt or if the prompt happens at the wrong time, there is no behavior even if you have high levels of motivation and ability.
Designing a good prompt helps you do what you already want to do or do the most important thing that you need to get done each day. In other words, it helps you create a habit.
There are three types of prompts:
1. Person Prompt: this prompt relies on something inside you. For example, your bodily urges such as pressure in your bladder or a growling stomach.
2. Context Prompt: “this prompt is anything in your environment that cues you to take action.” Examples of context prompts include sending yourself a text message, writing on your bathroom mirror with a dry-erase marker, and sticking a post-it on the screen of your mobile phone.
Context prompts can be useful and effective at times, but can also be stressful because when you set up too many of these prompts, you become desensitized and fail to heed them. If this happens, you need to find what works for you and redesign the prompt.
3. Action Prompt or Anchor: it is a stable and solid behavior you are already doing. You use it as a reminder to do a new habit you want to cultivate. “For example, your existing habit of brushing your teeth can serve as your prompt to floss.”
So, if you want to create a habit, what you need to do is find an anchor within your current routine to serve as a prompt or reminder. You insert a new behavior which fits and without much effort into your existing habit.
The action prompt is more useful and reliable than the person and context prompts. Compared to the person and context prompts, when you apply the action prompt, you don’t need to rely on yourself, anyone else, or external reminders. Your day-to-day life is the prompt. And you can keep adding new habits as long as you anchor them to existing ones.
How to Identify Your Anchors and Build New Tiny Habits
Take these three things into account.
Location – “If the new habit you want is wiping down the kitchen table, look for an existing routine in the kitchen.”
Frequency – “If you want to do it once a day, then sequence it after an Anchor that happens once a day. If you want to do your new habit four times a day, then sequence it after an Anchor that happens four times a day.”
Theme/Purpose – “If you view coffee and its jolt of caffeine as a way to be more productive, then this might be a good Anchor for a new habit of launching your to-do app. However, if your morning coffee is more about relaxation and “me time,” then a to-do app is not a good thematic fit. You might create this recipe instead: “After I pour my coffee, I will open my journal.”
The author suggests that you list down your daily habits or routines throughout the day to determine which you can use as prompts. Here are a few examples:
- After my feet hit the ground in the morning, I will . . .
- After I put my dinner dish in the dishwasher, I will . . .
- After I put my head on my pillow, I will . . .
Once you have completed the list, you pick one that you never forget to do from your list of habits and think about what new behavior could naturally follow this one. Finally pick the new habit you like most and write, “After I …, I will…”
Pick two more anchors to create two more tiny habits. Why three? You will learn more when you play around with three habits. With practice, you will hone your skills and reach your aspirations.
Finally, practice your new habits.
You can cultivate a new habit using your waiting time, such as after you stop for a red light or after you get in line at the grocery store, as an anchor. The author calls it the Meanwhile Habit.
You can also turn an irritant as an anchor to create a habit. He calls it the Pearl Habits. For example, you can use someone’s unfair or negative treatment toward you as a prompt for a healthy response or positive behavior on your part. You can tell yourself, “After I feel insulted, I will think of something nice to do for myself.”
In this chapter, the author also writes about context prompts used by businesses to promote their products and services. He believes that businesses that employ action prompts will have better results.
Chapter 5 – Emotions Create Habits
You can create positive feelings from positive experiences or things that give you instant pleasure. Examples include food, treats, humor, and feeling relief from physical, emotional, or psychological discomfort. The instant pleasure can reinforce a new behavior that leads to a habitual response, which means it is more likely to happen in the future.
By feeling good at the right moment, you cause your brain to recognize and encode the sequence of behaviors you just performed. The good feeling wires the new tiny habit into your brain.
When you feel good, your brain stimulates the release of dopamine, which controls the brain’s reward system. It helps you remember what behavior led to the good feeling so you will repeat it.
“There is a direct connection between what you feel when you do a behavior and the likelihood that you will repeat the behavior in the future.”
According to the author, you can form new habits quickly as opposed to what most people believe that they have to focus on the number of days they have to repeat the behavior. From his research, he found that you can form habits in just a few days as long as you have a strong positive emotion connected to the behavior.
He also says that some habits can get wired immediately. It doesn’t need repetition. You do it once and you create an instant habit.
“Emotions create habits. Not repetition. Not frequency. Not fairy dust. Emotions.”
There is a difference between a decision and a habit. When you decide, you need to deliberate. You do not need to do so with habits. Habits are on autopilot and automatic. There are also behaviors in which you need to do just a little deliberation, so it is not completely automatic. You can turn that behavior to become automatic or a habit by associating it with a positive feeling as you are doing it or immediately after doing it.
It is emotion that makes a behavior automatic. In other words, emotions create habits, both good and bad and those you’d rather not have. What society claims as good and bad habits have lesser impact to your habit formation compared to your emotions and reward system.
You can use your brain to form habits that you want by intentionally creating feelings or positive reinforcement to wire in the habits. And the sure winner is by creating the feeling of success.
The author talks about the differences between rewards and incentives.
He says that many habit experts talk about motivating a new habit with a reward. He agrees that a rewarding stimulus is what activates the reward circuitry. But anything that is given not immediately after you have done a behavior is an incentive, not a reward. An incentive will motivate but won’t rewire your brain because it is given in the future. It will not produce the dopamine that encodes a new habit.
He cites two examples:
Doing three squats in the morning and rewarding yourself with a movie that evening won’t work. The squats and the good feelings you get from the movie are too far apart for dopamine to build a bridge between the two.
You have committed to running every day for two weeks, and at the end of those two weeks, you “reward” yourself with a massage. Your massage wasn’t a reward. It was an incentive.
“The definition of a reward in behavior science is an experience directly tied to a behavior that makes that behavior more likely to happen again. The timing of the reward matters. Scientists learned decades ago that rewards need to happen either during the behavior or milliseconds afterward. Dopamine is released and processed by the brain very quickly. That means you’ve got to cue up those good feelings fast to form a habit.”
You can create the good feeling with a technique the author calls celebration. Why does celebration work best to build habits?
“Celebration is the best way to create a positive feeling that wires in your new habits. Celebration teaches us how to be nice to ourselves”
“Celebration is both a specific technique for behavior change and a psychological frame shift.”
“Celebration is the most important skill for creating habits.”
According to the author, people who embraced celebration succeeded at creating habits faster.
To celebrate the tiny habits way or to help a habit become quickly and easily encoded in your brain, do the following:
- Perform the behavior sequence that you want to become a habit
- Celebrate immediately. You need to celebrate right after the behavior
The intensity of the emotion you feel need to feel real and authentic. It can be said out loud or quietly. You can express it physically too. What is important is it needs to make you feel good and create a feeling of success. He terms the feeling of success as “shine.”
The author offers a few scenarios to help you find your way of celebrating. This natural reaction to feel “shine” will wire in your new habits.
What if you can’t get the feeling of celebration?
When the behavior you do is tiny and that doesn’t require effort, skill or talent, you might think that you don’t deserve to celebrate (An example: flossing one tooth or doing two push-ups).
But celebrating even the small stuff is important because it stimulates dopamine, which is a key part of making habits stick. Furthermore, making a change is a big deal and a win no matter how small and incremental it is. It will lead to more wins. So, it is worth celebrating.
There are two problems to habit formation. One, it is not fast enough to wire a habit. And second, you keep forgetting to do the habit.
“To wire in a habit fast or help yourself remember, you need to rehearse the behavior sequence (the Anchor, then the new habit) and immediately celebrate. Repeat this sequence seven to ten times.”
When you rehearse, you train your muscle memory and also rewire your brain to remember. And when you celebrate, you drill and wire the habit fast.
There are three best times to celebrate:
1.The moment you remember to do the habit – celebrate because your brain reminds you to do the new habit. You are wiring the moment of remembering to do the habit.
2. When you’re doing the habit – your brain will associate doing the behavior with the positive feeling of shine.
3. Immediately after completing the habit.
After a habit has become automatic, you no longer need to celebrate. But if you stop doing the habit for a while due to some valid reasons and you need to rewire the habit back into your life, do celebrate.
Even after a behavior has become a habit, it would do you good to celebrate when you increase the intensity of the habit. For example, when instead of doing the normal two push-ups, you do twenty five, you have exerted some pain. Because you want to avoid the brain from associating the behavior with pain, which could lead to avoidance, you need to celebrate the extra effort to offset the pain.
Whenever you do a good behavior, celebrate. If you feel positive, you can make any behavior automatic.
Chapter 6 – Growing Your Habits from Tiny to Transformative
In this chapter, BJ Fogg explains how tiny habits, when applied consistently, will grow and multiply.
When you start a habit, it takes extra experimentation and attention at the beginning. But once you have established new habits in the right way, you just need to do them consistently.
How much habits grow depend on time and individual human limitations. As for how long it takes for habits to grow, here is what the author says.
“Any advice you hear about a habit taking twenty-one or sixty days to fully form is not entirely accurate. There is no magic number of days. Why? Because the formation time of a habit depends on three things.”
- The person doing the habit
- The habit itself (the action)
- The context
But you can speed the process.
There are two categories in the process of scaling habits.
1.Habits that grow. You do more of them. So they expand or get bigger. (For example, from two push-ups to fifty)
2. Habits that multiply. Some habits don’t grow but they multiply and produce a ripple effect.
When you design your habit with a clear aspiration, you will be motivated to do both growth and multiplication habits.
When you succeed with a tiny habit, your confidence grows and your motivation increases. You will feel motivated to do that habit again. With tiny habits, you are shooting for a bunch of tiny successes fast.
“The data from my Tiny Habits research show a surprising number of people who tackled big behaviors as a result of succeeding at tiny things.”
When you have conflicting motivation to do a behavior, in which part of you want to do something but another part doesn’t, it is because of fear. You fear because you anticipate a bad outcome. Having hope is often the antidote.
Your motivation level depends on whether hope or fear dominates. If you can weaken or remove fear, your motivation level will be higher and you will be able to take action or do the behavior.
It is important to feel successful when you do a behavior the first time because it helps you weaken fear and increase your motivation. If you feel like you have failed, you will feel demotivated and might not do the behavior again. When your motivation levels rise, you will also be willing to do something more difficult.
This is why tiny habits work. It makes you feel successful.
Next, the author talks about becoming a habit ninja. A habit ninja is someone who understands how to change. And to become a habit ninja, you learn skills.
What you need to form good habits and transform your life is a set of skills.
When you learn something, you won’t be perfect at the start. But with practice, you will get better. Once you have the necessary skills, you can apply them to all sorts of situations.
“Learning about the Skills of Change will help you recognize and actively practice them. You don’t have to master every single skill to be proficient at changing your life. But the more skills you master, the easier and faster you can turn any aspiration into a reality.”
The five categories to acquire the skills of change:
Skill set No. 1 – Behavior crafting
This skill is about selecting and adjusting the habits you want in life and knowing how many new habits to do at once and when to add more.
Refer back to chapters 2 and 3 where he mentions about identifying a list of behavior options, matching yourself with behaviors that will lead to your aspiration, and making the behavior easier to do.
Focus on what interests and excites you. Then decide whether you want to cultivate lots of tiny and easy habits or you want to tackle challenging habits. If you are not sure, he suggests you start with three super easy habits and add three new habits each month.
Begin with more variety because it helps you learn what works for you faster. An example is to choose an exercise habit, a food-related habit, and a productivity habit.
Be flexible. You probably will make a list of the habits that you want to eventually do. But your preference and needs will change as you progress. So, by not being rigid, you can stop something and start something else.
You will know when to add more habits as you progress. When you feel optimistic and notice yourself moving forward, it implies that you are doing the right thing.
Skill set No. 2 – Self-insight
Self-insight refers to understanding your preferences, strengths, and aspirations. You need to understand what motivates you and know the difference between what you really want and what you think you should do.
The skill of knowing which new habits will have meaning to you will take you from tiny to transformative.
Here is how to predict if a new habit will be meaningful to you.
- The new habit affirms a piece of the identity you want to cultivate.
- The new habit helps you reach an important aspiration.
- The new habit has a big impact despite being tiny.
“You can practice this skill by answering one question: What is the tiniest habit I could create that would have the most meaning?”
When you become good at this skill of self-insight, you will be able to match yourself with habits that you can easily create and maintain. You will also be able to identify habits that do not have meaning to you, which will prevent you from wasting your time. You will free up space to form habits that matter to you.
This skill set is useful when you have conflicting motivation or resistance; when one part of you wants to do it and the other part says that you should do it. By uncovering what the behavior means to you, you can shift a behavior to “I want to do it” and succeed in creating the habit. If you find that the behavior doesn’t matter to you at all, you can then choose to not pursue it and work on something that is more significant instead.
Skill set No. 3 – Process
The process skill refers to your ability to know when to push yourself and ramp up the difficulty of the habit.
After doing a new habit consistently, you will recognize your comfort level. You will naturally decide to go beyond your baseline, but just enough to make progress and without pain and frustration.
“Don’t pressure yourself to do more than the tiniest version of your habit. If you’re sick, tired, or just not in the mood, scale back to tiny. You can always raise the bar when you want to do more, and—surprisingly—you can lower it to tiny when you need to. Flexibility is part of this skill.”
Don’t restrict yourself to do more. Let your motivation guide you on how much and how hard. If you do too much, make sure you celebrate extra hard.
“Use emotional flags to help you find your edge. Frustration, pain, and especially avoidance are signs that something is going on with your habit—that you’ve probably increased the difficulty too much, too fast. On the flipside, if you become bored with your habit, you might need to ramp things up.”
Skill set No. 4- Context (Environment)
This skill entails that you redesign your environment so that you make your habits easier to do. This skill is vital to lasting change.
“Our environment, which includes people, influences our habitual behaviors more than we recognize or care to admit. Because our habits are the product of our environment to a large degree, getting good at Context Skills is vital for creating change and making it sticks.”
Ask yourself these two questions:
- How can I make this new habit easier to do?
- What is making this new habit hard to do?
These questions will enable you to notice things and find ways to re-design your environment to support or accommodate your new habit.
Here is an example he provides on how to redesign your environment. “To change how you eat is by redesigning your food environment, especially your fridge at home.” Design it so you can see healthy foods when you open your fridge.
Skill set No. 5 – Mindset
The mindset skill is about embracing a new identity.
“When you can let go of old identities and embrace new ones, you will soar in your ability to go from tiny to transformative.”
The author’s data shows that people’s identity or self-concept shifted as they became more skilled at creating habits. They embraced a new identity.
What’s also great about shifting you identity is you will start to consider other new habits that you might not have thought of doing. It also promotes change in other areas of your life.
One of the techniques to build your identity-embracing skills is by completing this sentence: “I’m the kind of person who…” (with the identity—or identities—you’d like to embrace.)
Chapter 7 – Untangling Bad Habits: A Systematic Solution
BJ Fogg puts habits, both good and bad, into three categories.
1.Uphill habits – these are habits that require ongoing attention to maintain but are easy to stop. Examples of uphill habits include getting out of bed when the alarm goes off, going to the gym, or meditating daily.
2. Downhill habits – these are habits that are easy to maintain but difficult to stop. Examples include hitting snooze, swearing, and watching YouTube videos. The author created a system called the Behavior Change Masterplan to help you get rid of your downhill habits.
3. Freefall habits – these are habits that can be extremely difficult to stop unless you get professional help. These habits include substance abuse.
In earlier chapters, he talks about designing new habits using the B=MAP formula, where B stands for behavior, M is motivation, A is ability, and P refers to prompt. For creating new habits using the B=MAP, what you need to do is make the behaviors easy to do. You make use of prompts to create new behaviors. And you find ways to ramp up your motivation.
Using the same formula or process, you can get rid of bad habits by making things harder to do, or decreasing your ability to do them. And as for prompts, what you got to do is look for ways to remove them.
Some habits are easy to change and some are hard. This applies to both positive and bad habits.
The author suggests that you stop using the phrase “break a bad habit.” This is because “the word “break” sets the wrong expectation for how you get rid of a bad habit. This word implies that if you input a lot of force in one moment, the habit will be gone. However, that rarely works, because you usually cannot get rid of an unwanted habit by applying force one time.” So, use a different word to replace “break” and also to use a different analogy.
He likens a bad habit to a tangled rope. You have to focus on the easiest part and untangle the rope step by step instead of trying to do it all at once. This is because the toughest tangle is deep inside the knot.
According to him, using the conventional way to break a bad eating habit such as swapping out a donut for a celery stick is weak and unhelpful and it will not stick. This is because you will have to use your willpower, which is hard to sustain. On top of that, the new habit will not wire in because you don’t want to eat the celery. When you cannot sustain the new habit, you would feel shame and guilt because you will start to believe that you are weak. And it will reinforce a cycle of failure.
There are some change methods that work. Counseling to get clear on the motivations for doing or not doing a behavior is one of them. Having an accountability partner will also help you change a behavior because it affects your ability and you will also get ideas on how to make unwanted behavior harder or impossible to do.
The behavior change masterplan to untangle unwanted habits has three phases.
Phase 1 – focus on creating new habits.
Phase 2 – focus on stopping the old habit.
Phase 3 – focus on swapping a new habit for the old one.
Phase 1 – Focusing on creating new habits.
Phase 1 is a preparation phase. You create new positive habits first. Once you have done that, you will focus on stopping specific behaviors related to the old habit.
Choose habits that are based on your strengths, are fun, safe, and non-threatening. He suggests that you start to create habits in other domains instead of the one you want to eliminate. It helps because you will learn and change without emotional distraction. You will build your skills and gain mastery over the change process and succeed quickly.
When you feel successful in making positive changes, your identity will shift. You will see yourself as a different person. It will lead you to create more positive habits and you will naturally disrupt and phase out unwanted habits.
Phase 2 – Design for stopping a habit
Saying you want “to stop stressing out at work” or “stop eating junk food” is abstract and general. You won’t make much progress because focusing on a general habit will cause you to feel frustrated or intimidated, which will lead to avoidance.
What you need to do is get specific by finding specific habits to focus on. To do this, you will write the general habit first. You then list specific habits that contribute to that general habit. When you look at the specific habits, you would notice that there are a few specific habits which you could untangle quickly and easily. Pick one to untangle.
Which one should you untangle first? “Pick the easiest one. Pick the one you are most sure you can do. Pick the one that feels like no big deal.” You can pick more than one specific habit as long as you don’t feel overwhelmed.
He cautions readers not to untangle the hardest and stickiest habit. Do the tough ones after you have untangled the easier ones because by that time you will have more skills and gained momentum.
Focus on the Prompt to Stop a Habit
You can stop a habit if you remove motivation, ability, or prompt. The best thing to do is to tackle the prompt first. And you can do it by removing the prompt, avoiding it, or ignoring it.
“The best way to remove a prompt is to redesign your environment.” For example, to stop checking social media while you are at work, you can choose to turn off your phone, put it on a plane mode, or turn off notifications.
You can avoid a prompt by avoiding places or situations where there is temptation and avoiding people who will prompt you.
When you can’t remove or avoid the prompt, choose to ignore it. You need to use your willpower in this situation, which can be a problem especially when you feel anxious. So, avoiding ignoring a prompt is not the best solution in the long term. If you succeed in doing it, make sure to celebrate your success each time.
What if you can’t remove, avoid, or ignore the prompt? What can you do?
What you can do is focus on redesigning your ability. In other words, make the habit harder to do. You do it by breaking the ability chain which involves time, money, physical effort, mental effort, and routine.
- Increase the time required. Redesign your environment so that you need more time to do the habit, which might make you less likely to do it. For example, don’t keep stock of ice cream in your freezer so that when the desire to have it arises, you have to drive out to get one. The inconvenience might be enough for you not to have the ice cream.
- Increase the money required. – Find a way to make your habit more expensive.
- Increase the physical effort required. Anything that requires you to do more work might stop a bad habit.
- Increase the mental effort required. Because of our tendency to be lazy, we will stop doing a behavior if it requires the use of our mental effort. He gives an example of how people at Weight Watchers eat less because they wanted to avoid counting and logging calories, which requires thinking.
- Make the habit conflict with important routines. This is the hardest to apply because you have to make your unwanted habit conflict with and important habit or routine which you value more than the habit you want to stop.
What do you do when changing prompt and ability to disrupt the specific unwanted habits don’t work for you?
When you can’t solve your problem by focusing on prompt or ability, adjust your motivation. But, adjusting motivation should be the last thing to focus on when you want to stop a downhill habit because it is difficult. And it is almost impossible to stop a freefall habit.
Option A – Reduce motivation to stop a habit
Here are examples he provides in the book.
- Going to bed earlier can reduce your motivation to hit the snooze button
- Putting on a nicotine patch can reduce your motivation for smoking
- Eating healthy food before going to a party can reduce your drive to eat bad food at the party
- Getting acupuncture once a week can reduce your motivation to use painkillers
Option B – Add a demotivator to stop a habit
This approach is popular. But it might not work and may cause more harm than good. This is because it doesn’t address the root cause of your behavior and you are adding a conflicting motivation that might get you to stop doing the habit. It creates stress and leads to frequent failure. Worst of all, it can push you into self-criticism and feeling of guilt.
Here are some examples:
- Promise on Facebook that you will never drink again.
- Pledge to give $1,000 to a corrupt politician if you ever smoke again.
- Visualize how miserable your life would be if you continued playing video games all night.
What if you still can’t stop your specific habits with all the approaches mentioned above?
Scale back your ambition. Scaling back works because it helps you stop fighting the part of you that wants to keep the unwanted habit.
He provides the following examples:
- Set a shorter time period for stopping the habit (stop smoking for three days instead of forever).
- Do an unwanted habit for a shorter duration (watch TV for thirty minutes instead of four hours).
- Do fewer instances of the unwanted habit (checking social media once a day rather than ten times).
- Do the unwanted habit with less intensity (pace your drinking rather than downing shots).
If the above methods aren’t working for you, move to the next phase of the masterplan: swapping a new habit for an old one.
Phase No. 3 – Design for swapping a behavior
What you need to do is get specific about the habit you want to stop and the new habit that will replace it. It will work if the new habit you choose is something that you want to do, it is easier to do, and more motivating that the old one.
You can also choose to remap prompts to swap a habit. In this approach, you will do the new behavior instead of the old one why you are prompted.
If remapping the prompt doesn’t stop the unwanted habit, your next option is to use both ability and motivation to swap a habit. You have four options for this approach.
1.Make the new habit easier to do
2. Make the old habit harder to do
3. Make the new habit more motivating
4. Make the old habit less motivating
“As long as you can make the old habit harder to do and the new habit easy to do and motivating, you will probably succeed in making the habit swap.”
If all else fails, try this.
Option A: Find a better new habit to swap in and follow the steps again.
Option B: Try the swap in a limited way. See how it goes for three days, then decide what to do next.
Option C: Return to phase one of the masterplan and practice other new habits to build your skills and confidence and shift your identity. Address this persistent bad habit later.
Chapter 8 – How We Change Together
This chapter talks about working together with others to design a change in your collective behavior and designing a change for others that will benefit them.
How can you help other people change? You do it by letting them begin with what they want to change. And then you help them feel successful.
“You could approach a group change either as the Ringleader or the Ninja.”
The Ringleader: You take the lead by sharing what you have learned.
The Ninja: You do it subtly. Your family or your group doesn’t know about it.
The method to change a group is the same as those for an individual, which have been mentioned in the previous chapters. The difference depends on whether you choose to be a ringleader or a ninja and how you put these methods into practice.
- Clarify your aspiration together
- Explore behavior options together
- Match your group with golden behaviors
- Make the golden behavior easy for everyone to do
- Find a way to prompt the golden behavior
- Celebrate success to wire in the habit
- Troubleshoot and iterate together
In this chapter, he includes stories, using his behavior design method. One of them is how he succeeded in helping a girl with learning disability succeed in her studies. He also succeeded in helping nurses in a hospital reduced their workplace challenge.
“Habits may be the smallest units of transformation, but they’re also the most fundamental. They are the first concentric circles of change that will spiral out.”
He encourages readers to create a culture of change. You do it by sharing and by doing.
You will find the following in the appendix to help you build tiny habits.
- Thirty two ways to frame success
- One hundred ways to celebrate and feel shine
- Three hundred recipes for tiny habits
- Tiny habits for better sleep
- Tiny habits for active older adults
- Tiny habits for caregivers
- Tiny habits for new managers
- Tiny habits for success in college
- Tiny habits for dads who work from home
- Tiny habits for reducing stress
- Tiny habits for work team
- Tiny habits for being more productive
- Tiny habits for brain health
- Tiny habits for strengthening close relationships
- Tiny habits for staying focused
- Tiny habits for stopping habits
- Tiny habits for business travel
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