Brian Jeffrey Fogg (born August 7, 1963) is an American social scientist who is a research associate and adjunct professor at Stanford University and an author. He is the founder and director of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, later renamed Behavior Design Lab.
In his book, Tiny Habits, BJ Fogg diagnoses why you failed and shows you how to succeed next time. The Tiny Habits method is judgment-free and science-based, and it has resulted in success for thousands of people around the world.
In chapter 6 of his book, he explains how to transform your habits from tiny to transformative. In this article, we are going to explain a summary of the sixth chapter of Tiny Habits.
First, he starts with the story of a man named Sukumar. He always had a problem with losing weight. But he started to lose weight by reading the Tiny Habits book. He made some tiny habits for himself based on Fogg’s book. As his habits grew and multiplied, he eventually lost twenty pounds. In the following, Fogg asks this question:
How long does it take for habits to grow to their full expression?
Then he explains that there is no universal answer. 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. Because the formation time of a habit depends on three things.
- The person doing the habit.
- The habit itself (the action).
- The context
It’s the interaction between these elements that determines how difficult (or easy) it is to form the habit. That’s why no one can say for sure that habit X takes Y number of days to become fully realized.
Change is a process. By understanding how our habits grow and what our role is in the growth process, we can reliably design for the change— the transformation—we want in our life.
When it comes to the process of scaling habits, there are two general categories: habits that grow and habits that multiply.
Fogg suggests the Maui Habit makes each day more productive.
The Maui Habit creates a positive feeling that inspires many people to add other good habits to their morning—like making the bed. The Maui Habit, and other tiny changes like it, can be easy to create, and they accumulate naturally until your day has transformed (and you don’t struggle to get out of bed).
The dynamics of growth
You’ve probably heard that success leads to success. But here’s something in this book that may surprise you.
The size of the success doesn’t seem to matter very much. When you feel successful at something, even if it’s tiny, your confidence grows quickly, and your motivation increases to do that habit again and perform related behaviors.
When people feel successful, even with small things, their overall level of motivation goes up dramatically, and with higher levels of motivation, people can do harder behaviors.
Many people believe that forming good habits and transforming your life is a mysterious or magical process. It’s not. There is a system to change. And underlying the system is a set of skills. This means you won’t be perfect at the start, but you will get better with practice. And once you have these 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.
Skillset #1—behavior crafting
Behavior Crafting skills relate to selecting and adjusting the habits you want in your life. Knowing how many new habits to do at once and when to add more is a new skill that directly helps you go from tiny to transformative based on Fogg’s suggestion.
A similar selection skill applies to your future habits. Knowing how many new habits to do at once and when to add more is a skill you build largely by diving in, trying stuff, and learning what works for you.
He explains some guidelines for Behavior Crafting.
- Focus on what interests you. Some people enjoy cultivating lots of little easy habits. Other people like to tackle habits that are a bit more challenging. What seems most interesting and exciting to you? That’s what you should do.
- Embrace variety. The more variety you begin with, the faster you’ll learn this and other Skills of Change. Select some new habits that begin as Starter Steps—putting on your walking shoes. Variety helps you learn more quickly what works best for you.
- Stay flexible. If you want to create a list of the habits you want to eventually do, don’t get too rigid with your list. Your preferences and needs will change. Today you might put practicing handstands each morning on your list, but in six weeks you might not care about handstands. Be flexible as you progress and leave room for something new.
Adding Habits Naturally
The skill of knowing when to add more habits isn’t a strict formula. It can feel entirely natural. It’s not something you need to sweat too much. Start with a variety of habits—he suggests three—and watch what happens.
You know you’re doing the right thing if you feel optimistic and see forward movement.
Skill set #2—self-insight
Here is the next skill that will take you from tiny to transformative. The skill of knowing which new habits will have meaning to you.
What you’re aiming for is to create new habits that start small in size but are mighty in meaning.
So, try to find the smallest, easiest change you can make that will have the biggest meaning to you.
You can practice this skill by answering one question: What is the tiniest habit I could create that would have the most meaning? Write down a few answers even if you don’t intend to create any of those habits right now. The more answers you come up with, the more you are practicing this skill.
Getting good at this skill helps you match yourself with habits that you can easily create and maintain.
By practicing Self-Insight, you can figure out if a new habit is worth pursuing. If it is, great—you’ll have renewed motivation. If it’s not, great—you’ll free up space for other habits that matter more to you. Mastering this skill directs your energy toward more important changes.
As the days go by, your habits change, you change, and the world around you changes. Process Skills are focused on adjusting to the dynamic nature of life to strengthen and grow your habits.
This new Process Skill relates directly to growing your habit over time. The skill of knowing when to push yourself beyond tiny and ramp up the difficulty of the habit. As you do a new habit consistently, you will naturally reach for more. At that point, you can learn to find the edge of your comfort and see how it feels to go just a little beyond.
Knowing your comfort edge helps you do a bigger version of your habit without feeling pain or frustration, which will weaken the habit.
So, focus on finding your comfort edge at the moment so you can make the most skillful choice.
He recommends some guidelines for knowing how to adjust the difficulty of your habit:
- 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 from going bigger if you want 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. Pushing yourself too much to expand a habit can create pain or frustration, which will weaken the habit.
- 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 flip side, if you become bored with your habit, you might need to ramp things up.
Skill set #4—context
Context pertains to what surrounds us. (He uses “context” and “environment” as synonyms.)
None of us lives in a habit vacuum. 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 stick.
He explains the skill of redesigning your environment to make your habits easier to do in this regard that this skill is vital to lasting change.
Two questions will guide you to change your environment and reduce the friction between the world around you and your good habits. The first is How can I make this new habit easier to do?
And the second is What is making this new habit hard to do?
By layering your habit with environment redesign, you will reduce friction and set your habit free to go above the Action Line.
In pursuing one habit, you may be inspired to create other ones that deal with your environment. You’ll get better and better at finding ways to redesign your environment to support your good habits. Once you start looking at the world this way, you will see how minuscule obstacles can get in the way of your good habits. When you consciously and thoughtfully design your environment to accommodate new habits, you make your whole life easier.
These are about your approach and attitude to change as well as your perception and interpretation of the world around you.
The skill of 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.
All humans have a strongly rooted drive to act in a way that is consistent with their identity. When a group faces threats, any unpredictable group member creates risk for the group. That person gets shunned. There is a good evolutionary reason for this—when food, shelter, and other resources depend on group unity and collaboration, it is critical to reliably predict what a person is going to do. Your life might depend on it. As social beings, we all act largely in keeping with certain identities even if we don’t realize it.
In the end, he says that this is a new way of thinking about habits— that behavior change is a skill—but this should give you the confidence that you can change by learning skills in the same way you learned to ride a bike, swim, or use a computer. You might flail around a little at first, but if you keep going, you’ll get there. Some of your tiny changes will grow; others will multiply. Along the way, as you feel successful, your identity will shift. And this is how you will go from tiny to transformative. You will succeed faster than you expect.