B. J. Fogg is a behavior scientist at Stanford University. He has written an excellent book Tiny Habits on transforming the habits through tiny changes by using a simple three-step formula known as ABC of tiny habits.
- Anchor: The great discovery in this model is that every single moment in our day comes after a previous moment. Therefore, an existing routine or any event that happens can be used as an anchor to trigger a desired habit. The most common example is our medical prescriptions which are advised to take before or after our daily meals. An anchor consists of “After I …, I will …” and you can use any anchor from your daily routine. For example, after I finish brushing my teeth, I will meditate for 15 minutes.
- Behaviour: The second big discovery is that most big changes in behaviour end in failure. So he advises the new habit to be kept so small that it becomes almost impossible to say no. For example, meditating for 15 minutes, as I mentioned above, might not be practical for many folks. However, hardly anyone can refuse three deep breaths of relief after brushing their teeth. As another example, if one wants to start an exercise routine, they can simply start with three pushups a day (after any anchor moment). Earlier in my life I had set a goal of doing 100 pushups in a row which I thought I would never be able to achieve. However, I have successfully incorporated this model by starting with 20 pushups after every 50 minutes of work. After every week, I used to increase this number by 2. Gradually I hit the 100 pushups mark almost effortlessly and my total in a day used to be 800 pushups. I left the pushup routine since I had hit the point of diminishing returns. But starting small is the key that can kickstart any new habit.
- Celebrate: The purpose of celebration is to create a positive emotion that can dig the routine deeply in our minds. This can be as little as praising oneself or doing something one really likes.
Fogg’s model works best with people with low levels of motivation. For people already in self development, this is probably too simplistic. In any case, I treat this as a starting point which can be left far behind within a quick time frame.