10 Steps to Lasting Habits
We all have good intentions, especially at the start of a year but more often than not, sooner or later, life gets in the way. It can be all too easy to beat ourselves up, blaming poor motivation, lack of willpower or somehow feeling less than everyone else.
However, thanks to Behaviour Scientist BJ Fogg, we can now give ourselves a break and find a better way to realise our aspirations without the cycle of striving and ‘failing’.
The Tiny Habits method is a culmination of two decades of study, research and experience and yet boils down to some surprisingly simple principles, and easy actions that we can use to succeed. It works on the basis that small and consistent activity is ultimately more effective at getting us where we want to be than grand gestures that don’t last.
- Positive emotion makes habits stick, NOT repetition!
- Motivation fluctuates – so don’t rely on it
- our ability to do the habit is key – make your new habit easy and convenient
- You need a prompt – tag the behaviour onto an existing habit so you remember to do it
And now for the steps that will help you put it into practice:
Identify your aspiration or outcome – I want more energy, to be leaner, feel heathier.
Brainstorm a variety of behaviours to get there – for better digestion, you don’t need to leap straight to a 3-week elimination diet (that’s a lot to ask!), other behaviours could include drinking more water, eating more fibre, crowding out foods you know don’t agree with you, managing stress through yoga or a better sleep routine. The list goes on.
Do what you CAN and WANT to do – from the list of potentials, pick a behaviour that you know you can get yourself to do, that also works towards your aspiration.
Make it Tiny. The Tiny Habit can be a starter step – rolling out the yoga mat/ putting a full glass of water on your desk/ picking the weights up, or a scaled back version of the behaviour you’d like to do more of – getting on the mat and doing two yoga poses/ drinking the glass of water/ doing two reps with the weights. Yes – we’re talking really tiny! This doesn’t mean you can’t do more on any given day but your habit always resets to the tiniest version. This way you stay positive and successful and your brain will subconsciously want you to repeat the habit.
Find a prompt – pick the right activity for you and place it in the right spot in your day or week. Tag the habit straight after something you already do, with the same frequency and in a convenient location. e.g after getting out of bed/ the school run/ brushing your teeth/ boiling the kettle/finishing a meeting/ closing the laptop/ lunch.
Celebrate your achievement – in the moment! Celebrate as you remember to do the habit, during the habit or straight afterwards, wire in the habit with positive emotion. Don’t gloss over this bit, this is what sets the habit (not repetition, remember?). If you pick a celebration and it feels weird, it’s not the right one. Find something that makes you feel good – a little dance, a quick self-massage, a fist pump, a song, a knowing nod, thinking of someone you love. A celebration further down the track will not be connected by your brain to the habit.
Write down your The Tiny Habit recipe so you’re clear on what you’re planning to do. Take some time to really tune into whether this resonates with you.
- After I…(the prompt)
- I will…(the Tiny Habit)
- Then I will…(the celebration)
Remember to stay positive and feel good. It’s ok to forget from time to time, that’s normal and if you’re doing something for the long term, missing a day or two or taking a week off while you’re on holiday is not going to diminish the gains of your consistency.
If it’s not working, refine! If the habit still inspires you, make it tinier, find a better prompt, change your celebration. If you’ve discovered you just can’t engage with the habit, go back to the aspiration (I want to have more energy/ feel leaner/ have more stamina) and have another go at finding a habit that’ll get you there. Stay positive. If it’s not working, it’s not the right habit for you. Find the one that is 😊
Let your new identity do the work for you. It’s tempting to keep increasing our goals but feeling successful and positive about what we’ve achieved over a period of time is what ultimately changes our identity.
‘If you become the person who…’ then other habits and behaviours follow without the need to design each and every one. Your behaviours will grow on their own. If you become the person who loves to exercise, because that 10-minute walk after breakfast makes you feel so good you start to look forward to it and perhaps even tell people about it, you will naturally gravitate towards other opportunities to have those feelings, taking the stairs, going for a lunchtime walk, doing a few stretches, taking your workout gear on holiday.
So in summary, pick a habit YOU genuinely want to do and design it in such a way that you feel successful. Make it easy, make it tiny, make it convenient, and allow yourself to feel the glow of achieving what you set out to do. Small (and consistent) really is beautiful (and effective!)
By Caroline Hire
Functional Health Coach and EFT practitioner at the Sunflower Centre
If you’d like support to improve your health, adopt new habits or change beliefs about what you can and can’t achieve, why not schedule a free call? I’d be happy to talk about whether health coaching or EFT can help you get where you want to be.
As a Functional Medicine Health Coach, I focus on nutrition, movement, sleep, relaxation and supporting relationships as the foundation for improved health, vitality and enjoyment of life.
This blog is based upon BJ Fogg’s book Tiny Habits and a workshop created by Mary Brooking, sports and remedial massage therapist, and myself here at The Sunflower Centre. If you’d like to hear about future workshops, please email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.