We all love to set big goals. What’s missing are the Tiny Habits. Here’s how to put Tiny Habits to use for you…and more.
It’s really easy to bite off more than you can chew, isn’t it? Of course you want to…
• Lose a ton of weight and get ripped
• Double or triple your income
• Bliss out your relationships
• Get super organized
• Stop procrastinating
• Commit to fully enjoying life
And all this needs to get done yesterday, right?
Enter reality. Most people never accomplish a goal once they set it.
It’s not that you can’t accomplish great things. You can. But maybe we need to focus more on what happens after we set the goal – you know, the drudgery of the daily task implementation. What if we could make the daily grind almost as rewarding as the initial fantasy?
That would be worth figuring out, wouldn’t it? And that’s what we’re going to do today.
This brings up a real challenge. Thinking about big, shiny goals makes you feel wonderful. It actually secretes dopamine – the ‘rewards’ hormone 3. So, of course, you want to indulge in the dream of making millions or conquering that long-standing personal issue once and for all.
And when you’re done fantasizing about how glorious it will be when you succeed, reality is right here waiting for you. What does reality require? One tiny step at a time. Daily action. Persistent follow through. Ugh.
Your big shiny goal can get dull real quick, can’t it?
Well, I have a best-of-both-worlds solution that you really need to understand so that you can make motivation issues a thing of the past. It comes from a rigorously researched system called Tiny Habits. BJ Fogg of Stanford University is the originator of this model. 4
I was so impressed by the simplicity of Fogg’s methodology that I contacted him and had him certify me – after attending training – as a Tiny Habits coach. Tiny Habits is a behavioral revelation.
I’ll also draw of the work of one of my favorite authors, Dr. Loretta Bruening of the Inner Mammal Institute. Loretta is fabulous – and if you ever get a chance to do one of her zoo tours, do it! She’s an expert of the biochemicals that run our lives. I highly recommend her books.
Ok, here we go.
The key to reaching goals is found in the trenches of daily living…
And the challenge is to keep your daily motivation high enough to take those daily steps and resist the temptation to prioritize that killer television series you’ve been binge-watching. After the joy of potential accomplishment wanes and the kids have been fighting all day, or you get a horribly timed piece of bad news, or get into a monster fight with your partner, or when you just don’t feel like doing what you gotta do. No dopamine highs anymore. Just work – and with little reward. The big results you want seem far away and don’t appear shiny anymore.
Want to lose weight? Ok, you’re going to have to exercise when it’s the last thing on earth you want to do. You must bypass delectable food when you’re craving it (and everyone else indulges all around you). All for what? If you comply with your healthy eating and exercise plan, you’ll wake up tomorrow morning a few ounces lighter than you are right now. It takes forever to get in shape if you’ve let yourself go for years.
Want to start a business and make big bucks? Ok, you can do it. But the big bucks won’t come right away. You’ll need to plug away for months and years with little reward before you’re where you intend to be. So – lots of extra work and zero extra dollars in the bank to show for it.
Want to bliss out your relationship? Perfect. Now, get ready to spend some serious time working through your mutual issues. You need to talk…and talk. And fight. You’ll make your best effort for hours and still go to bed feeling frustrated and misunderstood. Breakthroughs will come, but only after you’ve invested serious time.
Are you discouraged yet? Don’t be. Most wonderful things in life come after an investing a ton of effort. Success is not easy or it (cliche, I know) would not be success. Given that most people live in a chronic state of mediocrity, you should be proud of yourself for committing to succeed at anything.
Now, how can you make life in the trenches of daily success-seeking easier on yourself. Tiny Habits.
I teach Tiny Habits to my clients often. Here are the basic principles:
• You’re most likely to reach goals if you develop daily habits.
• In reality, doing daily habits can suck.
• When tasks are perceived as difficult, they require a high level of motivation.
• When tasks are considered easy, they require very little motivation.
• Make habits easy to do to achieve staying power.
• In short, you must trick your brain into cooperating.
Let’s say you’re one of the multi-billions of people who needs to exercise more. You want to get off that large keister and get shakin’.
Great. Now, you won’t always feel like hopping on ‘ye dusty ole treadmill’ for an hour. In fact, you may loathe the idea on most days. In other words, your motivation is…..LOW. Very low.
According to Fogg, when motivation is low, the task must be easy to do. Doing simple, easy things doesn’t require being on fire with passion. It’s easy. You just do it.
What I am about to suggest should make all the difference in the world…
Undoubtedly, you think you need to exercise for 30-60 minutes. This is the daily habit that will lead you to your fitness goal, right? Of course, when your motivation is in the toilet, sweating it out on the treadmill for an hour feels like you’re being asked to participate in the Baatan Death March. Forget it. You opt to sit in front of Seinfeld reruns with microwave popcorn close at hand.
The fix is simple. Don’t consider your goal today to walk for an hour. Your motivation is too low to handle that kind of commitment. Instead, make your goal something so doable that you can’t help but accomplish it.
Your new Tiny Habit? Stand on the treadmill for one second. That’s it. Once you’ve made that teensy goal, celebrate your success. Pump your fist; give yourself a mental pat on the back. Let the dopamine flow.
Of course, once you’re there, chances are you’ll take a few steps. And a few more. However, you must celebrate for the mere accomplishment of standing on that contraption for one second. Wohoo! You did it.
It’s called Tiny Habits for a reason. The idea is to get yourself to do something – anything – to establish a habit. When the task is so ridiculously small, it’s not overwhelming. It’s a no-brainer commitment.
The Tiny Habits system involves a little more than choosing tiny versions of tasks, but this is one important component. Ditch the overwhelm. Make taking action a easy to conceive and do. Let your momentum take its course.
I’m using Tiny Habits to learn guitar. My tiny goal? Play one chord. Done. Then, I celebrate. Truthfully, on some days this is all I do. Most days, however, I keep right on strumming and get in a good practice session. I am learning one new song per week, on average. Fun stuff. And I am never overwhelmed or unmotivated. The tiny daily goal is too easy to worry about.
If you’re not motivated enough to do one simple, pathetically easy task that takes no more than seconds to accomplish, then you’re not motivated at all. Or, you may be unconsciously motivated toward the negative. In this case, choose a new goal or look deeper at your drive toward self-deprivation.
Yes, some of us are driven toward self-deprivation.
It’s a form of self-sabotage that prevents you from doing – well – anything fulfilling. There can be several reasons – stemming from childhood experiences – depriving yourself of fulfillment is the more attractive choice, deep down. 5
Maybe you learned that:
• Wanting things for yourself is painful.
• Desires lead to ultimate disappointment.
• Personal goals make you selfish.
• You don’t deserve to have good things.
• You have no right to express yourself.
• Other people are more important than you.
• Feeling empty inside is familiar – like home.
Self-deprivation can become a way of life. Imagining fulfillment might be a regular practice, but getting there feels like you’d simply have to become someone you’re not. Feeling fulfilled may feel downright wrong or even ‘dirty’.
Some of us live out our lives as an expression of self-deprivation. It’s sad – and avoidable. Tiny Habits may or may not be enough to overcome such an attachment to feeling empty and deprived.
A client of mine recently realized she felt bad – deep down – whenever she wanted anything for herself. She’d focus on a goal or personal desire, then inevitably distract herself. When I pushed to discover what’s behind the distraction, we bumped into a reservoir of shame. Shame that she could be so selfish and inconsiderate as to actually want something for herself.
Such an unconscious drive toward deprivation might even destroy self-motivation and render even the tiniest new habit useless and out of reach.
But even this is OK. Deeper work needs to be done, and some coaches are masters of deep work. Overcoming such attachments are a matter of course with the right approach. A good place to start is reading a free copy of my book: Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage. It’s a quick read that will explain how everything went wrong and how to make it right.
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- see http://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2013/01/01/just-8-of-people-achieve-their-new-years-resolutions-heres-how-they-did-it/#45348ccc304c ↩
- see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/19/dream-jobs-survey_n_2160009.html ↩
- See Loretta Bruening’s book Habits of a Happy Brain ↩
- See TinyHabits.com for more on TinyHabits ↩
- See work of Edmund Bergler: http://edmundbergler.ca/Bergler1.pdf ↩