From article I wrote for albany.com
Every January, so many of you make New Year’s resolutions. You have a clean slate with the beginning of a new year. There is something refreshing and reassuring about starting anew. You are certain that this year you will finally accomplish your goals… lose those 20 pounds, work out at the gym three times a week, straighten out your finances, quit smoking or manage your stress. Unfortunately, most of you will have given up by the end of January and the rest by February. A very few will continue on through the spring.
I gave up New Year’s Resolutions a long time ago. That doesn’t mean I don’t continually work on improving the areas that I still find challenging. But I learned a valuable lesson from B.J. Fogg, the director of research and design at Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab. I was lucky enough to be in one of his early online classes called Tiny Habits. I will pass along to you the most important lessons I learned to change any behavior long-term.
To add a new (hopefully positive) behavior, begin by selecting a Tiny Habit. A Tiny Habit is a behavior:
- you do at least once a day
- takes you less than 30 seconds
- that requires little effort
You add the new behavior you want directly after an existing habit. And the key is to keep it very brief initially until it becomes a habit. I wanted to reinforce my meditation habit first thing in the morning, so I sat in my meditation chair for 30 seconds every morning as soon as I finished my last sip of coffee. Because I drink one cup of coffee every morning, that is my morning habit. Attaching my meditation to that habit is a good fit, but the key to making it work is 30 seconds only, every day. I initially wanted to sit and meditate longer than 30 seconds since I was already there, but B.J. cautioned us to only follow the new behavior for a very brief time.
Your existing behavior (i.e.drinking coffee) is you anchor. So choose your anchor well. Give it some thought. What do you do every single day, without fail? And what new behavior do you want to change/add? Remember to make it small and then you can build on it as it becomes a habit. Some examples:
- After I turn off my morning alarm, I will take 3 deep breaths and relax before getting out of bed.
- After I brush my teeth, I will write down one thing that I ate.
- After I walk in the door from work, I will get out my work out clothes
You can clearly see that one is a de-stressor, one is working towards better eating and one is working out. Only when you have these Tiny Habits imbedded as part of your daily routine, do you add the next step. And of course, it is incremental. As B.J. cautioned us, you need to make the new behavior super simple because as he says, “simplicity changes behavior.”
If exercise is your number one goal, start super simple. An example would be after I get out of bed, I will do 2 push ups. When that becomes your Tiny Habit without even thinking about it, much like brushing your teeth, it’s time to move it up a notch.
So toss out the New Year’s resolutions and try a Tiny Habit instead. I’d love to hear your thoughts about Tiny Habits, especially if you give it a try.
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