BOOK REVIEW: Tiny Habits by BG Fogg PhD

Book Reviews

THIS BOOK WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE. MAYBE. 🙂

I’ve read hundreds of books in my lifetime and I’m really on a self-improvement kick now, so this is one of the first self-improvement books I’ve picked up. I read the book and implemented some of these Tiny Habits he speaks about, and I’ll be giving you an overview of the book as well as my thoughts.

I am Henning Hoffmann and I’m a non-type-A person trying to improve my life through implementing ideas I find through online research and reading books. I think that many of us do this, so I’m hoping you can learn something from what I’m experiencing.

Trying to lose weight opened my eyes to other ways I can improve my life as well. One way all of us can improve our lives is using the try, test, iterate method that I’ve already talked about previously.

But another thing that is life changing is managing our habits. F M Alexander said: “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.”

Frederick Matthias Alexander (20 January 1869 – 10 October 1955) was an Australian actor who developed the Alexander Technique, an educational process said to recognize and overcome reactive, habitual limitations in movement and thinking.

Mr. Alexander’s statement is so true! If I decide to lose weight, have I lost any weight? No! It’s only when I put that into action – daily – that I will lose weight. And I do that through my habits. One such habit is only eating after 11:45am and before 6:15pm. And another habit I have is applying the try, test, iterate method on that window to make it effective but doable.

So! Habits are action. Decision might spur you to action and habits, but it’s the action – the habits – that gets it done.

So if you’re reading this, you’re one of us who want better habits in our lives. And if you’re anything like me, you’re finding that difficult.

For me, one of the biggest things holding me back is plain old laziness. And if I can use a system to get me over that hump, that should open up a bunch of new horizons in my life. Some of the things that I’m working on now are losing weight, drawing more often and consistently, and making these videos.

How do we do that? Personally, I read two books about habits. Atomic Habits and this book, Tiny Habits.

Here’s a quick overview of Tiny Habits by Dr BJ Fogg.

Introduction

If you fail, it doesn’t mean that you’re a failure – it’s the methodology that’s failed you. So start off with little steps. Also, remember that willpower is not enough – it’s finite. You need to set up your habits in such a way that willpower doesn’t become a factor.

Create habits using the ABC method:

A – anchor – the anchor reminds us to do the habit

B – behaviour – the habit or action itself

C – celebrate – congratulate yourself that you did the action!

Chapter 1 – Behaviour Model

In chapter one he gives his behaviour model:

You can see an action line in the graph. Anything above the line is a behaviour you’re likely to do. Anything else is not. So if it’s really easy to do, it doesn’t require a lot of motivation, and you’ll likely do it. If it’s really hard, it’ll require a lot of motivation to do.

Chapter 2 – Motivation

When starting something, motivation can be high, but it ebbs and flows and can’t be counted on.

BJ Fogg has a whole behaviour design system. First, determine the aspiration that you’re aspiring to! Create a storm of behaviours – just come up with a ton of ideas. The map them on a focus map like this:

Anything that you can get yourself to do – realistically – and is also high impact, is the behaviours that you’re targeting. Those are the golden behaviours.

Chapter 3 – Ability to Do Habits

Chapter 3 talks about your ability to do a behaviour

Five things affect ability:

  1. time
  2. money
  3. physical effort
  4. mental effort
  5. routine

Which are stopping you from being able?

There are three way to make a behaviour easier:

  1. Increase skill in that area. If you have more skill, then a behaviour is easier to do and you’re more likely to do it. This is best done when motivation is high.
  2. Increase tools and resources. Sometimes you need to gather materials together to do your behaviour. Like buying running shoes. This is also often easier to do when motivation is high.
  3. Make the behaviour tiny. Anyone can do something that’s tiny. Like, REALLY tiny. Like floss one tooth tiny.

There are two ways to make a behaviour tiny:

  1. Starter step. Determine the smallest first step. Like putting on shoes and taking them off again. Or walk to the mailbox and back.
  2. Scale back. Do a small portion of it. Like flossing just one tooth. Or meditating for three breaths.

The book has a list of questions you can ask yourself to see ways to make behaviour easier. If can’t do any, maybe should pick different behaviour.

Chapter 4 – Prompts to Start Habits

Prompts are the things that remind you to actually do your habit. There are prompts are what reminds you to actually to the tiny habit:

  1. Person prompt. You rely on yourself to “just do it”. This is highly unreliable.
  2. Context prompt. Something in your environment reminds you to do the action. Like a text message or sticky note. These can be effective but also stressful. There’s so many of them, they’re hard to manage. There are just too many things vying for your attention every day.
  3. Action prompt. You use an existing action you already do, and piggyback on it. Like flossing your teeth after putting toothbrush away.

When matching a new habit to an action prompt, or “anchor”, keeping these three things in mind make them stick better:

  1. Matching physical location. Don’t have a prompt make you go to a different place to do the behaviour.
  2. Match frequency. The prompt should always be followed by the habit, not sometimes.
  3. Match theme/purpose.Not as vital as the other two but still good if you can do it. Like if you view caffeine as a productivity enhancer, you could link drinking coffee with starting your todo app. Both are productive.

“Meanwhile habits” are those that you do while you wait for something. Like to think of something good about your body while you wait for your shower to heat up.

“Pearl habits.” Sometimes you can link a good habit to something irritating in your life, to turn something bad to good. Like the annoying click of the AC when trying to sleep – use that as a prompt to relax your face and neck.

Chapter 5 – Emotions Create & Solidy Habits

When you finish doing your behaviour, celebrate your success! Do so until your habit is fully engrained, and sometimes after that, too, if you feel like it. You can even celebrate just remembering to do it, doing it, and having done it. All three!

Dr Fogg calls these little celebrations “Shines”. Every Shine is individual – you have to do what works for you. He also mentions a “Power Celebration”. A particularly good Shine for wiring in habits really quickly. Note that you’re supposed to have several different Shines that you use.

In this chapter Dr. Fogg also gives some tips on what to do if things aren’t working. He also says that practicing a new habit recipe 7-10 times helps you to remember to do it. That means just rehearsing it as if the daily prompt had occurred. Go to the bathroom, put your toothbrush away, then then grab the floss. Just to wire it.

Chapter 6 – Growing Habits

A habit would be no good to you if it stayed tiny. You start with tiny habits in order to get the habit part of your life. But habits are meant to grow. Like turning two pushups into twenty. They can also multiply, by stacking another related thing on top

— like from saying you’re gonna have a great day every morning to also thinking of something to be grateful for while brushing your teeth.

When people feel successful, even with small things, their overall level of motivation goes up immediately.

To expand a habit, start with what you want to do only, and feel successful. And then expand when you feel the desire to. 

There are skills to crafting behaviour. He lists them in book. Like the skill of knowing how many habits to attempt at once, when to add more, or how to embrace a new identity

Chapter 7 – Untangling bad habits. 

You can apply a systematic approach to getting rid of bad habits too. This chapter is all about doing this.

Chapter 8 – How we change together.

You can change group behaviour as the ringleader (where you do explicit actions with buy-in) or as a ninja (where your efforts to effect change are more subtle).

Final Thoughts

Have I applied anything from this book? I’ve definitely learning the science behind habit building, and when I want to create a habit, I will be relying on this. And I have implemented some new habits in my life, like doing squats while waiting for my coffee water to boil. And drinking a glass of water every morning when I get up. 

This book is really easy to read. I zipped through it really quickly because I just wanted to learn all about this topic. He gave a lot of examples. I really learn by example, so I really appreciated this. BJ Fogg did a lot of research and application of these theories before he ever wrote this book, so he had lots of real life examples to draw from, and he gives many in this book. Which is awesome.

Would I buy this book? Yes, and I did. I highly recommend it.

Amazon America Link

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Amazon UK Link

Here’s my video review:

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