My Year To Thrive

"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." ~Maya Angelou

Small Habits Make Big Changes


“What if someone told you to floss only one tooth everyday? Or start the new year, not with grand resolutions, but with a simple challenge?”
~BJ Fogg, “Forget Big Change, Start with a Tiny Habit”

Trigger Warning

Okay, this video was not just smart & insightful, it was entertaining. As I’m sure you gleaned from the title, Mr. Fogg advocates making small changes over time if you want to make a big change. He believes you are more likely to stick with a habit you can perform quickly & easily, than some lofty goal that can be onerous & discouraging. From there you build on those small changes until the big change sneaks up on you, already a habit.

From his own experience, he gives the example of doing push-ups. He started with doing one push-up every time he went to the bathroom (hopefully he did not do them in the bathroom). His habit was small, specific, & tied to a trigger. From there he made it two push-ups, then so on until he now does five every time he goes to the bathroom.

tiny habit screen clip

“…relying primarily on motivation to change your behavior long-term is a losing strategy, & similarly for willpower.”

According to Fogg, you need motivation, ability, & a trigger for the action, but when he mentions motivation, he points out while motivation calls you to action, it will not be the source of your ongoing success. There is a quote by John Ryun (goodreads),

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”

For the audience he provided everyone with some dental floss & had them floss one tooth. That was the start to a flossing habit. Start with just one tooth & add more in over time. Next thing you know you are flossing a mouthful every night.

From my own experience I can tell you, this is a great way to get started on a running habit. I was 34yo before I started running a minute at a time. I had never been a regular runner, I even walked my laps in gym class (I flat-out refused to run because I always thought I hated it), but had started walking when I wasn’t working to give myself something regular to do & a way to relax while still sorting through my thoughts. One day it occurred to me I wanted to run, so i did. It probably lasted less than a minute, but I kept it up & increased the amount of time I ran over time little by little until I could run a mile. Then I ran longer intervals until I could run 5K. Then I had a come apart & quit running regularly, which brings up back to now & I’m starting over.

Waking > Running intervals > Increasingly longer intervals > => ==>
Run a mile > Even longer intervals > Run 5K! =/= Fall apart > Start over

That last bit is relevant to habit building in that it is important to be aware shit happens. Just like you build habits, you can lose habits. It doesn’t mean they’re gone for good, just start again. In anything it’s important to remember they are set-backs, not failures. They’re totally normal & everybody has them, even the pros (or so I’m told, I don’t actually know any).

Weight loss talk; About 8:30, he begins using his personal weight loss efforts as an example. It’s not much, but he does show a chart tracking his weight over time & I found it personally a little triggering because I like those numbers & it made me want to start obsessing over the scale again. It lasts a couple of minutes.


Author: despitemyself

A person in flux.

2 thoughts on “Small Habits Make Big Changes

  1. This makes so much sense. I need to figure out some places I can try to insert new habits. Maybe after I brush my teeth in the morning, I scoop the cat boxes. That could work.

    • Sounds like a plan. If I don’t have anywhere to be in the morning, I am slack about brushing my teeth when I get up. I think I’ll tie it to my first potty of the day. That’s always right when I get up, so it’s a perfect fit. I can strengthen my night time brushing habit by making sure I brush my teeth after my bedtime potty.

      I’m not the only 38yo who goes potty, am I?

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