On the 4th of September, my life changed forever. Of course, I had no way of knowing that would be the day. I thought I was in Bali to celebrate my friend’s marriage and figure out the next chapter of my life. You see, my husband and I had decided to separate only a few days before. I had no idea the universe was about to deal such an unexpected hand.
I was drugged at the wedding, abducted, violently, and repeatedly assaulted, and had a huge accident coming off a motorcycle trying to escape. This resulted in a mild traumatic brain injury and spine, neck, head, and nerve injuries. I couldn’t do much at all for more than two years. I couldn’t even legally make my own decisions because of my traumatic brain injury (TBI).
I was terrified of doing anything which might limit me. I avoided people; I avoided love; I avoided connection. I avoided friends, family—everyone. My natural state is an adventurer, explorer, extrovert, and I love people—but I became a hermit. I stopped exercising and socializing, which I had done all my life. I barely left the house. I told no one, not even friends or family or even my mother, what was going on. I didn’t show up to things when I said I would, though I prided myself on my reliability and reputation before this.
I took approx 12 types of medication—anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, pain relief, sleeping tablets, sedatives, nerve medication. Otherwise, I could barely move, and I looked kind of like I had MS as a result of my collapsed spine pressing on my nerves.
In the beginning, it was so bad I needed help to remember to do basic things, like take a shower. I’m grateful I didn’t need to learn to read, write or walk again—I was fortunate to have a mild TBI. Space and time seemed to merge into one for me. I had an excellent memory before the incident—it was one of my superpowers. Afterward? I couldn’t remember anything, but I was too embarrassed to tell anyone, so I wrote down what I did each hour of each day in my iPhone calendar in case someone asked me what I had been up to; otherwise, I couldn’t recall.
I gained a lot of weight as I was recovering, which was the least of my worries, to be fair. I didn’t look in a mirror anyway as I couldn’t look at the woman who stared back at me. Who was she? I didn’t recognize her at all. I relived the trauma day after day. I had flashbacks and was often terrified to go to sleep. My hair fell out. I never felt safe. I installed locks on every window, deadbolts on my doors, and locks on each internal door inside the house. I checked the locks countless times each day. I had the consistent pestering thought, “You’re not supposed to be here.” I felt endless shame and guilt that my recovery/getting back on track was taking so long. I felt like an utter failure day after day.
I was abducted. And that makes me an abduction survivor.
I narrowly escaped with my life.
My spine did collapse, and I did have a TBI (traumatic brain injury) from the experience.
And yup, I was violently and repeatedly assaulted.
Yeah, it did take several years, teams of people, and emptied my bank accounts to recover.
No, I didn’t tell many people when it was happening as I was so ashamed.
Dad drowned in a boating tragedy, check.
Mum went to prison; I had a violent stepfather, a tumultuous upbringing, check.
My best friend died while this was happening. My marriage ended. Yeah, I can tick those boxes too.
Each of us has a story to tell.
Our own version of these types of struggles and challenges.
Each of us has a life filled with trials and tribulations, ups and downs, highs and lows, the good times and the bad. Some of us have had horrific experiences as part of our destiny, some of us have had a life filled with shiny, magic moments, and most of us have some sort of combination.
What each of us takes out of these experiences — whether consciously or unconsciously — will ultimately shape our future.
We may not get to choose what happens to us, but we decide what we will make things mean.
What we decide shapes our experience of the world and our identity.
I have never worked so hard in all my life to overcome my obstacles, but at some point, I thought there has to be a better way, there has to be something I can do, and this is where Tiny Habits entered my life.
How the Tiny Habits Methods helped me overcome obstacles
At the time, I barely wanted to leave the house. Starting exercising seemed insurmountable.
I wasn’t lacking motivation; I was so terribly full of fear and feeling unsafe that I felt I couldn’t face people.
But walking to the letterbox and back? Now that I could do.
Getting my exercise clothes ready for a workout? Now that I could do.
The Tiny Habits Method was helping me achieve both Fogg Maxim #1 & #2.
Fogg Maxim #1: Help people do what they already want to do.
Fogg Maxim #2: Help people feel successful.
So, where did I start? Where you can begin, too:
Start way smaller than you think you need to. Set yourself up for a win.
Tiny Habit Recipes for Wellbeing, Exercise & Weight Loss
After I prepare my PJs in the evening, I will prepare a set of exercise clothes/shoes and put them in the bathroom and celebrate by smiling and thinking, “I got this!”
Why this works: I was already getting clothes ready to wear after my evening shower—my PJs and robe. So it was very easy to open another drawer and take exercise clothes to the bathroom with me. I even moved my exercise clothes to live in the drawer next to my PJs, so it was super, super easy.
I recommend this—making things easy to do, rather than relying on memory or motivation.
The pairing: Well-being stuff in the bathroom always works well for me (and my clients & fellow coaches too.) The only thing I needed to do was open another drawer and take a set of clothes out. I also started storing exercise gear in ready-to-go sets—rather than tops/shorts separately.
The frequency? Once per day
Time the recipe takes? 15-30 seconds
It also made me feel prepared, future-focused, and on top of the next day, in advance.
After I pee for the first time in the morning (final step: washing my hands/hanging the hand towel up), I will get dressed in my exercise clothes/shoes and celebrate by doing a Serena Williams fist pump.
Why this works: This Tiny Habits recipe made me feel like someone who worked out—it started to shift my identity and how I saw and related to myself. Also, once I was in my clothes and shoes, I felt like I needed to do something before getting out of them.
The pairing: Wellbeing stuff in the bathroom
The frequency? Once per day
Time the recipe takes? Approx 15 seconds.
After I finish the last mouthful of my first coffee, I will walk to the letterbox (and celebrate by clapping my hands).
Why this works: I was in action. Tiny, simple, action—walking.
The pairing: Coffee is a feel-good morning ritual, so I wanted to anchor exercise in here.
The frequency? Once per day
Time the recipe takes? Approx 15 seconds.
Want to earn extra credit? Keep walking! Just remember to practice your celebration first.
Focus on Celebration
Celebration is how we make our habits automatic. It creates a feeling of positive emotion right after we practice our Tiny Habit recipe—our new behaviour—or while we are doing it. It teaches us how to be our own BBF and to be kind to ourselves.
Focus on Creating Success Momentum
Rather than doing one big thing once, do small things lots of times. This gives us lots of small opportunities for success, which is actually more important than one single opportunity for larger success.
“It’s the frequency of success, not the size of success, that matters.” – Dr BJ Fogg
5-30 seconds a day using the Tiny Habits method have resulted in some massive changes.
I’ve reduced my body fat by 12%.
I’ve reduced my weight by 25lb and kept it off (approx 100-200g fat loss per week.)
Last December I could only lift a broomstick, and now I can Olympic lift.
I’ve used the Tiny Habits Method to stop taking all medication. I’ve now been medication-free for 12-months.
I’ve used Tiny Habit Recipes to assist with overwhelm, anxiety, and PTSD flashbacks.
I couldn’t jump around at all when I began with Tiny Habits. I was so scared my spine would collapse. I started skipping in 2020, and now I dance every day.
I move my body 12,000 steps (10-15km) every day, even without going to the gym, by using Tiny Habits Recipes. I’ve consistently averaged 13,000 steps per day for two years now (I track this using Oura.)
Want to learn more?
After I put on my seatbelt, I will push play on my audiobook.
This has been my most successful Tiny Habit to date! I can quickly finish 1-2 books a week. But this habit didn’t start this way.
My aspiration was to read at night after putting my kids to bed. During family dinner conversations, I would express my frustration with not getting the books read that I wanted to and how my pile was stacking up. There were nights of me commenting that I bought another book, and my kids would laugh because they knew my lack of success at reading was real.
After a couple of weeks of not completing this habit, I realized I needed to troubleshoot it instead of continuing to whine.
There was an aha moment one day… I am in the car for multiple hours a day running kids around.
And that was when this super successful habit was created. I was learning the content inside the books (which had been the aspiration the whole time). My kids heard and saw the process (I had wanted something, created a habit, it didn’t work, so I adjusted instead of giving up.)
While I was focused during this, I hadn’t realized the lesson I was teaching to my kids until one night at dinner, my middle son started to explain a habit that he had designed and needed to troubleshoot it.
He kept hearing about the importance of gratitude and wanted to create a habit around it.
He told me that initially, he was going to sit at his desk and write down three things he was grateful for. That hadn’t been working for him, so he moved to his bed.
He said, “Mom, I thought that after I sit on my bed, I will open up the notes on my phone and type out three things I’m grateful for.”
He explained that many of his teachers at school have him do stuff with an app on his phone, and then he dreads that, and he didn’t want to dread this habit. So time to redesign again. He liked the location of the habit (his bed); he just needed to design the gratitude part to be easier for him.
His habit ended up being, “After I sit on the end of my bed when I am done playing guitar, I will close my eyes and think of one thing I’m grateful for.”
I was excited for him. I had no idea this habit was being created and that he was doing it on his own.
The first and most powerful way to teach your kids the Tiny Habits method is by modeling positive habits yourself. Be the example and explain behaviors that you would like to have as habits for yourself. Involve your kids in the process. Let them hear what you would like to accomplish, how it’s working out, or how it isn’t. Letting them live through you and your explanations so that their thoughts can follow the process and see themselves within it.
My absolute favorite way to teach my kids about habits is with the Swarm of Bs.
To say I love doing this with my kids is an understatement!
It creates a moment for me to understand their aspirations and desired outcomes (sometimes it’s for a long-term desire, and sometimes it’s to solve a current problem).
How I to do the Swarm of Bs with my kids:
I love this because I get to hear their thoughts. We get to spend time together brainstorming all these fantastic possibilities of behaviors. Often there are ideas I would not have thought of.
One of my sons used this exercise to solve our family’s problem of not playing enough board games. I had no idea this was something he had wanted to have more of.
When I did this with my oldest stepdaughter, she wrote “confidence” in her swarm. Again, I had not realized this was something she wanted. Talking through how she (& I) could help her grow her confidence was playful, creative, and fun! It also allowed me to understand her and be aware of how I can help her be successful.
After Liv and I did her Swarm of Bs, she decided that mirror affirmations would be the most successful for her.
Awesome! We had a starting point.
From there, we talked through what time of day she wanted to say an affirmation. (Morning while she was brushing her hair. This was her anchor). Then we talked through what her affirmation would be (behavior).
Her Tiny Habit:
When I am brushing my hair in the morning, I will look in the mirror and say, “Today is going to be a great day!”
Recipe for a Tiny Habit:
Anchor + Behavior + Celebration
I have noticed that for kids, celebration comes pretty naturally.
A celebration is an emotional reaction. It can be verbal, physical, or in your mind.
One of my kids does a dance shimmy; another says “yeah!” in their mind.
My third and last suggestion for teaching your kids how to use the Tiny Habits method is to get their “buy-in.”
Fogg Maxim #1: Help people do what they already want to do.
Designing habits around things your kids already want to do is fantastic.
However, I have found I want them to do habits that they might not be stoked about.
Forcing them is one option, but that is not a long-term solution; it won’t necessarily help them as adults. So explaining to them what behavior I would like for them to make a habit and talking through it with them has been successful.
As we talk, I can hear something that they want that aligns with the behavior I am hoping for.
An example of this is making their beds.
I have yet to find a kid that is excited about this.
I remember a particular dinner conversation that came from my frustration of my kids’ rooms being trashed by the time school started each morning. I realized what I had been doing wasn’t working, which was getting mad at them, and I decided to take a different approach. I asked them why making your bed might be important. It was helpful for them and me to understand where we all were coming from. I then asked them how they felt after school when they came home and saw that their bed was made (they all agreed that they felt happy and there was peace). I took some time to explain how simple it could be. I also explained my expectations of what a “made bed” could be (aka it didn’t have to be perfect with blankets tight & pillows lined up, etc.). I explained how it could be done in 30 seconds or less. The final part was designing a habit around this:
After my feet hit the floor first thing in the morning, I will flip around and pull up my blankets.
It was fascinating how literally overnight this habit was magic. They understood the behavior and have invested their ideas into the habit of designing.
Sign up for a free mom-focused 5-Day Tiny Habits Program:
Tiny Habits for Reducing ADHD Overwhelm
Stephanie Marcusky, CALC
If you are familiar with the Spoon Theory for chronic illness, or the idea of how to best allocate resources in a system, you may understand the idea that some people with ADHD feel that they only have the emotional energy for some activities and that there may be a lot of things that they can’t get to in a given day.
You might also think of this as “bandwidth” – the emotional energy you have available to handle activities and stress is analogous to the amount of data traffic that can be handled by the network.
Neurotypical people who subscribe to a GTD (Get Things Done)/Eat The Frog way of life may not understand this.
How Many Health Points?
So let’s put it another way – When you start a new game that uses Health Points (HP), you generally have a small number of health points, but the activities you’re supposed to do only need a few. You level up pretty quickly, and you get more capacity for health points. There comes a point, though, when doing only small activities makes it take longer to level up, so you might have to slog through slow gameplay before you can level up.
Bigger activities take more HP but you get the rewards of accelerating through the game.
If we’re talking real life, going to college is going to get us farther in life than staying home and doing small chores. But it’s going to take a lot of HP. And if we have anything else that needs HP – physical or mental health problems, family to care for, unsafe living arrangements, unsafe communities, lack of transportation, cost of books and courses, all the way up to systemic economic and social structure problems – it might take longer.
The Six ‘S’s
On an individual level, if you need help getting your life under some semblance of control, some ADHD Life Coaches use the acronym of Three Ss: Structure, Support, and Systems. I like to add Strategies, Strengths, and Skills. To explain:
Structure is along the lines of how you organize your environment to help you. For example:
Support is alarms, automatic bill pay, Alexa/Siri/Google for creating shopping lists and setting timers, hiring people to help, or finding a friend to body double while you do boring things.
Strategies are how you approach problems. We may unconsciously start getting angry when things aren’t going the way we planned, but if we take the time to step back and re-examine, we may find a way to reframe the issue that helps us let go of some of the anger. Or we take a time-out to work off some steam with exercise or music.
Strengths mean using what we are good at. It may be different than what we’ve been taught is important, but it is our strength, and it’s important to start there and build on that. A fish isn’t going to be good at climbing a tree, but maybe swimming is exactly what helps you succeed.
Skills can be learned to support you where you might be lacking.
Systems are routines to order your life and environment.
When we want to make a change to our routine behaviors, whether it’s adding exercise, flossing our teeth, or meditating – things that can fall into any of these Six Ss – we need a system to change our behaviors.
The Fogg Behavior Model
BJ Fogg, a behavior researcher at Stanford, realized that behaviors need 3 elements to occur (https://behaviormodel.org/): Motivation, Ability, and a Prompt.
If you aren’t motivated to make a change, you probably won’t. If you’re very motivated, but don’t have the ability to make the change, you won’t – throwing a library of motivation books at you isn’t going to help. And if you don’t notice an internal sensation (like needing to use the restroom) or an external “flag” (your medicine is next to the coffee maker so you can take it before you leave for work), you might not realize/remember you should do that behavior.
This leads to figuring out how to help people make those behaviors easier.
Creating a Tiny Habit
Tiny Habits® helps you create new behaviors, and it’s as easy as ABC: Anchor habit, tiny new Behavior, and Celebration.
Your Anchor is your prompt, a tiny new Behavior is small enough that you can do it quickly, and the Celebration sets the habit by flooding your brain with feel-good chemicals. Looking at it another way, (maybe more scientifically) you are strengthening your neural pathway to do that behavior. Three simple ingredients, and the encouragement to play and stay curious.
So why did I start with the long-winded Health Points game-play story, you ask? Because Tiny Habits is the key to getting more done with less HP. When you set a new habit in place after an anchor habit, you can grow it to become automatic, and you can move it from something that takes emotional labor/”HP” to something you don’t have to think through. So either it becomes a lower HP item, or almost a 0 HP item, and you can use that HP for something else.
If you know your kids are going to be bickering and asking questions and forgetting clothing items as you’re trying to get them out of the door, adding a new habit isn’t going to work right then. But if you add the Tiny Habit of hanging your car keys by the door when you come home, you save yourself a lot of HP later. If you help the kids learn the habit of putting their shoes in the bin by the door instead of letting them take the shoes into the living room where they can be lost under the couch, you’re saving time, frustration and brain power.
Why Habit Stacking Doesn’t Work
You may have heard of “habit stacking” – a 13-step process for creating a repeatable set of habits – a routine – that you can adopt to make things easier. The problem is, the more you stack together, the more likely your proverbial Jenga tower of blocks can fall if you forget something.
A Better Strategy for Success
Let’s go back to the idea of marshaling the kids out the door to get to school. If you get distracted by a kid looking for a shoe, you might forget that you are supposed to grab your keys, then grab your lunch bag, then grab your purse/laptop bag.
I would suggest that you set 2 or 3 separate habits: when you put your coffee cup/dirty dish by the sink, move the lunch bag by the door. When you grab your shoes, move the work bag to the door. Then when you grab your keys, you will grab your bags. This is an extra check to be sure you have both bags together.
If you’re looking to reduce your stress by adding mindfulness to your day, trying to find specific time to set aside can be hard, especially with kids. But you can build a Tiny Habit to add 30 seconds of mindful breathing every time you go to the bathroom and wash your hands.
Our modern world is complex, fast-paced, and not wired to help you focus on long-term goals. So, perfect to distract our already-distractible brains even more. The less our overburdened brains need to remember, the lighter their load and the lower our stress and overwhelm. Tiny Habits turns more high-frequency behaviors into automatic habits and increases our ability to tackle more high-energy/HP/bandwidth activities without getting overwhelmed as quickly.
Name: Chandni Sawlani
One of the biggest sources of pain and anxiety in my life, and perhaps the lives of most of us, is witnessing and knowing all that I can be but not being able to close the gap. For years like most people, I’d go through cycles of being highly motivated. Inspired by experiences that moved me deeply, I’d set powerful new intentions, take massive action, and then have all of these new behaviors fizzle away.
I first came across Tiny Habits in the middle of the pandemic in 2020. I remember going through the 5-day program, and beginning to get a sense of how it worked. My first round wasn’t too successful, but something stuck, something clicked into place, and so I gave it another shot. And BOOM…I got it! The first layer of understanding of this simple and powerful method locked in.
The first piece I started to work on was my morning routine. For years I’d had fleeting phases of success with my morning routine and had experienced how this impacted the version of me I’d show up as through the day.
I started with this Tiny Habit: ‘After I open my bedroom door, I will roll out my yoga mat’ (and celebrate!). And lo and behold, there I was, rolling out my yoga mat, day after day, feeling absolute delight go through me. Soon enough, rolling out my yoga mat turned into a 20-minute yoga practice. In time, this was complemented by a meditation routine and other pieces.
Now, about a year and a half later, I wake up to my dream morning routine without fail, almost every day, even when I am travelling, even after a late night. I wake up, sip some hot herbal tea with a book to read, roll out my yoga mat and stretch, meditate for 20 minutes, send my loved ones morning messages, eat a bowl of fruit, and have a hot shower. It is my default now, and I couldn’t imagine more than a day or two of not living this routine! What’s amazing is that this routine has evolved and gone through many iterations. It’s flexible and I tweak it whenever I feel inspired to. It feels so simple to add and delete pieces, to move things around.
The returns from locking this in are priceless. I start each day feeling deeply centered and in integrity with myself. I’m able to show up to the day with stillness and with a smile. And more consistently, I have productive and successful days!
The second most important piece that my Tiny Habits have helped me with is responding to challenging situations, especially ones that are emotionally triggering.
For the last few years, I have been trying really hard to navigate a certain challenging relationship with integrity. What kept me stuck was my disappointment with who I had been in this relationship. My behavior was out of alignment with the person I know I am. Intentions failed me in moments of being deeply triggered, and I’d find myself reacting with frustration and helplessness.
When I read Amy’s story of Pearl Habits in the Tiny Habits book, it moved me to tears. I finally felt there was hope in this situation, and I had a new approach I could try. I started with the Tiny Habit: ‘After I feel emotionally triggered in a conversation, I will stand up and get into a power pose’.
This Tiny Habit was a game-changer. It allowed me to change my physiology in a moment of stress and create a moment of pause, the space to choose my response. Over time I found myself reacting less and responding more deeply to my authentic self.
This Tiny Habit then rippled to other Tiny Habits designed specifically to navigate the nuances of this challenging relationship. Now, about 10 months from when I first started this experiment, I have managed to close and complete this relationship. There is not as much mutual acceptance as I had hoped for, but I have a sense of inner peace that comes with being in integrity with myself.
The third piece that my Tiny Habits have really helped with is the confidence to pursue learning and growth consistently.
The massive gap between information and action has been a serious cause of anxiety for me. Learning was stressful because the weight of not implementing things was painful and overwhelming.
Through Tiny Habits and the overall mindset of keeping things tiny, simple, and sustainable, I have grown confident in my ability to integrate new learnings into my life, be it professionally or personally. For instance, now whenever I complete a session of absorbing any new content or information, I have a Tiny Habit recipe: ‘After I finish reading/watching/listening to something, I will ask myself ‘What is the one thing that is most relevant for me to remember/integrate from this right now?’ This has definitely brought ease into my life, and I find myself growing and evolving more rapidly than I ever thought possible!
Tiny Habits has been the single most important framework in my toolkit for living in integrity with who I am. With my current understanding of Tiny Habits, I am confident that I can bring any change that I desire into my life, and that gives me such a sense of freedom and joy!
I sincerely hope that you find this freedom too 🙂 Here’s a link to sign up for the free 5-day program that got me started on this journey.
Through my business Moonlight Accelerators, I support young game-changers step deeply into integrity with themselves and do their greatest work in the world! Tiny Habits is an important part of our toolkit. You can learn more here.
My 12-year-old son started orchestra last year, playing on the same violin my grandma learned on 80 years ago. (We affectionately call it Shirley, after her.) After every class, I’d ask if he had exercises or songs he should be practicing at home. If you’ve had a tween, you won’t be surprised to hear that he consistently answered, “No, we haven’t done much in class yet”…until the day the flier came home for their upcoming concert. Cue pre-adolescent panic attack.
Gavin has a tendency to catastrophize in the face of a big project, and immediately started moaning that, “I’m never going to be ready! I’m never going to be able to play all these songs! I’m going to have to practice 24/7 for a year to learn all this!”
So we started breaking the elephant down into bite-sized pieces. “OK,” I said, “you only have three weeks until the concert. Maybe you won’t have all five songs mastered by then. But what if you focused on just one?”
“Maybe if I practiced all day every day,” he sulked.
“Well, you’re pretty busy, and you still have to go to school, so I don’t see that happening. But do you think there’s anywhere in your day where you could find just a few extra minutes for this?”
“Like that’ll do any good!”
“Maybe not. But why don’t you try it for a few days and see how it goes?”
With that enthusiastic reply, we got into the creation of a Tiny Habit recipe. My kids are familiar with the method, so I briefly reminded him that it might be a good idea to choose a specific time of day to practice, so he’d be more likely to follow through. He’s an early riser, so he thought mornings might work best.
“Great,” I said, “Where does this fit best in your morning?”
We decided that if he practiced as soon as he got up he might wind up running late, but if he made it the last thing on his to-do list he could practice more or less depending on how much time he had left before the bus came.
We walked through the morning routine and pegged “After I put on my tennis shoes” as a good anchor; he keeps his shoes in his room, next to his violin, and puts them on after breakfast and before leaving for the bus.
Now for the habit. “I’ll practice all my songs 10 times,” he said.
“I like your enthusiasm, but that’s a pretty big goal. What happens if you’re running late one day? Can we scale it back a little? You can always do more if you have time.”
At this point, we decided to play around with the smallest possible habit he could think of, “I will pick up my violin case.” On days he had time, this would lead to a quick practice session. On days he was running late, he’d pick up the case and tell his violin, “Sorry, Shirley, gotta run. Let’s play tomorrow.”
Gavin was sure that anything short of a full practice session couldn’t possibly produce results, but he grudgingly agreed to give it a shot.
In three days the first song was mastered. After a week he was setting his alarm earlier to get more practice in, and picking up the violin after school to show off his growing skills. Three weeks later he walked onstage feeling calm and confident. He’d even taught himself a few songs that were not on the program and proudly gave the real Shirley a private concert over Christmas break.
For kids (and grown-ups) who are easily overwhelmed, the Tiny Habits method gives them a concrete way to break down big, scary goals and projects. It also gives them continual small wins to celebrate, which boosts their confidence, created success momentum, and keeps them moving in the right direction. They quickly see how even small steps toward your goal can lead quickly to measurable progress.
Curious about how the Tiny Habits method can help you accomplish big things? Check out BJ’s just-released bestseller, Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything. Ready to try it out for yourself? Sign up for our free 5-day program and learn how to create habits that can help you reach even your most daunting aspirations.
Did you ever see a film back in 1995 called Johnny Mnemonic? Keanu Reeves playing the part of Johnny who was able to store huge amounts of information in his memory using a computer chip.
In reality our memories are nothing like computers, however back in the early 90’s the idea of having a super powered memory was something that instantly grabbed my attention for a number of reasons:
Off the back of the TV show I fell into working with real people with real challenges and got hooked.
So, what does it take to go from having no confidence in your memory to knowing you can learn and remember anything you put your mind to?
It’s an over simplification, however if I had to, I’d break it down into 3 steps
While I cover all of these and more in The Total Memory Blueprint, let’s briefly look at each one of these areas…
If someone asked you, “Would you like to improve your memory by 500%?” what would you say? My guess is, for most people, they would jump at the chance. I’ve personally heard people respond with a phrase like, “Yeh, I could really do with that!” However, the real impact of having a good memory is rarely thought about.
So what if we were to be more specific? What if someone said you could learn a new way of thinking that would deliver:
If someone said that you could achieve all of this, how would you respond? What different choices would you make going forward? What impact would it have in your life? What would be the best part of having a set of strategies that allowed you to do each one of these things?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with people from all walks of life at different stages, from students to professionals or CEOs and even actors. The first coaching session is always the most interesting as people are buzzed up to start learning memory techniques and tips, however that is never where I start and here’s why… most people don’t know why they want to improve their memory AND they have beliefs that don’t support them. So we always start with the mindset and get absolute clarity on:
There is a catch to all of this though; there are no quick fixes, magic pills or microchips (at least not yet) that instantly transform your ability to remember. It takes energy and commitment; this is where Tiny Habits® come in…
When I first heard about Tiny Habits I got pretty psyched. My initial driver to try them out was to create some better health habits. Since starting Tiny Habits I’ve gone from an erratic (every now and then) 20 minute morning workout to a 2 hour ritual that gets my mind and body in peak state for the day.
During my first conversation with BJ Fogg, he suggested I could use this method with my clients, so I decided to give it a go and trained as a coach. Shortly after I began introducing Tiny Habits for Memory and Focus to my clients and they loved them. They found it a simple way to introduce new techniques into their lives and it also helped create momentum when they hit a learning curve.
It was as if by creating these Tiny Habits they were not only planting the seeds for each of the strategies I shared, these seeds were taking root so it was easier for them to grow the larger behaviors they could actually use in real life situations.
After I wake up in the morningI will memorize 3 itemsThen you celebrate to help the habit take root
Here’s the key though, you don’t just memorize by picking 3 items and repeating them over and over again in your mind, you get creative! For example let’s imagine your 3 items are a chair, plant and mobile phone.
You might imagine:
You give a chair to a plant that needs to make an urgent phone call.
This is called a Chain Story and you can create something like this in about 10 seconds. The interesting thing is, it’s very hard to forget.
Let’s ramp it up, look at these 9 items and try to remember them:
I created this using Rory’s Story Cubes
Now Imagine this: you are playing with the abacus and a key falls out, you use it to get inside the plane, which is caught by a giant hand that gives you the padlock. You shrink and jump inside and fall all the way through to a tree, you fall asleep and are woken up by lightning. You see the masks!
By doing the Tiny Habit above (with just 3 items) you start conditioning your brain to use this strategy more automatically.
Once you master this technique, its application goes way further than just simple items; you can use it to remember key points in a presentation, facts from a meeting, details about people, conversations and combined with a few other strategies even whole books!
An essential ingredient to having greater memory retention and recall is the skill to instantly be in the moment. As someone who was a professional actor for many years this was intrinsic in being able to learn large scripts, let go of anxiety and remain confident. A large part of what I share with people is this skill of really getting into that state of flow. Here’s a very simple Tiny Habit to set you on the right path. I call these primer questions:
After I finish my breakfastI will ask myself, “what is the one thing I will give my focus to today?”Celebrate
The purpose of this primer question is to turn on your internal radar to pay attention to the thing that is most important for you ‘today’. It is all too easy to be distracted by technologies and other peoples agenda, so by explicitly asking yourself a question along these lines every morning can bring real focus to your day.
By creating Tiny Habits for each of the Memory and Focus strategies you can incorporate them into your life so much easier.
So we’ve talked about facilitating the right mindset and creating Tiny Habits that will build real momentum. There is a primary ingredient that we still need to achieve some of the outcomes we went through at the beginning of this post. You have already had a taster of this when memorizing those 9 items earlier; I call this Creative Memorization.
The idea behind Creative Memorization isn’t just about remembering. It is about experiencing a deep level of learning. To truly learn, you have to create; with creation and use comes understanding. You move from a place of knowing something intellectually to having something in your body – this is what creative memorization feels like.
Creative memorization is not a passive form of remembering but a way of thinking that is results-focused and draws on each of your memory types (episodic, semantic, procedural, emotional, priming, conditioned response), looking for creative ways to make anything more memorable so you can put it into practice.
Before you jump into the complex stuff, with any new skill you need to master the basics. Try this well known strategy called the Chain Method. Here’s an example I usually start with to get people going. There are 15 main items in this story. Read the story 2-3 times and each time imagine it more vividly in your mind than the time before…
Big Ben is wearing a fur coat and bouncing up and down on a springboard. He dives into a large pot of honey, and out of the honey comes a dinosaur wearing a red baseball cap and swinging a baseball bat. It starts smashing up a Ferrari with the baseball bat. Driving the Ferrari is Tom Cruise, who is smoking a huge cigar. Tom looks over to his right and stubs out the cigar on the head of a bald man. The bald man is eating a big sticky Mars bar, and wrapped around the Mars bar is a slimy snake, playing the drums and drinking a bottle of Budweiser.
Drop a comment below letting me know how well you got on!
Over the last 5 years I’ve written a number of books to help people build their skills in this area. For some people a book is enough and for others they are looking for something more, that could be some personal 1-1 coaching or online video training they can complete at their own pace to step up in their career, make the leap to start a business or just feel like they have the freedom to do the thing they love.
There’s a whole bunch of resources and courses you can find here. If you really want to take your memory to the next level then check out:
Feel free to ping your questions to me!
While Johnny Mnemonic is still science fiction the potential of having an outstanding memory is absolutely a reality. All it takes is the right mindset, tiny habits and some killer strategies.
Ready to celebrate your success? Get our killer list of 102 Ways to Celebrate here!
I have a confession: I used to love seeing kids have tantrums. Every time I passed a toddler thrashing on the grocery store floor or saw a red-faced kid screaming at the playground, a part of me breathed a sigh of relief. Thank goodness, I thought. Other people’s kids do this, too.
We’ve all chuckled over the “Reasons My Son is Crying” blog or a friend’s tale of their own tot’s tantrum, because it’s so reassuring to see just how normal these outbursts are, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to handle when they come from our own kids.
In our last post, Tiny Habits Academy director Linda Fogg-Phillips detailed strategies for helping parents to keep their cool when a kid is blowing up, but kids need help learning to negotiate their own big feelings as well. She mentioned my son, Gavin, and my goal to help him (and myself) to learn to deal with frustration without throwing a fit. In the Tiny Habits for Moms course, I learned some great strategies that have helped me and both my kids to develop emotional resilience and put irritations in perspective.
1. Meet Primary Needs
Linda reminded us that people who are hungry, thirsty or tired have trouble keeping their emotions in check, and that goes double for children. I’ve learned that the combination of after-school hunger and homework makes it hard for Gavin to push through the afternoon without drama. Now I set him up for success by making sure he is getting enough rest, and that his blood sugar stays stable throughout the day.
Sample Habit: After my child sits down to work on his homework, I will give him a healthy snack and a glass of water.
2. Join Their Team
My friend Amanda’s son is a lot like Gavin, and she has said that sometimes she feels like she’s his emotional punching bag. Kids come to us with their frustrations because they want our help, but sometimes their efforts at getting it are clumsy and even downright abusive.
When one of Tiny Habits for Moms coach Brittany Herlean’s three boys becomes frustrated and starts taking his feelings out on her, she reminds him that she is not the enemy, and that she is on his side. Then she helps him redirect his focus by identifying the real problem, and helping him to find a solution.
Sample Habit: When my child yells at me, I will remind him that I am on his side.
3. Identify Tantrum Triggers
To deal with tantrums, outbursts and general moodiness, try to identify the root of the problem. It might not be as obvious as you think. Some are predictable; you know that these circumstances often challenge your kid. Common triggers include:
These triggers are pretty immediate, but some are much subtler. If a kid’s fit seems way out of proportion or just doesn’t make sense, step back and look at what’s going on in the rest of her life. Like hunger and thirst, feeling out of control or neglected can give kids a hair trigger. So can trouble with friends or stress at school, which may sap your kids emotional resilience and manifest in general snappishness.
Deal with the bad behavior, but follow up with a heart-to-heart once things have calmed down to see if your child is struggling with something unknown. Find ways to give your child more of whatever they need (like autonomy or affection) once the conflict is over, or help them to find solutions to the problems that are causing stress.
Sample Habit: After my child has a tantrum, I will snuggle her in the rocking chair.
Sample Habit: After my child pulls out her homework, I will help her outline a study plan for her test.
4. Help Them to Self-Soothe
Over the years I’ve tried a number of strategies to help my son Gavin deal with his mercurial temperament. Yoga didn’t help; a meditation app did. Counting to ten makes him angrier. Folding origami is magical. I spoke to some of the moms from my Tiny Habits for Moms group, and together we amassed a list of ideas that have worked for us. Try a few for yourself and see what happens.
When I feel like hitting, I will stomp my feet.
When I get suck on a homework problem I will tell myself, “I can do this.”
5. Think Like a Scientist
Being a mom is a lot like being a scientist. Your child is an unknown element, and it takes some experimenting to learn what causes a reaction, and how to prevent one. As they get older, their triggers and strategies will change, and so will yours. Finding the right recipes can take time, but remember, you’re also teaching your children to be more aware of their emotions and more able to act on them in a healthy and socially acceptable way, and that lesson will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Tantrums are just one of the challenges moms face every day. To learn how the Tiny Habits method can help you to deal with everything from the dinner dishes to your relationship with your spouse, join our next session of Tiny Habits for Moms.
Jen Lee is not a Buddhist, but she’s always been pretty Zen. “Growing up, I was really even-keel. My mom called me her ‘little ray of sunshine.’ I was really calm and patient – or so I thought. Then I had kids.”
Her first child, Gavin, inherited her sunny disposition, scattered with frequent, unpredictable mega storms. “We call him our little volcano,” Lee says. “Something would happen, and he’d just blow. For the first few years, it was really hard for me to know what to do with him. After a while, I was blowing my top, too.”
Many mothers are blindsided by the way parenting can try one’s patience. I know I was. But after raising eight kids, I’ve learned a few things. In the Tiny Habits for Moms course I help moms like Jen to deal with the challenges of parenting in a way that is proactive instead of reactive and intentional instead of impulsive. Here’s a sneak peek at how you can use the Tiny Habits method to maintain your sanity and be the mom you want to be.
1. Pinpoint Your Triggers
Think back to a time when you’ve really lost your cool with your child. What was the spark that ignited the explosion? It’s not enough to recognize that sometimes your kids make you angry. To solve the problem, you need to identify the specific triggers.
For many parents, it’s defiance. Even when a parent teaches their child respectful behavior, sometimes they’re going to say no or blatantly go against you. Other common triggers include:
· Slamming doors
· Breaking rules
Often, it’s a kid’s tantrum that leads a parent to snap. However, when your child is out of control, it’s especially important that you model healthy ways of dealing with strong feelings. Freaking out at a kid who is freaking out is akin to hitting a child because he hit someone else; you’re only reinforcing that it’s an acceptable way to deal with a problem. Instead, use the moment as an opportunity to teach your child more acceptable strategies for dealing with anger and frustration.
2. Take Preventative Measures
First, recognize that people of all ages have trouble regulating their emotions when they are hungry, tired or stressed out. If you know you have a tendency to get “hangry,” create habits that head off a bad mood before it begins.
Sample Habit: After I pick up my purse in the morning, I will put a healthy snack inside.
If you get cranky when you’re tired, make a habit of going to bed a bit earlier, or structure your evening to minimize opportunities for conflict.
Sample Habit: After one episode of my favorite show ends, I will turn off the television (and go to bed!)
Feeling stressed out or angry at a coworker, friend or spouse? Don’t take it out on your kid. Take a few minutes to meditate, write in a journal, vent to a friend or go for a run.
Sample Habit: After I put on my pajamas, I will sit on the edge of my bed and open my journal. (Tip: Keep your journal on your nightstand with a pen.)
3. Just Breathe
Even when you’re well rested, you need a strategy for dealing with moments of conflict. As children, many of us were advised to count to 10 when angry. This is good advice, as it curbs impulsive reactions and forces us to think. However, a better strategy is to take a few deep breaths.
“Deep breathing counteracts the fight or flight stress reaction that underlies anger. Deliberately taking a slow, deep breath not only brings a soothing sense of relaxation, but also helps us to focus our attention in the present moment,” says Dr. Dan Johnson of the Mercer University School of Medicine.
I’m currently working with a well-known research hospital to reduce the stress experienced by emergency room nurses. As part of my work with them we conducted several four-week Tiny Habits for Resilience courses along with a study on the impact that specific Tiny Habits have on reducing stress in the workplace. We found that one of the behaviors that was most effective in reducing stress was taking a few deep breaths at key moments throughout the day. Moms can benefit from using this technique to reduce their stress as well.
Sample Habit: After my child says “No”, I will take three deep breaths.
4. Give Mom a Time-Out
Kids aren’t the only ones who can benefit from a time-out. If you need to, it’s ok to leave a child in a crib or somewhere else safe while you collect your thoughts and plan a proactive response. And particularly with older kids, consequences don’t need to be immediate to be effective. It’s better to say, “This is a big deal. I need to think about this and we’ll talk about it later,” than to throw out an overly harsh, knee-jerk punishment that you’ll have trouble following through with. (Are you REALLY going to ground them until they’re 40?)
Sample Habit: After my child throws something, we will both take a time-out.
5. Focus on the Person, Not the Problem
One of the most important strategies is to refocus on the person, not the problem. Shortly after my daughter Brittany was diagnosed with leukemia, I saw a mother yelling at her daughter in the grocery store, just screaming at her. I couldn’t help myself. I walked up and said, “I know that this is none of my business, but my daughter is in the hospital with leukemia and I don’t know if she’s going to live. You need to appreciate your child and not take this moment for granted.”
This doesn’t mean letting your child off the hook for bad behavior. It simply means that you don’t allow the problem to become more important than your relationship with your child. Shift your focus from how angry you feel to how you can use this challenge to help this person you love to learn and grow into the person you know they can be.
Sample Habit: When my teenager rolls her eyes, I will tell her I love her.
Tiny Habits, Big Results
Focusing on the big picture when we’re emotional can be hard. I have eight kids and my youngest is 17, and there are so many times that I regret how I responded to my children and I wish I could go back and respond with more patience and kindness and love. In Tiny Habits for Moms I am able to share the secrets of the Tiny Habits Method with moms from around the world and help them to be able to be proactive in their discipline and intentional in how they interact with their children.
For Jennifer Lee, the Tiny Habits method is working. She’s learned that keeping a gratitude journal and taking a time-out help her to stay calm, and her newfound peace is rubbing off on her son as well. To hear how Gavin is learning to manage his own emotions, and how you can tame tantrums in your own kids, check out our next blog post.
At fourteen she lived with her boyfriend. At twenty-four she starred in Girl, Interrupted, in a role that closely mirrored her own addicted, mentally unstable persona. The next few years brought an incestuous kiss, a nervous breakdown and that infamous vial of blood.
At the time, no one could have predicted that Angelina Jolie would become one of the most revered mothers in Hollywood, matron to a cosmopolitan brood of well-travelled, well-educated children whose budding social consciences so clearly mirror her own.
In connection with our newest course, Tiny Habits for Moms, we’re examining the lives of extraordinary women and mothers to discover how they do what they do, and how we can tap into their most successful strategies.
Write Your Own Script
At first glance, following in Jolie’s footsteps may seem unrealistic. After all, how many of us have homes on multiple continents, a bevy of nannies and tutors, and a net worth in the hundred millions?
Jolie herself has spoken out about the privileges she enjoys as a celebrity mother. However, her daily routine also includes sticker charts, bedtime stories and those elusive few moments alone in the shower that we all look forward to. And her rocky past is evidence that this star’s life has not been all starring roles and handsome husband. If there’s anything we can learn from this amazing mom, it’s how to learn from your past, but not allow it to define your future.
Look Beyond Yourself
Jolie accompanied her mother to her first Amnesty International dinner at nine years old. When her work as an actress took her to high-conflict areas, she was deeply impacted by the tragedy she saw there. In the past 15 years she has served as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and as an advocate for refugees around the world.
Instead of shielding her children from the harsh reality of her humanitarian work, she makes it a priority to include them. “My children have been to post-conflict situations and they’ve been to refugee camps with me…when I go on U.N. missions, I always sit down with them and explain to them why I’m going,” she said in a Popcorn Biz interview. In fact, her 14-year-old son Maddox will help to research the history of conflict in his birth country, Cambodia, for her upcoming Netflix film First They Killed My Father.
You don’t have to travel the world to raise compassionate children who care about important causes. Make a habit of discussing current events with your children over dinner, and look for ways that they can make a difference right in your own community.
Don’t Let Work Get In the Way
Coming Home was a defining film in John Voight’s career, but it’s one Jolie will never see. “Because that was when my father left my mom, and the woman who he cheated on her with is in the film,” she shared in Vogue magazine. She and Pitt are determined that their on-screen lives will never take a similar toll on their own relationship.
Surprisingly, the film that has most challenged their marriage is one that they starred in together. By the Sea, which Jolie also directed, depicts the unraveling of a marriage in the wake of a trauma. On set the pair played the couple in crisis. “We had to be able to really get ugly,” she shared in Wall Street Journal Magazine. “It was not easy. We just had to be brave and say, ‘OK, honey, we’re strong enough to do this; let’s somehow use this to make us stronger.’ ”
Instead of bringing the stress of work home with them, they allowed their home life to pull them out of their dysfunctional roles and back into the strength of their own union. “As soon as we got home, it was bedtime stories, children’s needs and problems, the fights they’d had during the day. We had to immediately snap back to something that was uniting and positive and loving,” she says.
Most couples do not spend their days mimicking a dying relationship. However, work and home stresses can interfere with any couple’s ability to connect at the end of the day. Like the Jolie-Pitts, couples must choose to reunite each day and focus on each other and their family, rather than their individual concerns. Try the following habits to keep your relationship strong:
Make Time and Just Listen
Growing up, Jolie had a close relationship with her mother, actress Marcheline Bertrand, but otherwise felt isolated. Her relationship with her father vacillated between tense, explosive and nonexistent.
In contrast, the Jolie-Pitt family seems to be everything Jolie’s was not – large, warm and supportive. “I suppose I’m giving them the childhood I always wished I had,” she says in Vanity Fair. Though they have plenty of help, she and Pitt remain very involved in their kids’ lives.
Before By the Sea, they took turns working on projects so one parent was always home with the children. Even when she’s busy, she plans magical family outings. “When Angie has a day off, the first thing she does is get up and take the kids out,” says Pitt in WSJ. “This is the most important ‘to do’ of the day. She has an incredible knack for inventing crazy experiences for them.”
Jolie also schedules individual time with each child, and anticipates stepping back from acting to be more available as they become teenagers. “Maybe in the next few years I’ll finish being in front of the camera,” she told Vogue. “I’ll be happier behind it. I’m happy to be home. I want to really focus on my children, doing the best I can to guide and protect them before they are out of the house. These are their most important years.”
Perhaps reflecting on her own tumultuous teenage years, she’s already considering how she’ll navigate her own children’s adolescence. “I had some great advice: ‘You’ll know they’re teenagers when they close the door,’” she shared in a Vanity Fair interview. “And when they start closing the door, don’t talk to them, listen. Because there’s nothing you could say. You’re not going to be able to tell them you know better. You’re not going to be able to correct them. You have to raise them right before that.”
Every parent is aware that childhood is fleeting, but it can be difficult to connect regularly amid the chaos of school drop-offs, music lessons, sports and homework. Set the stage for meaningful interactions by removing distractions and building opportunities to connect into your daily routine.
If there’s anything we can learn from Jolie’s journey, it is that life is, in fact, a journey. From Girl, Interrupted to By the Sea, Jolie has never allowed herself to be defined or limited by a role or by who the public perceived her to be.
As mothers, we too can choose the manner in which we will allow our upbringing and our own past to influence our present.
Are you ready to write a new plot for yourself and your family? Join us in the next session of Tiny Habits for Moms to learn how to transform your days and your life.
For a sneak-peek at how the Tiny Habits method works for moms, tune in to my interview on the Power of Moms podcast.
For more Tiny Tips, click here.
Imagine you’re at the Olympics. The crowds are cheering, but you’re not among them. You’re down on the field, crouched at the starting line, poised for the race that may define your career.
No doubt you’ve trained for this moment for most of your life, but how would you prepare for it on the morning of the big day? If you were looking to accomplish something monumental, would you begin by hitting the snooze button until you were running late, grab whatever breakfast came to hand, then rush into the fray distracted and without a plan?
A Strong Start for a Strong Finish
Runners know that the morning of a big race is crucial, and they leave nothing to chance. All-State Conference track and Olympic distance triathlete Maria Serrata explains, “When that alarm goes off and you want to sleep in another hour, you can’t. No matter how much you’ve prepared, the things you do the morning of are critical. They will make or break your race.”
Whether you’re an Olympic runner, an adventurer setting out to ascend Mt. Kilimanjaro or a busy mom with a mountain of laundry to summit, the way you start your day can have a huge impact on whether you meet your goals or fall short. The Tiny Habits for Moms team offers these tips for creating a morning routine that will prime you to accomplish whatever you choose to pursue.
There’s one more piece of advice that applies to star athletes and moms alike: Figure out what works for you and do it every day. “My friend eats pop tarts before every run. After a race I drink a Sprite. Listen to your body and do what works best for you,” says Serrata.
However you choose to structure your morning, do it with the same focus and intent as a runner preparing for the Olympics, with the understanding that by starting your day focused and strong you’ll set yourself on the path to achieve your goals and do amazing things.
For more free tips on creating strong habits, click here.
To learn more about how to achieve your goals by creating habits that work for you, join our next session of Tiny Habits for Moms.