by BJ Fogg, PhD
I’ve been focusing a lot on the power of “starter steps.”
“What’s that?” you ask.
Well, a starter step is the first step in a longer sequence of behaviors. For example, opening your sketchbook is a starter step in drawing a picture. Putting on your gym clothes is a starter step for working out. Setting an apple on the kitchen counter is a starter step for eating it.
When you think of the bigger behavior, the ultimately behavior you want — drawing a picture or working out — you might find yourself resisting. It’s odd, but I’ve heard from lots of people about this resistance. Even though they sorta wanted to do the behavior (workout), something inside them resisted it at the moment of truth. Their brain finds excuses. Starter steps don’t seem to invoke this kind of resistance. You just put on your gym clothes. No big deal.
Some people report that they trick themselves with starter steps (I’ve done this too): For example, people tell themselves, “okay, I’ll put on my gym clothes, but I’m not really going to workout.”
And guess what happens?
Surprisingly often people go all the way. And that’s the magic –> With starter steps you overcome your initial resistance, and once you’re started on the path, you just keep going.
I’m a fan of designing for starter steps. Some of my own Tiny Habits are starter steps.
But there’s one more thing you should know: I don’t feel bad if my starter step doesn’t cascade all the way to the bigger behavior. Just celebrate the fact that you’re making the starter step a habit. I know this may sound strange, but it’s part of the secret to creating habits quickly and easily: Be happy with your tiny successes. Never feel guilty about not doing more.
BJ Fogg, PhD
I’ve been coaching people in Tiny Habits for about four years now.
Each week people sign up for the 5-day program I offer, and then I guide them in learning and practicing the Tiny Habits method, from Monday to Friday.
Day by day — for over four years — I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. And this has helped me make the Tiny Habits method even better.
(This daily experience has also shown me how we can improve our teaching Tiny Habits, but I’ll save that for another time.)
I decided to pull together some of the messages people sent me this week. These are habiteers who are in Day 4 of my 5-day session. As you read the notes below, you can probably imagine why it’s fun and rewarding to teach Tiny Habits. Imagine people tell you these things. It downright makes you happier.
(I’m not coaching next week; I’m taking a rare break because my family is celebrating my dad’s 80th birthday. I’ll miss the daily boost I get from sharing Tiny Habits.)
A sample of what people have told me this week:
“I’m also pleasantly surprised at how easy it’s been to nail all three habits.”
“Adopting just three tiny habits is spilling over into other areas of my life. I feel more in control of my circumstances, which in turn makes me so much more relaxed”
“The feedback and process was simple to follow, thank you for your insights!”
“I’m actively looking for excuses to do my habit (putting things away) for that little rush of a “high 5″ that I give myself.”
“I’m most surprised about how much of an impact simple celebrations make. Now I know why some elders in my family are so consistent; they are constantly heard saying, “Praise the Lord!” Thanks BJ!”
“I can see and feel results already from the tiny habits practice”
“Thank you for this course. I’ve realized that I’ve been trying to do way too much and then feeling frustrated and overwhelmed when I don’t succeed right away. This has been very eye opening for me.”
“I feel more accomplished in my tiny habits then I have I’m my whole life!”
“[I’m surprised by] the power of the celebration. The habits that I celebrated more are more automatic.”
“Results this week. More energy and more dancing to the music channel on tv.”
“Your Tiny Habits method works! Even though I have a psychology degree, and know why this works, I’m still surprised that it does.”
By Robin Zander
In any learning process, appreciation is essential. Celebrating yourself throughout a learning process will make the whole experience more enjoyable, and incidentally faster.
Appreciating where you are right now is probably the most difficult aspect of appreciating the learning process. Most of us want to be better, more successful, more fulfilled than we are now. That’s fine. Striving is a great attribute. But it is also important to acknowledge with compassion or gratitude where you are right now. I find it easiest to do this just after a successful practice interval. For example, when I am enjoying my runner’s high or just after a great ballet class is when I feel the most proud and appreciative of where I am right then.
The appreciation of progress comes of noticing progress. I often get down on myself for not learning as quickly as I think I should. Of course, this self-judgment impedes progress. Instead, there are several simple ways to notice how much you are changing.
This is probably the easiest for most people. Future goals are where you would like to go. But the important thing to know about goal setting is that getting upset for not being there yet is only going to impede your progress. By all means, set ambitious goals. Then get excited about accomplishing them, not down on yourself for not being there yet.
Appreciate where you are, your progress and your goals for the future.
If you’d like help learning to appreciate progress and expedite learning, I am currently using the Tiny Habits Method to coach people how to dance every day for free. Contact me through my Tiny Habits page.