By Kristy Bertenshaw
Motivation is something that everyone has searched for at some point in their lives.
How often do you feel you’re not getting what you want in life because you’re—
Or some other describing word.
Motivation is like a wave.
It’s slippery. It comes and goes.
Waiting for it is like a surfer out in the ocean, waiting for the perfect wave when there is no wind,
And the ocean is still.
Would you do that? It’s kind of crazy.
So, how else could you do it? What else could you do?
By starting something today.
By taking action.
Starting before you feel ready.
Starting before you know all of the steps you’ll need to take in the future.
What strategy could you use?
Massive Action? It’s one of the most popular notions I see today.
But is it the most efficient and effective?
Will it bring the most joy?
And are you able to keep that up consistently, long term?
Especially if you want to create long-term change.
And what if you just feel like you don’t have the capacity to take massive action all the time?
How about using a way you can do something daily,
No matter what life throws at you, the weather, if you’re sick, if you’re tired, if you’re hungover, you can still show up for yourself and keep your word.
You can keep your commitments, your integrity, and your dignity and be the person you’ve always wanted to be.
Even when you’re strung out,
Feeling like it’s all too much,
And wanting to give up.
You can still take action to move forward,
And it feels easy,
And is something you want to do.
But how you ask?
The Tiny Habits Method is researched and scientifically proven to be one of the most effective ways to create long-term behavior change which lasts.
Identify a key area of improvement in your life.
These could be:
Physical Body, Health & Fitness
Mindset, Emotions & Meaning
Relationships, Friends & Family
Career, Mission & Work
Finances & Wealth
Fun, Recreation & Entertainment
Spirituality, Contribution, and Community
Select an action you can repeat to help move you forward.
If you’re unsure of where to start, try the Tiny Habits Recipe Maker.
Non-negotiable: Choose something you can do and that you want to do.
Design your new action,
So it’s easy to perform.
Position it in the right place and time in your day when you have the time, ability, and resources to take action.
Set up your environment.
Sometimes starting something new requires a bit of prep work to make sure we have the tools and resources we need to get the job done.
Practice in advance. In the same way as a sportsperson practices before the big game, we need to rehearse the new behavior so we are familiar with doing it before we show up on game day.
Do it. Take action when you planned.
Generate a feeling of success.
Build success momentum.
Troubleshoot. If it’s not working, change it.
Rinse, repeat, and
When we actively design behavior for success and deliberately allow ourselves to feel that success, when we practice, when we are consistent, we create momentum, which I’ve been told by many clients feels very similar to motivation.
They begin to crave taking action.
And a lot of clients think craving taking action is being motivated.
But they aren’t the same.
As you can see, you don’t need to wait for motivation to strike.
You don’t need to be that surfer out there waiting for a wave in the still ocean.
You have the power to generate this internal feeling,
And have it on demand any time you like.
And it all starts with creating a Tiny Habit Recipe.
Tiny Habit Recipes for when you just don’t even know where to begin!
Often I find clients tell me they just don’t know where to begin. My favorite three recipes are focused on feeling good and something you can do each day of the week.
Looking for a good way to start your morning? Make a habit of thinking about what you can achieve that day and what might stop you. It’s a science-based approach to reaching your goals.
Do you know that beautiful, cozy feeling that a daydream can give us? We think about the next salary increase, imagine the long-awaited vacation on a paradise island, picture six-pack abs, or wish to be famous. As teenagers, we dreamed of what it would be like to date that girl/boy we had long wanted but never dared to speak to. They often didn’t even know we existed. And often they are still unaware of our existence, as many of us still dream without ever taking the first step to make those dreams a reality. We know these people very well: They have many great plans. Yet they never realize them, jumping from one unfinished or never even started project to the next.
The behavior we are talking about here is optimism based on dreams, desires, and positive visions of the future, independent of actual experience. This kind of optimism is the research area of German psychologist Gabriele Oettingen, who teaches in New York and Hamburg. She wanted to know if wishes and positive ideas for the future could also give us enough strength and energy to realize our dreams and achieve our goals.
Most people consider positive thinking as the basis for fulfilling our desires and achieving our goals. True to the motto: If you believe in it hard enough, then you can do it! But it doesn’t work that way. In her research, Gabriele Oettingen shows us that idealizing the future as a strategy to achieve goals does not necessarily work. Here’s an example: when she analyzed the inaugural speeches of US presidents between 1933 and 2009, she found that the more optimistic the speech, the worse the economic performance in the respective term of office.
On the one hand, positive visions of the future make us feel good and help us to get in a good mood. They also allow us to design different possible scenarios for our future. Indulging in daydreams and positive fantasies can be almost addictive because we want to experience these feelings over and over again. On the other hand, that is exactly what might prevent us from mobilizing the necessary energy to work towards our dreams because we have already achieved them in our imagination.
Positive visions and fantasies of the future can help us achieve our goals. However, Oettingen found that it requires a little trick so that we can draw strength and energy from it. This trick is called “mental contrasting.”
In contrast to daydreaming, mental contrasting involves considering obstacles that could prevent a possible future. For example, the job you’d really like to have might require heavy studying to have a chance of getting it, but the payoff makes it worthwhile to pursue your goal nonetheless.
Mental contrasting adds the necessary dose of reality to our positive ideas about the future, brings our high-flying fantasies back down to earth, and holds the mirror of reality in front of us.
Gabriele Oettingen was able to prove the success of her method in a number of studies. She and her team not only demonstrated the positive effect of mental contrasting for stress management and better time management for employees in the health sector but also for better learning success in children in elementary school.
How could you benefit from these ideas? Based on the principles of mental contrasting, Gabriele Oettingen developed the WOOP method to apply her research in this area to everyday life. Not only is WOOP a more accessible version of these principles, it’s also a really fun name.
WOOP is the abbreviation of these four steps with its associated questions:
Wish – What is an important goal that you want to accomplish? Your wish should be challenging but feasible.
Outcome – What will be the best result from accomplishing your wish?
Obstacle – What is the main obstacle inside you that might prevent you from accomplishing your wish?
Plan – What’s an effective action to tackle the obstacle? Make a when-then plan.
A key aspect of the method is to vividly imagine your desired future in contrast with the obstacles. This way, when an obstacle arises, you are more likely to remember to execute on your plan.
And here is where it gets interesting for Tiny Habits connoisseurs: BJ Fogg’s behavior change method complements the WOOP method perfectly. Whereas WOOP helps you with goal setting, Tiny Habits provides the practical steps to achieve those goals in your daily life.
Two examples will make it more clear how to combine WOOP with Tiny Habits to achieve your goals.
Elizabeth’s greatest dream was to write a children’s book. A book with all the stories she has dreamed up since she was young and which she had all stored in her head.
She loved to tell her stories to her nephews and nieces and is often asked to finally put them on paper. She usually smiled and replied that these stories were nothing special and not worth writing down, even though that was her biggest secret wish.
Elizabeth made several unsuccessful attempts to put her stories on paper but always gave up because she thought she had written something banal or bad. This made her afraid of the blank white pages in her notebook. She didn’t realize that the process of writing also requires a certain persistence and routine. It’s hard work, but it can also be fun if you know how. After almost giving up on her plans out of frustration, she found a solution to her problem with the help of Tiny Habits and a writing coach.
With Tiny Habits, she began writing regularly, even if it was just a few lines at first. But she could quickly see her progress and enjoyed what she was doing. Of course, there were setbacks, and she often reworked her lines until she was reasonably happy. The writing coach helped her find her own style and gave her the feedback she needed. Her first book was nearing completion when we asked her about her successful recipes:
I use WOOP every day after I wake up. I have connected it to the Maui Habit that is BJ Fogg’s favorite. After I say “Today is going to be a great day!”, I then ask myself:
This is the Wish in WOOP. Then I pause for a moment and try to imagine how I would feel if my wish came true. Or how I will end the day with this good feeling. What am I feeling? Pride, relief, gratitude. That’s the O. Outcome.
Now it’s time to switch to the Obstacle, and I imagine what can go wrong; distractions, focusing on other things, new stories in my head that I want to continue spinning, spending too much time with emails or on social media, …
No panic. Here is my Plan: small habits for today that will help me move towards my goal:
We look forward to Elizabeth’s book being published. It will bring great joy to many children.
The second example of how Tiny Habits and WOOP can be easily integrated into everyday life comes from Tom. He works as a tax accountant for an accountancy firm and often has trouble concentrating on work and tends to procrastinate.
Tom has worked for this company for a long time and has a lot of experience. He is very supportive of his colleagues and is often asked for advice, but this has also caused him to fall further behind on his own duties. As a result, his inbox was overflowing, he was constantly overloaded with his work, and his bosses were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with his work.
This is one of his Tiny Habits recipes that helped him stay focused and complete his tasks:
He takes a pen and paper and writes down the keywords:
This allows him to remember all the little behaviors he wants to get into:
Then he starts his work.
These two examples show how powerful WOOP is and how it can become a healthy habit. Only looking optimistically into a beautiful future carries the risk of remaining stuck in your dreams. Mental contrasting and WOOP give your dreams the necessary portion of reality to make them come true.
How will you use WOOP in your life?
by Graham Dodds
You bump into an old colleague in the queue at Starbucks, or have a chance encounter with a business acquaintance in the street. The conversation might go something like this…
“Hey, great to see you! How are you doing?”
“Great thanks, how are you? How are things?”
“Busy, doing well, but really busy”
“I’m busy” has become the default response when we attempt to summarise how our lives are going. There are many reasons why we do this which are probably broad and interesting enough to fill another article. Perhaps though, the simplest explanation is that it is exactly how we all feel. We are all so busy!
You see, with the majority of knowledge based work, there is no clear end. There is always more to do, and we are usually juggling multiple initiatives at once.
With our calendars so full and our days packed with so many competing priorities, we can’t possibly do everything, right? Something has to give, but what? What we often find is that what tends to get neglected are those things that don’t come most naturally to us. These are commonly things that we know we should do. But because they are not our default behaviours, or we don’t really like them, they get put off.
For example, at our company, Quiet Leaders Academy, many of our clients are professionals who typically reside closer to the introverted end of the personality spectrum. We often hear from them, or their teams, that they could do more to connect with their colleagues on a regular basis. Or they tell us that they should probably manage their network better, or do more to get their voice heard in meetings.
These are things that don’t always come naturally. They want to do them, and know they should do them, but when time is tight other things that are more familiar and comfortable are placed at the front of the queue instead.
In this example, neglecting these important activities can leave the leader’s colleagues and connections feeling neglected, perhaps leaving a sense that he/she is disconnected, or worse yet, aloof. Bosses may expect more visibility of progress and issues, and acquaintances expect better than only being contacted when something is needed from them. There are, of course, many more examples of why connecting with people is key to a successful and happy career and indeed life. Indeed, we devoted an entire workbook to this topic in our members sections at Quiet Leaders Academy.
On a day to day basis, these behavioural patterns may seem to be trivial, however, the cumulative effect of not taking simple, regular steps to stay connected can seriously hinder work performance and career growth. It can also eat away slowly at the self esteem of a leader who knows they are not properly fulfilling an essential part of their role. They know it, but will get to it tomorrow, or the next day, or maybe next week…
The great news is that there is a simple solution that can be implemented immediately to start making positive changes relatively seamlessly!
The answer is in designing tiny changes and weaving them into our existing lives.
Let’s take our client Sally as an example. Sally came to us feeling like a fraud. She felt she was failing as a leader as she wasn’t charismatic enough, didn’t enjoy or make time for what she saw as ‘small talk’ with her team members, colleagues and bosses, and pretty much ignored her network. It had got to the point that she felt so bad about it that she was even becoming scared of fixing the issue. She felt that it would be too noticeable if she suddenly started ramping up her ‘chattiness’; that somehow it would look fake or inauthentic. Despite being aware of the situation and its impact and feeling really bad about it, in Sally’s words she was too busy to possibly make time for all of this time wasting chit-chat. She had too much work to do.
We worked with Sally using the Tiny Habits Method to look for small things that she could do in a few minutes, or even seconds every day to introduce some new behaviours that would address the issues she faced. You see, often what we think is a time problem is actually a behaviour problem. That’s not to say that Sally or anyone else is flawed; this way of behaving is a design flaw in all humans. With Tiny Habits, we can hack that design to our advantage.
Whilst she was clear on these aspirations, they seemed too big and insurmountable. So we broke them down together to work out what she could do on a daily basis to connect with her team members, what small steps she could take to grow her professional network, and what simple things she could do to maintain stronger connections with existing business friends and acquaintances.
With these prompts added in, Sally now had easy to follow habit recipes, as follows:
The last important ingredient in the Tiny Habits recipe is to celebrate.This helps to wire in the habit by hacking our brains happiness chemicals, leading us to want to repeat the behaviour. For each habit Sally decided on an appropriate celebration to include, such as giving herself a thumbs-up, smiling to herself and physically patting herself on the back.
Sally was amazed by how simple this looked. It would take only a few minutes every day to do these behaviours and the compounding effect of doing these behaviours daily seemed highly appealing. She felt that she had designed habits that she could still do even on her busiest, most challenging days.
As an introvert, the use of electronic communication methods, such as email or LinkedIn also helped Sally in the early stages as she built her new relationship-building muscles. Additionally, the incremental approach took away Sally’s fears of the change seeming too forced or unnatural.
In order to avoid being overwhelmed, Sally gradually implemented the new habits, starting with the first three, then adding the fourth after two weeks and the fifth another fortnight later. This worked well. Having three was better than one at first as this gave Sally a chance to monitor and compare what was working and what wasn’t between the different habit recipes.
After some experimentation, Sally swapped around some of the prompts and added new celebrations and six months later she reports that she does the behaviours on at least 95% of her work days. The rapid increase in LinkedIn followers has led to many interesting conversations, collaboration opportunities, and the introduction of a new service supplier to her company (which was very well received by her boss!) She was also delighted to see that the new habits have multiplied into other good behaviours, such as completely revamping her LinkedIn profile and posting regularly on her own and others’ threads. She has even had two potential job offers, but has decided to stay put as she is feeling re-energised in her existing role.
When we checked in with her team members a few months later they described a big change in their connectedness with Sally. They felt that she was much warmer, more approachable and seemed more part of the team. Several commented that they now felt that they could see the real Sally and as a result they were more motivated to drive results together and to give her feedback on what was and wasn’t working well.
Sally had always aspired to be one of those leaders that she had read about; someone who was loved and respected by their teammates as they always made time for them, always had a smile and said hello in the corridor, or knew the names of her direct reports kids. She just didn’t know how to do all of this in the midst of a demanding job and a busy life.
Now with just a bit of design work and some habits that take a few minutes per day she is well on her way to becoming the leader she aspires to be, and both she and her colleagues are loving it!
Founder of Quiet Leaders Academy
Certified Tiny Habits Coach,
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