Tag Archives for " tiny habits "

Prepping for a Big Performance? For Outsized Results, Practice Tiny!

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?” 

“Ugh.” 

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.

Feeling Forgetful or Distracted? 3 Strategies to Boost Your Memory and Increase Your Focus

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:

  1. For years I had a reputation for having an extremely bad memory
  2. I made a decision to work hard on not only improving my memory but taking it to a whole new level, so in that same year (1995), I competed in the World Memory Championships and was ranked as one of the first ever Grand Masters of Memory in the World (crazy title, I know!)
  3. Also, in 1995 I created a Game show called Monkhouse’s Memory Masters for the BBC that aired to 8 million people.

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

  1. Memory Mindset
  2. Tiny Habits®
  3. Creative Memorization

While I cover all of these and more in The Total Memory Blueprint, let’s briefly look at each one of these areas…

Get the Right Memory Mindset

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:

  • Confidence in your ability to remember anything
  • Focus to overcome mind wandering and procrastination
  • Skills to save time, filter and remember what was important
  • Talents to help you step up in your career
  • Beliefs to start your own business
  • Potential to grow your current business
  • Freedom to do what you love and become an expert in your field 

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:

  • How a better memory will change their life
  • Uncovering hidden challenges and beliefs that could slow them down, hold them back or stop them in their tracks
  • 5 to 10 options they are absolutely committed to trying in the next 7 days

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…

Tiny Habits® for Memory

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.

Here is a simple example of a Tiny Habits for Memory

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!

Tiny Habits® for Focus

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:

Example of Tiny Habits for Focus

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.

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!

Where to start?

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:

>> Total Memory Blueprint

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!

Tired of Tantrums? 5 Tricks to Tame Your Tots and Teens

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:

  • Perceived unfairness (“I wanted the pink one!” “You always take her side!” “His class got cupcakes and mine didn’t!”)
  • Unforeseen circumstances (“It’s raining? But I wanted to go to the park!” “We’ve been in this line toooo looooong!”)
  • Struggling with a challenge (“I can’t put my socks on!” “These Lego’s won’t stay together!” “I’m never going to finish my homework!”)

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.

  • Get moving: Go for a walk, run or swim. Shoot some hoops or punch a punching bag.
  • Focus on your senses: Rub a smooth rock or a soft piece of fabric. Chew gum or sniff a scented pencil.
  • Distract yourself: Fold origami, doodle, or play with a toy. Take three deep breaths or count to ten.
  • Keep a talisman: Focus on a special amulet, toy or object. Imagine it giving you strength and removing bad feelings.
  • Take a break: Walk to the drinking fountain, lie in bed and read a book, listen to a guided meditation, take a minute to play with the dog.
  • Give yourself a pep talk: Tell yourself, “I can do this!” or “I’m almost there!”
  • Seek comfort: Snuggle a blanket, lovey, parent or pet.
  • Make it tiny: Break dreaded tasks into bits. Focus on a single homework problem, a single toy to put away or a single bite to eat.

Sample Habits:
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.

Stressed? 5 Ways to Keep Your Cool When You’re About to Blow Your Top

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:

· Whining
· Begging
· Crying
· Teasing
· Destructiveness
· 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.

Would you like more peace in your home? Join our Facebook group, click here for more Tiny Tips, or sign up for the next session of Tiny Habits for Moms today!

Motherhood in the Spotlight: Unexpected Lessons That I Learned From a Movie Star

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.

Sample Habits:

  • After I check my email I will read a news article.
  • After we sit down to dinner, we will share an act of service we did that day.

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:

  • After my spouse walks in the door, I will give them a hug or a kiss.
  • After we put our dishes in the dishwasher, we will put the leash on the dog (and go for a walk together).

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.

  • After I pick up my kids from school I will put my phone on airplane mode (so I can listen without distractions).
  • After I take the laundry from the drier I will ask one child to help me fold it (a great chance for one-on-one conversation).

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.

5 Simple Strategies for Starting Your Day Like A Champion

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.

  1. Stop the snooze. Waking before the rest of your family gives you a few minutes to get centered and think about the day to come. Skip the snooze button and stretch, meditate, write in your journal or read a few verses of scripture while the house is still quiet. The calm and focus you’ll carry with you throughout the day will feel much better than another nine minutes of sleep. One habit to try: After I open my eyes, I will open my journal.
  2. Make Your Bed. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Making your bed first thing in the morning starts you off with a win and sets the tone for the entire day. By accomplishing something concrete right away you create something we call success momentum. As Stanford behavioral scientist and Tiny Habits creator BJ Fogg says, “the success you feel will radiate out to other parts of your life.” Ready to get started? Try this: After my feet touch the floor I will fluff my pillow. 
  3. Watch the sun rise. (Or at least greet it when you rise!) Open your blinds, step out onto your porch, or have breakfast on the patio. Dr. Phyllis Zee of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that exposure to natural light, particularly in the morning, has beneficial effects on mood, alertness and metabolism. Make it a habit for the whole family: After I check to see that my child is awake, I will open her blinds.
  4. Hydrate – with citrate. Runners aren’t the only ones who need fluids. Every part of your body, from your brain to your immune system, benefits from adequate hydration. Add a squeeze of lemon and drain a glass before your morning cup of coffee to reduce inflammation, stave of infection and stimulate enzyme production. It’s an easy way to start your day off right. Just tell yourself: After I turn on the coffee pot, I will pour each family member a glass of lemon water. Now drink up!
  5. Don’t wake the kids. Instead, train them to wake themselves. Illustrator, mom of four and Tiny Habits for Moms alumni Kimberly Petersen buys each child an alarm clock a few weeks before they start kindergarten. “It seems like a Tiny Habit for now, and it’s something that does make my life simpler every morning, to not have to wake them up, but really it’s something that I’m doing because it’s a life skill that they’re going to need as adults,” she says. Is someone in your family having trouble waking when the alarm goes off? Put the clock across the room and work on the habit, “After I turn off my alarm I will touch my toes” (instead of getting back into bed!)

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.

How to Find an Anchor in the Stormy Sea of Parenthood

It’s Sunday afternoon, and my dinner guests are an hour and a half late. Luckily this is a barbecue, so the food is all prepared save the burgers and hot dogs, which my husband will throw on the grill the moment our overdue friends waltz in the door.

In another life I would have been furious at such inconsiderate behavior, but Sam and Nicole have a good reason for their tardiness: they have three boys under the age of three, and their one-year-old twins are still napping. I know what it’s like to deal with just one cranky toddler, so I’m happy to wait.

Adrift on the Ever-Changing Tide

Making plans can be difficult when you’re dealing with small children, who are notoriously inconsistent. Creating habits in this unpredictable environment can be even more of a challenge. Several women in our recent Tiny Habits for Moms course shared this frustration, including Meg, who is struggling to get her infant on a schedule, and Kim, whose four children keep her running from school to soccer to swim team with no room to breath in between. Scheduling is also a problem for Michele, whose work schedule shifts at the mercy of her children and her boss. Can you relate?

Tiny Habits for Moms participants learn to create new habits by attaching them to existing behaviors. When asked to generate a list of existing routines that could be used as potential anchors, or behaviors that they complete at the same time every day, these women lamented that nothing in their lives happens at the same time every day!

Super Habits Save the Day

It’s a problem that Tiny Habits creator BJ Fogg often faces with a very different group of Tiny Habits students: high-profile business professionals. Many of the businesspeople he and Tiny Habits Academy Director Linda Fogg-Phillips train travel frequently for work. How, these professionals wonder, can you establish strong habits when your days are at the mercy of flight schedules and business meetings and you are sleeping in a different hotel room every night?

Fogg instructs frequent travellers to look for what he calls super habits. “When there’s a behavior you do no matter the context (in my life, for example, it’s brushing my teeth), then I call that a “super habit.” We all have super habits in our lives. Most people don’t recognize them. These super habits are great anchors to trigger new tiny habits.” It’s a strategy that can work for new moms as well.

Finding Patterns in the Pandemonium

In addition to these super anchors, moms might overlook other potential anchors because they don’t always happen at exactly the same time every day. You may not be able to set your watch by your baby’s diaper change or your preschooler’s nap, but any activity that happens regularly can make a good anchor. If your days feel entirely unpredictable, consider how many of the following types of behaviors you can still count on to provide some structure:

Biological Behaviors: There are some things we do every day simply because we are human and these behaviors keep us alive. These include:

  • Waking up
  • Going to the bathroom
  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Getting dressed (unless you are a nudist, or one of my children)
  • Going to bed

Biological behaviors are the ultimate super habits, because no matter where you are or how harried your schedule, these things will happen. Anchor new habits to these behaviors and you’ll be well on your way to creating lifelong change. Some of our favorites are:

  • After my feet hit the floor, I will say, “It’s going to be a great day.”
  • After I go to the bathroom, I will do two pushups.
  • After my head touches the pillow, I will think of three things I am grateful for.

Existing Routines: These habits are so well-engrained that you do them without thinking. Many of them were probably established in childhood. Yours might include:

  • Bathing or showering
  • Brushing your teeth
  • Washing your hands after going to the bathroom
  • Buckling your seatbelt when you get into a car
  • Checking your phone (constantly?)

Most existing routines are nearly as engrained as biological habits, and can be just as effective in creating behavioral change. Try these recipes:

  • After I brush my teeth, I will floss one tooth.
  • After I wash my hands, I will fill a glass of water. (Bonus points if you drink it!)
  • After I buckle my seatbelt, I will put my phone on airplane mode.

Contextual Behaviors: These activities are more specific to your particular situation. They might happen multiple times per day, or only once a week. Decide how often you want to trigger a behavior and find an existing habit that fits. Your contextual habits and behaviors might include:

  • Starting your coffee pot
  • Walking to the mailbox
  • Getting the baby out of her crib
  • Changing a diaper
  • Dropping your child off at soccer practice
  • Checking your child’s homework folder
  • Reading your child a bedtime story

Contextual behaviors may change over time; odds are you won’t be changing your baby’s diaper three or four years from now. However, if an activity is a reliable part of your schedule, it can still anchor a behavior you want to get started on. For example:

  • After I start my coffee pot I will open the dishwasher. (And maybe load a few dishes?)
  • After I change my baby’s diaper I will do five jumping jacks.
  • After I check my child’s homework I will give him a hug.

An irregular, unpredictable schedule can increase stress and depression for both you and your family. However, it’s possible that your world isn’t as unpredictable as you think. By identifying the anchors throughout your day and using them to establish new habits and meet your goals you can feel more in control and more successful.

Click here to get your free Tiny Habits tips for Moms.

Could you use more predictability in your life? Learn more about finding anchors and creating new habits in our upcoming session of Tiny Habits for Moms.

Start Young: 10 Time-Tested Tips for Teaching Tiny Habits to Your Toddler

Melissa Turney’s kids wake up early. Really early. Sometimes before 5:00 am. This is not a behavior she encourages, but everything that happens after that is. Hannah (age 6), Paige (age 4), and even Sam (22 months) make their own beds and put their clothes in the hamper each day. After breakfast they’ll clear their own dishes. When playtime is over they put toys away. Stop by Turney’s house unannounced and you’ll be amazed at the order she maintains with her young brood. So what’s her secret?

Turney is a recent graduate of the Tiny Habits for Moms course, but she’s a lifelong pro at habit formation. Like the course instructors, she’s been creating effective routines for her kids since they were born. Parents often ask, “How soon can I teach Tiny Habits to my children?” Turney’s kids are evidence that the earlier you start, the more effective your training will be. Click here to get your free Tiny Habits tips for Moms.

The Early Roots of Habit Formation

Studies show that children develop lifelong habits breathtakingly early. For example:

  • Household routines, such as doing chores and being responsible for one’s own belongings, are set by age 9.
  • Financial habits are formed even earlier: A child’s basic beliefs and attitudes about money are formed by age 7.
  • Dietary habits begin to take root from a child’s first meal, and the dietary patterns that can predict future obesity are established as early as 1 year old.
  • Infants begin to make sense of their environment the moment they are born, and can detect patterns as early as 2 months old. By 4 months old the child will be able to recall objects and events that are not present, and by 1 year old he will be able to imitate even novel actions more than a week after he has observed them.

The research shows that your two month old is already learning to pay attention to repeated behaviors, and will soon begin to imitate them. That copy-cat behavior is the foundation for establishing lasting habits.

From Imitation to Intentional Behavior

As anyone who has raised a child will know, kids are not simply automatons who will copy a parent’s every behavior. (Except swearing. Curse words are lamentably sticky!) Toddlers may see their parents cleaning up and proceed to throw everything into the garbage can indiscriminately. A kid may be thrilled the first time they are allowed to use a mop, but the novelty soon wears off. So how has Turney parlayed the instinct for imitation into a series of habits for personal responsibility?

Turney was raised with clear expectations that every member of the household is responsible for their own belongings and space, and that it is the entire family’s responsibility to take care of the house together. She shares the following tips for raising your child with the same expectations.

  1. Lead by example. Want your kids to make their beds, clear their dishes and keep their stuff picked up? It starts with you. Changing your own behavior can be a challenge, but the Tiny Habits Method can help.
  2. Start young. Really young. Sam isn’t two yet, but he already knows to put his diaper in the bin and his dishes in the sink. He’s not great at putting all his toys away, but he’s getting there, and as he gets older he’ll be ready to take on even bigger responsibilities.
  3. Be consistent. “Paige just naturally likes to rebel,” says Turney. “For six months she would put her clothes right next to the hamper or on top of the hamper or under her bed. And every day I would call her up from breakfast and say, ‘Hey, before you have breakfast you have to put your clothes in the hamper.’ One day something clicked, and she realized, ‘I don’t want to keep running up and down the stairs and stopping breakfast to do this thing.”
  4. Take advantage of their enthusiasm. “I have found with my kids there’s a certain age between like 3 and 4 where they are really anxious to help,” says Turney. “So when they are excited about something I try to keep that momentum going and I teach them how to do it.” And while Turney doesn’t typically pay for chores, she might offer a small reward for a job well done on a newly mastered task.
  5. Teach them to do it right. You can’t expect your kid to be perfect on their first attempt, but that doesn’t mean they can’t try, and for heavens sake don’t undermine their effort by redoing it for them. Praise their effort, then show them what they missed and teach them how to fix it themselves.
  6. Keep messes manageable. Turney and her husband work together for about an hour twice a week to compete deep-cleaning tasks such as mopping and cleaning the bathrooms. The rest of the week they clean up as they go along, so the clutter never gets overwhelming. To copy her style, try the following Tiny Habits:
    1. a. After I take off my clothes, I will put them in the hamper.
    2. After I brush my teeth, I will wipe down the sink.
    3. After I finish eating, I will rinse my dish.
  7. Tame the toy bin. The Turney’s toys are separated by category and kept in labeled bins. The kids can play with two bins at a time, allowing them the freedom to combine the toys in creative ways while keeping the cleanup manageable.
  8. Race the clock. Tiny Habits Academy Director Linda Fogg-Phillips frequently recommends a timed five-minute cleanup, followed by a celebration. It’s a tactic Turney uses as well. She warns her kids to move fast, as anything left out will be donated to charity, and they know she’s not kidding. After the cleanup, she praises kids for their hard work and points how quick and easy it really was.
  9. Give kids a space of their own. Give each kid one bin or dresser drawer where they have free reign to collect acorns, rocks, drawings and whatever else they want to keep. If the bin is overflowing, it’s up to them to throw some things out before they add anything new.
  10. Be flexible. Turney’s rules create a framework that keeps her home orderly and lets her kids know what to expect. However, she knows that sometimes it’s ok to bend the rules. When friends come over, the kids can play with as many bins as they want. If the cleanup is especially daunting they’ll get more than five minutes, and plenty of help. Projects in-process can be set aside instead of completely cleaned up. And if a truly treasured item gets left out she’ll give a warning instead of donating it directly.

It’s never too early to instill good habits in your kids, and never too late to cultivate new habits of your own. Click here to get your free Tiny Habits tips for Moms.
Learn to do both, and to find greater health and happiness, in our next session of Tiny Habits for Moms.

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Warning: Your Family Time May Be Less Effective Than You Think

When it comes to family time, quality is more important than quantity, right? Or is it the other way around? Parents get plenty of conflicting information about how much time they should spend with their kids, and how they should spend that time, and what it generally boils down to is guilt. No matter what you’re doing with your family, it seems like it’s never enough. If you’ve used the Tiny Habits Method before, you know how impactful a few Tiny Habit recipes can be. (If you haven’t, click here to learn more!) But can Tiny Habits build relationships as well? Read on to find out.

Modern Parenting By the Numbers

The Pew Research Center reports that parenting trends have changed drastically in the past 50 years. Among their findings:

  • Over 50% of mothers and fathers say juggling work and family is a challenge for them.
  • 40% of working mothers report that they always feel rushed.
  • 23% of mothers feel they don’t spend enough time with their children.

However, the study also found that both mothers and fathers spend significantly more time with their children than the parents of the 60s did. Mothers’ time has gone up from 10 hours a week to 14, and today’s fathers spend about 7 hours a week with their kids, compared to the 2.5 hours their own fathers put in.

Feeling Like It’s Never Enough

So why is it that we feel it’s not enough? Societal pressures may be partly to blame. As more women join the workforce, they feel the stress of balancing home and family more. And whether you’re a helicopter parent or not, our culture has begun to equate intensive parenting with a child’s future success, putting pressure on all parents to double down and focus on their kids while also maintaining their careers and households.

Surprisingly, researchers are finding that quantity may not matter as much as we think. A study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that the sheer amount of time children over three spent with their parents had little bearing on their overall social and academic success. The important factor was engagement. Time spent participating in activities together turns out to be much more impactful than time spent together doing separate activities. (One caveat: Teens whose parents are more available on the periphery exhibit less delinquency whether they actually interact with their parents more or not.)

From Available to Engaged

The good news is you’re probably already spending plenty of time with your kid. The real struggle is feeling like that time is worthwhile. You may spend hours together in the car each week without actually strengthening your bond. So how can you use the time you’re already together to foster a deeper and more meaningful connection? Here’s where Tiny Habits can spark major change.

Turn off the devices. Tiny Habits for Moms Coach Brittany Herlean puts her phone on airplane mode when she picks her kids up from school. It’s a small gesture that allows her to focus completely on them as they reconnect and talk about their day.

Try It Yourself:

  • After I park in front of my child’s school I’ll put my phone on airplane mode.
  • After my family sits down to dinner, we will silence our phones and put them in a basket.
  • After I sit down to help my child with her homework I will silence my phone.

Create mini family traditions. The way you say good-bye in the morning and good-night in the evening, how you spend your Saturday afternoons, and the way you celebrate small wins or make bad days better can all work to establish a strong family identity that binds your family together. Tiny Habits Certified Coach Jennifer Lee, writer and mom of two, always rode the bus growing up, except on days when she had tryouts, a performance or a big test. Then her dad drove her to school, stopping for a “Farmer’s Breakfast” – twinkies and chocolate milk. Not the healthiest tradition, but one that let her know her dad was always cheering her on.

Try It Yourself:

  • After my child informs me of an upcoming event, I’ll open up my calendar and input the information. (It’s a starter step that enables you to make their event part of your day.)
  • After I make my child’s lunch I’ll put in a fun surprise (or a loving note or silly joke).
  • After I tuck my child in at night we will fold our arms to pray.

Use tech to your advantage. Smart phones get a bad rap for reducing parents’ engagement, but they don’t have to. Tiny Habits Academy Director Linda Fogg-Phillips is also an expert on using social media and technology to strengthen your family connections. “We need to be at the crossroads of the lives of our children,” she says, “and oftentimes that’s online.”

Try It Yourself:

  • After I push the button on my coffee maker I’ll text my child a note of appreciation or encouragement.
  • After I check my child’s homework at night I will invite him to play a video game with me.
  • After I open up Instagram I will like one of my child’s posts.

Be sure and celebrate after every Tiny Habit. Get your kids celebrating, too. The positive emotions will reinforce the behavior, and you’ll teach them that making time for each other feels good.

In our latest course, Tiny Habits for Moms, you’ll learn more about how to strengthen your family connections and create balance in your life. Click here to join us for this impactful online workshop. Want to share your own ideas for making time together meaningful? Share your suggestions below or email them to jenniferleelee@gmail.com and we’ll feature our favorites in an upcoming post.

Planting the Seeds of Growth Mindset

It’s been a decade since Dr. Carol Dweck, Stanford professor of psychology, published Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, forever changing how parents and teachers praise their kids. In Mindset, Dweck explained the findings of her research on motivation, learning and mastery. To recap Dweck’s discovery:

  • People who believe their abilities are innate have a “fixed mindset.” These individuals often fear failure and shy away from risks and challenges.
  • People who believe that they can change their abilities through hard work and perseverance have a “growth mindset.” These individuals are more resilient and, in the long run, more successful.

Praising Effort, Not Ability

Dweck emphasized that, like ability, mindset can be shaped, and that a child’s mindset comes from the way the adults around them talk about ability and accomplishment. In the wake of Dweck’s research, parents and teachers strove to change the language they used with their children.

Instead of praising ability and outcome, they learned to praise effort and improvement. For parents of my generation, telling a child, “You’re so smart!” or even “Good job!” was tantamount to using profanity. Instead, we learned to respond to a child’s every action with, “Wow, you really worked hard on that!”

What’s Missing? Strategies and Results

Dweck now says that her research is often misapplied. Valuing effort is only the beginning. While effort is important, it is not the end goal. Children need to learn to use multiple strategies in their quest for growth, and should be praised for trying something new.

Parents should praise results as well, even when imperfect. The key is to give specific praise that emphasizes new learning and growth, not just effort. You might say, “You’re not there yet, but you’re on the right track! What else could you try here?” or “Look how your work has changed since two months ago. It’s clear you’re starting to get the hang of this. What are you doing that’s working?” Learn to acknowledge the small successes on the road to each accomplishment.

Celebrating Each Step

Celebrating incremental successes comes naturally to parents and teachers who use the Tiny Habits Method. Dr. BJ Fogg, Director of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford and creator of the Tiny Habits Method, frequently emphasizes the importance of celebrating each success.

The mental high that we experience with each accomplishment, no matter how small, contributes to what he calls “success momentum”. With every win, your sense that you can accomplish something more grows, and you become more motivated to pursue difficult goals and more confident that you will be able to achieve them.

The same thing happens for children. If they feel that only an “A” grade or a first-place ribbon mark success, they may shy away from classes and activities where they are not certain to win. However, if they have learned to celebrate each step on the road to achievement, they will take pleasure in tackling new challenges and learn to recognize their own potential for growth.

Ready to learn more about how the Tiny Habits Method can benefit you and your family? Enroll in Dr. BJ Fogg’s free 5-Day Tiny Habits program.