By Val McKinley
After I’m introduced to new vocabulary words, I will look them up. Then I’ll say, “I’ve just learned something new!” Zumba? Tiny Habits? Celebration? Let me define them for you.
Zumba® is Tiny Habits® Set to Music: An aerobic fitness program featuring movements inspired by various styles of Latin American dance and performed primarily to Latin American dance music. Zumba is an interval workout. The classes move between high-and low-intensity dance moves designed to get your heart rate up and boost cardio endurance.
Tiny Habits® : A “Tiny Habit” is a behavior you do at least once a day, takes you less than 30 seconds, and that requires little effort. Take a behavior you want to start doing and make it tiny. Find where it naturally fits in your life and nurture its growth.
Tiny Habit recipes are made up of an anchor moment, a new tiny behavior, and an instant celebration; A-B-C! After I…, I will B. Then, Celebrate!
Celebration: A way to tell ourselves that we’ve done a good job. When we celebrate, we fire off positive emotions. Celebration helps us achieve; to go beyond the minimum requirements. It’s how we wire in behavior and make it automatic. Celebration can be physical movement, music, phrases, visualization, or sound effects.
After my pre-Zumba timer goes off, I will pick up my workout clothes. Then, I’ll say, “I feel like dancing!”
The other day I realized why I was so attracted to both Zumba and Tiny Habits. They are both positive pursuits that have so much in common. No wonder I keep going back for more!!
In Tiny Habits, BJ Fogg explains that feeling good and feeling like you’re making progress are essential to growth and happiness. Bingo! Embedding many new Tiny Habits into my life over these last two years has definitely caused me to feel good about myself and the choices I’m making in my life. Zumba invigorates me. I’m making progress when I add arm movements to the footsteps. If the routine gets a bit complicated, I choose one part of my body to focus on and do that part.
After I master the leg movement, I will add part of the arm movement, and celebrate by saying “Yes!”
After I complete one dance without one pound weights, I will pick up my weights to do the next dance with them and celebrate by saying “That feels good!”
When we plant tiny habits, we keep the behaviors in our recipes very tiny for the days we don’t feel like doing much. On days we feel like doing more, we grow the behavior. After we do the behavior, we celebrate. This wires in the habit more quickly. For me, the celebration during Zumba is the music! It is an ongoing element that creates positive emotion and wires in the accompanying body movements almost effortlessly.
After I put my purse down at Zumba, I will put my earplugs in and say “I’m ready to move!”
After I start to chide myself for not getting all the moves down right away, I will look around at those who have had a stroke, brain surgery, or are overweight and will tell myself that showing up is the important thing. I’ll celebrate by saying “I am a person who practices self-care.”
After I berate myself for not getting all the moves, I will say to myself, “Be Kind!” and celebrate by saying “I’m proud of myself for showing up today.”
After the music starts, I will express gratitude for this day by focusing on the way my body moves to the music. The music is my celebration!
After Zumba class, I will appreciate the positivity and camaraderie of the participants that I witnessed that hour. I’ll celebrate the experience.
Because Zumba is something I want to do, I feel I am making progress almost effortlessly. So it is with the habits that I have successfully planted in my life. These include: getting out of bed and expressing gratitude for the day, making my bed, doing the starter step of a plank, stretching while waiting for my water to heat in the microwave, choosing a job stick when I feel overwhelmed, and writing in my Gains journal every night after getting into bed.
The above habits all involve complex sequences of steps, just like the steps in Zumba. I have been able to incorporate complex sequences because I have started tiny and added to behaviors when I wanted to; thereby gaining confidence and success momentum over time. If I ever feel overwhelmed by emotions/life, I can always do the tiniest step to keep the behavior planted in my life. I am still remaining true to myself.
Lastly, both the Tiny Habits and Zumba communities embrace diversity! The groups share core values of acceptance, happiness, joy, enthusiasm, positivity and fun! Participation in either guarantees to be judgment free, to meet you where you’re at, to allow you to proceed at your own pace, and to help you do what you want to do!!
I encourage you to explore a form of movement that you enjoy-mine just happens to be Zumba- and the Tiny Habits Method. I hope that they hold the same attraction for you as they have for me.
If you’re looking for some ideas for habit recipes, I offer a few suggestions below. Self-love is such an important foundation for creating a life you want to live in. Some recipe examples* to habituate self-love:
*Don’t forget to add your own celebration
For more from Val McKinley, see her Tiny Habits course Creating Calm Within.
By Kristy Bertenshaw
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.
No matter the weather.
No matter if you’re sick,
No matter if you’re tired,
No matter if you’re hung over,
You can still show up for yourself,
And keep your word.
Keep your commitments.
Keep your integrity.
Keep 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 behaviour 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. The same way as a sportsperson practices before the big game, we need to rehearse the new behaviour, 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 behaviour for success, and we deliberately allow ourselves to feel that success;
When we practice;
When we are consistent;
We create success 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 favourite 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.
She 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.
He 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 key words:
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 Teena George
Hi there! Let’s start with a quick round of Two Truths and a Lie.
Here goes –
Which statement do you think is a lie?
If you guessed 2 as the answer, you’re right!
GIF source: https://giphy.com/
You may be thinking that the other two statements are just as unbelievable. I agree with you. However, reading them gives you at least some idea of how seriously I used to take my work.
I cringe now as I write this. However, at the cost of my health, an earlier version of me is guilty of:
And as we say about Tiny Habits: “Tiny changes, big results.” So it is with seemingly small bad behaviors that we have. They compound over time and lead to life-impacting changes. For me, continuous stress coupled with long hours at work and consistently neglecting my health resulted in me getting diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease. (If this is the first time you’ve heard this term and want to know more, I’ve shared a link at the end of the blog.)
They’re right when they say, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” Frequent unannounced dizziness, a symptom of Meniere’s, helped me understand and appreciate that GOOD HEALTH IS THE ONE THING ON WHICH EVERYTHING ELSE DEPENDS.
Come to think of it, if you have good health you can invest your time and effort to build and strengthen your relationships, perform optimally at work, achieve your goals, make your dreams come true, and contribute to the greater good by helping others. Needless to say, your ability to do any of this becomes limited when your health suffers.
I am grateful that I got Meniere’s Disease when I did because it made me pause and re-evaluate my priorities, and it helped me start taking better care of my health. As of today, Meniere’s is an incurable disease and it’s progressive. So, while the symptoms do show up uninvited every once in a while, the three habits outlined below helped me manage Meniere’s and find my way back to good health.
It goes without saying that you don’t need to have Meniere’s or any other ailment to start any of these. They’ll benefit anyone.
1. Gratitude: Being grateful for what I have, focusing on what I can do as opposed to what is out of bounds for me, and counting my blessings have helped me from going on a downward spiral.
Image source: https://www.azquotes.com/
2. Exercise: While the variety of exercises I can do are limited, I have managed to lose 8 kilos and keep it off (something I struggled with for almost seven years.)
Image source: https://awesomeatyourjob.com/
3. Meditation: Meditating has helped me stay calm when I get anxious or overwhelmed. It has helped reduce the instances of Meniere’s attacks and generally changed my earlier perception that meditation is only for those with monk-like focus.
Image source: https://twitter.com/
These three practices are proven ways to build and sustain good health. I go into the details in my Uplift Your Well-being with Tiny Habits course.
Here are Three Tiny Habits® Recipes to get you started with these powerful practices:
Like these Tiny Habits Recipes? Download them here.
Which of the three (gratitude, exercise, meditation) are you already doing daily?
Which of the three do you want to start?
join my Uplift Your Well-being with Tiny Habits course featuring Dr. BJ Fogg and his colleague + my fellow Tiny Habits Certified Coach, Stephanie Weldy.
Image source: https://www.azquotes.com/
You can read more about Meniere’s Disease here.
Contributor: Teena George
Connect with me at:
When 95% is Not Better Than 0%
By Val McKinley
We usually think that more is better. In the world of behavior change, we encourage ourselves and others to do 1% better than the day before. The 1% adds up over time and voila; before we know it, the things that were hard for us or that we had resisted doing, get done. We feel good. Success momentum propels us forward…
Until it doesn’t. I thought I was leading my best life. I was traveling between grandchildren. I had created a portable coaching business and was enjoying the interaction with clients. Over the last two years I had consistently practiced making healthy food choices; also integrating a lot of movement and self-care practices into my daily routine. My husband is a loving partner and I have an amazing social network of family and friends.
So why am I writing this and what does this have to do with Tiny Habits? Last week after a visit with my family in VA, I was scheduled to fly back home to San Diego. That morning, after experiencing yet another two episodes of gastro discomfort which had escalated in frequency and intensity, I was extremely hesitant to get on an airplane. In the midst of not knowing which way to turn, I had an epiphany…’Call Will!’ I had been so preoccupied with my indecision and where to turn, that I had forgotten to ask for help. Help for me was the idea to call Will, my nephew who’s a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in MN. After he’d listened and synthesized all that I told him, he said that I should not fly, but instead take a taxi to the nearest cardiac hospital which he had determined would give me the best care based on the symptoms I presented.
My intuition and call to my nephew probably saved my life. Within 24 hours of admission, I was in surgery during which a stent was placed in my left anterior descending artery – best known as the Widowmaker. It was 95% blocked! Little did I know that a stroke can be a complication of this procedure.
As soon as I saw my daughter in the recovery room, I knew that something had gone wrong. I had never experienced coming out of anesthesia with the types of symptoms I was experiencing. My vision was totally out of whack. Every move caused vertigo and/or dizziness. I felt so out of control and very frightened. I was soon taken in for a CAT scan, which I later learned was to determine the type of stroke I had experienced.
When a doctor came in the next morning and asked how I was doing I said, “Not good!” He said, bless his heart, “We’re on this!” I went through a myriad of emotions; sadness, pity, tears, and fear to name a few. Questions such as, “Is this my new normal? How will I do what I love to do? Will I be able to hold my grandbaby?” etc., raced through my mind. Several abilities once taken for granted had suddenly been swept out from under me. Talk about being thrown for a loop – literally and figuratively!
This is where Tiny Habits came to the rescue. I know tiny is transformative. I know that self-confidence is the by-product of doing what I say I will do. When I celebrate the behaviors I have planted in my life, my body releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin. This process wires in the habits that I want to achieve more quickly. Action is the catalyst of long-term change. Because I’ve developed the skills of change over time, I knew I could start taking control of my life.
I was told specialists would not be coming to evaluate me until the next day. However, I knew that for me, waiting was not an option. I had a pity party and cried and was sad. Then, after a few minutes, I told myself to come up with one thing I could do to help myself heal as I was seeing double and was extremely dizzy. The recipes were: After I put a patch on one eye, I will set the timer for ten minutes. I celebrated. After the timer goes off, I will change the patch to the other eye. I celebrated. Repeat…By planting the seed of change that day, I felt empowered. I felt hopeful. I felt that I was doing something to move forward in my healing. Step-by-step, little by little.
Note: For women reading this, or men who have women in their lives, please know: The classic symptoms of a heart attack are different in women!! Even if you have no family history of cholesterol problems, have your cholesterol checked. If you don’t feel like yourself, trust yourself. You have the right to have your health symptoms addressed until a root cause is found. Good luck. Be well!
Update: I was in rehab at the hospital for a week and then went to my daughter’s for a week. I was cleared to fly back home to CA at the end of the second week. Two habits that I continued to do post stroke were a modified hospital version of the Maui habit upon awakening and my bedtime habit of After I get in bed, I will write my gains for the day and write 3 things I hope to accomplish the next day. And then I celebrated!
I am a firm believer that maintaining a routine helped keep negativity at bay as I continued to heal.
A few weeks after arriving home, I started going to Zumba again. It’s my favorite form of movement. I knew that the full hour of spinning and quick movements would be too much, so my modification was, During my ½ hour of Zumba, I will walk the steps and look forward. Then celebrate that I was back! Over the next few weeks, I slowly started increasing my time in class, adding head movements and turns as long as I maintained my orientation.
Two months in, I got to start driving again! Yea! I have been in the company of my granddaughter in the last few weeks, getting to hold her and take care of her as before. Life is good! I feel so blessed to be back to my former self.
Tiny Habits Certified Coach
The days of spring are filled with pansies, daffodils and tulips making their way through the ground ready for bloom and longer, warmer, sunnier, hope-filled days. Spring, to me, means a fresh start. A time to revamp and press reset.
A time for spring cleaning and overhauling our environment.
It’s also a time a lot of us associate with new goals, aspirations, wellbeing, and socialising. After being in lockdown over the winter months, with the hope of COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon and that life may soon normalise somewhat, now is the time to prepare for people—our family, friends and loved ones—coming to visit our homes once again over the coming summer months. How exciting!
It’s time to get prepared to open our homes once again, get organised, and declutter.
The thing is, tomorrow is going to be just like today. Today was just like yesterday.
Unless we design our lives differently. Unless we create change.
To change our lives, we must implement systems and change our actions.
One of the easiest ways to get started is to change our environment.
We can use this as inspiration to get organised at home. But where do we begin?
Let’s start by thinking about the way we use the space in our homes and lives.
The design of our interior spaces can be a powerful force. It has the ability to bring out the best in us or slow us down.
I believe most people take pride in their skills, work, ability to do things, and they want to do things well, given the opportunity.
In our homes, we have different spaces in which we need to get those things done.
These interior spaces ideally reflect the needs of the people living within them, prioritise wellbeing, and enhance our humanity.
Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves:
We often see people have not thought through activity related to producing results. This means homes end up being organised inefficiently, diminishing our productivity, leaving us to feel overwhelmed, frustrated and wondering why things aren’t working or why we simply aren’t getting things done.
Our homes need to be zoned for our current goals and aspirations. And while we can have it all, we can’t have it all at once.
Each time we choose to declutter or re-organise, we have the chance to evaluate the interior spaces which frame our life. We have the opportunity to create spaces that make us feel alive, and improve the way we live and work. Little by little, day by day, we can take tiny actions to improve life on the daily.
How often do you use your things?
Our homes can look pretty and organised, but they also have to be practical.
Ask yourself: How often do I use this thing/item?
Is it daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly?
Does this support a habit, ritual or routine I, or someone in my house, has?
Just like items are merchandised in a supermarket or store, homes need to be organised by frequency and location of use to create a system that is easy to maintain and easy to use—a system based on Fogg Maxim #1 and #2.
Fogg Maxim #1: Help People do what they already want to do.
Fogg Maxim #2: Help People feel successful.
Put things that you use daily at the front, then arrange by weekly and monthly usage. Height also matters based on who is using it and how often. What is in our eye line is prime real estate.
Pro tip: Want your kids, hubby or wife to adopt a behaviour with ease? Set up a little zone so it’s fun & easy for them to do, in an area they already use, with stuff they already use on the daily, and make sure it’s at their specific eye level. They will think they thought of this themselves. Genius! (And no more nagging)
Whether we are on the scale from hoarders to very occasional members of the clutterclub, what’s one thing we can do today to get started, no matter our decluttering and organising skills?
Adopt the Rule of Three—The Tiny Habits Version
Every time we get up from our desk or walk through a room, we put away three things. Or, each hour, devote 30 seconds to de-cluttering.
Here is a Tiny Habits Recipe for getting organised you can use in your own life:
After I get up from my desk or office chair, I will put away three things,
And celebrate with a Serena Williams fist pump.
The best way to learn the Tiny Habits Method is to get started practising immediately. Don’t wait. What action will you choose to take today?
I write things & stuff on Medium
By Kristen Manieri
“Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it,” says renowned writer and meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg. What a paradox! Mindfulness—the act of bringing our attention into the present moment—is easy… if we’re mindful!
It’s true that nearly anyone can cultivate the skill of mindfulness. In fact, most of us learn present-moment awareness without being formally educated in it, without ever being told what mindfulness is and why it matters. We have all experienced what it’s like when our attention returns to the moment we are actually in right now, regardless of how fleeting that particular moment of presence was. This is mindfulness. Easy.
But try to build a mindful life—a life so steeped in present-moment awareness that mindlessness is battled nearly to extinction—not so easy.
The good news is that we are all capable of more mindfulness when we make a commitment to practice more often. A reliable tool for regular practice is habits. Any activity we do with enough consistency to become automated no longer requires our focus or deliberateness. Once we habituate an activity, it becomes seemingly effortless.
Using the power of habits, mindfulness can become effortless, too.
Whether your goal is to become more present or productive, compassionate or creative, it all starts with turning your awareness to the present moment. Mindfulness habits, coupled with the right intention and attention, dig mental grooves that allow you to return to your awareness and the present moment over and over again.
When we merge the science of habits with the art of mindfulness, we discover a formula for a mindful life and a solution to Sharon Salzberg’s challenge. Mindfulness isn’t difficult. And we CAN remember to do it. We just need a little help. The following habits are a great place to get started.
Mindfulness is a homecoming. So much of our day is focused on the exterior of our lives. When we slow down and pause, we’re invited to revisit and re-inhabit our inner world, even for just a few seconds.
The practice of a 30-second check-in is simply pausing to tune in to the feelings, sensations and thoughts in the body and mind. Think of it like a weather report. Close your eyes and check in. Is it stormy, breezy, or sunny? Are you holding any tension or ruminating on any worries?
Noticing what’s happening inside grants us an opportunity to tend to it. Are you thirsty, hungry or achy? What needs is the body asking to be filled? With our awareness turned inward we may notice anxiety, stress or frustration building. Maybe you need a break or to step away to get perspective. When we are mindful, we can choose to regulate ourselves, which helps us access the higher functions of the brain where our capacity to make good decisions and wise choices is stored. We become less of a knee-jerk reactor and more of a thoughtful responder.
Try this: Start tiny! Close your eyes for 10 seconds and simply see what’s there. How do you feel? What are your dominant thoughts? What emotions are present? Notice what it feels like to return to yourself.
Here’s a habit recipe you could try:
After I use the restroom, I will close my eyes for 10 seconds and check in with myself.
Mindful Mealtime Pause
Put up your hand if you sit down to eat and just start mindlessly chowing down. If you could see me, you’d see my hand up, too. Meals are perhaps some of our most mindless moments. It’s tough to eat mindfully, but I find it gets easier when I begin my meals with the habit of taking a mindful pause.
When I sit down to eat dinner, I close my eyes and let myself feel my hunger. This pause offers me the chance to feel very grateful for the food in front of me, all those who played a part in getting it to my table, and to appreciate how fortunate I am to have healthy food to eat. I find this pause also slows me down long enough to savor my food, at least the first few mindful bites.
Here’s a habit recipe you could try:
After I sit down to eat, I will close my eyes, pause and feel grateful.
Waiting in Gratitude
I had a terrible habit of checking my phone when I’m stopped at red lights and I really wanted to break it. As I learned from BJ Fogg, it’s much easier to replace a habit than to break one, especially one that we’ve been doing for a long time.
So, I began the habit of placing my phone in my purse instead of in the center console. Having it out of reach lowered the temptation and removed the visual prompt. Then when I arrive at a red light, I take a moment to think of a few things I’m grateful for.
Here are habit recipes you could try:
After I get into the car, I will put my phone out of reach and out of sight.
After I stop at a red light, I will think of three things I’m grateful for.
Three Deep Breaths
Without getting too much into the science, believe me when I say that just taking three deep breaths has a tremendous influence on your nervous system. We breathe short, shallow breaths when we’re stressed. It’s a way of our body getting us into a position for either flight or fight.
The trouble is, we don’t typically face any real threats most of the time. But we think threatening thoughts, which make our body think that we’re in trouble. A good way to reset and to restore our inner peace and calm is to slow and deepen our breathing.
Try this: Once a day, sit somewhere comfortably and close your eyes. Take a breath in through the nose to the count of five or six. Hold the breath for a second or two and then exhale through the mouth with a big sigh. Repeat this again two more times.
What you’ll likely notice is a feeling of ease as your nervous system starts to register the signals that you’re safe and well. You might even say silently to yourself, “all is well.” This quick, little reset can help you power down at the end of the day, shift from work to family time, and can help you regulate your emotions when you’re feeling upset.
Here are a few habit recipes you could try:
After I get into bed at night, I will take three deep breaths.
After I get into the car after work, I will take three deep breaths.
Handwashing is something we all (hopefully) do automatically and mostly mindlessly several times a day. This makes it a great anchor for a mindful moment!
For this habit, you’ll still wash your hands as you normally do. The only difference is that you’ll wash them with your attention singularly focused on the task at hand rather than letting your mind wander or rushing through.
I like to use this moment of presence to practice keeping my attention focused on something that’s pretty mundane. My mind isn’t really interested in focusing on washing my hands because it’s something I’ve already done a million times and I don’t need any special attention in order to do it correctly. Being with my mind as it naturally wanders away with thoughts of my day or what I’m going to do next is an interesting exercise in simply training my mind to stay present. And since I wash my hands about a dozen times a day, I get loads of practice.
Try this: As you turn on the tap and put soap onto your hands, tune into the sensory experience (sight, sound, smell, touch) of this everyday practice of washing your hands. Allow yourself to drop deeply into the experience and really feel all the sensations you’re experiencing. Use this practice as a mini holiday in your day and a chance to come home to yourself, even for just 20 seconds.
Here’s a habit recipe you could try:
After I put soap on my hands, I will bring my full attention and awareness to the act of washing my hands.
Making Habits Stick
If you’re up for it, pick just one of these habits to work on in the next week. Instead of aiming for a slam dunk, set the intention to simply learn about how you build habits. Troubleshoot and pivot rather than throw in the towel if a habit isn’t sticking. And remember, keep it tiny and easy. You can scale up your habit once it’s sticky.
So much to do!!
Where do I start?
What should I do next?
Put a stop to indecision and overwhelm once and for all!
Let the sticks decide for you!
I came up with this idea years ago when I was teaching, growing a side-business, and raising children. So much to do! Where would I start? Everything seemed important. This is when my Select-a-Stick method was born.
I had already created Pick Me!, a random selection method to engage students and have all feel important. I thought, “If I can do this with student’s names and with randomly selecting activities for students, I could use the same concept in my own home!”
I collected some craft sticks, a mug, and a permanent marker. On each stick, I wrote a job that needed to be done. Some of the jobs included: finish IEPs, help Chloe on her project, address Christmas cards, wrap presents, pay bills, plan dinners for 3 nights, shopping list, read a magazine for 15 min. (I always add something fun.), etc. I put the sticks in the mug and decided I would let the universe decide what to start on first.
Even before I knew about Tiny Habits, I knew I was the type of person who didn’t want to do any one job for too long. So, I’d set a timer for 5 min., pick a stick, and work on that job until the timer went off. If I was really into the job, I’d set the timer for 5 more minutes. If I had finished the job, I’d throw the stick away. If not, I’d put it back in the mug. Then, I’d set the timer for 5 minutes and pick a new stick.
By using this random selection method, I quieted the negative thoughts in my head. Movement created action. It was a fun way to stay in action. I gained confidence as I completed jobs that I had been putting off. I realized how much time 5 minutes really is.
One time behaviors:
For example, Everyday jobs such as…
Specific jobs such as…
Major project completions such as…
Pick a Stick and Start Moving
By picking a random selection of sticks, the intention is to get you moving for a short or a long period of time. With the timer, you will decide how long you want to work at that particular job. As you complete each job on your stick you will begin to gain confidence in obtaining your goals, no matter how big or small.
The sticks will keep you focused and in control. Many of you will want to make this a habit. Create a Tiny Habit recipe (Anchor Behavior Celebration) to ensure that you get things done.
After I _________________, I will pick a stick and set a timer, and celebrate. Then celebrate again when the timer goes off for doing something.
This is your time to play. If you don’t want to do the job listed on the stick, put it back and pick another one! Please make sure you plan for some down time after you have completed your job. Either write something fun on the other side of the stick or take a break between sticks. The sticks take the guesswork out of you taking action! Using these sticks will help with feeling stuck, indecisive and overwhelmed.
I made two Loom videos for a friend showing her how to use them. I’ve included the links below for you as well.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me.
Tiny Habits Certified Coach
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, but perhaps 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? Well, 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 another day, or week, or month, or forever…
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.
The first step was to help Sally clarify her aspirations under the umbrella subject of connecting with people. She landed on 3 areas that she wanted to improve upon:
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.
After throwing some ideas around and reducing them to very small behaviours, Sally landed on five things that she was confident that she could do every day.
Next we spent a little time to design these new behaviours seamlessly into Sally’s existing routines. For each of the new behaviours, we looked for an existing habit that was already programmed into Sally’s day so that we could use it as a trigger to do the new behaviour.
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,
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?