In the video above, I outline how I use BJ Fogg’s method for developing habits. Last year I could barely do 1 pull-up, and now I do about 70 a day.
Before I dive in deeper into habit creation, let’s talk about what a habit is. Nir Eyal tells us that “a habit is when not doing something causes a bit of pain.” When I first read this sentence, I had to re-read it a couple of times to make sure I understood. Let’s try some examples.
Example 1: You are at the dinner table, you get a text message. You try to keep electronics away from the dinner table. You resist the urge to check the message. What do you feel? Probably a small bit of pain. Your brain is wondering “what does it say?”
Example 2: You are in a long line at the grocery store. You reach for your phone, only to realize you left your phone in the car. What do you feel? A small bit of pain.
Examples 1 and 2 are habits that I have. Not doing them causes me a bit of pain. You have to view your habits in this light. I might tell people that I have a flossing habit, but do I feel pain when I skip a night? Absolutely not. Therefore I do not have a flossing habit.
1. Think of target behavior – for me it was doing more pull-ups. I’ve always been told that pull-ups are a great form of exercise. Plus, I felt that being able to do 5-10 pull-ups is a good indicator of overall fitness. For you it could be doing squats, drinking more water, using your iPhone less, etc. Remember, it’s much easier to do more of something (pull-ups) than less of something (using my iPhone)
2. Select a trigger event to target the behavior – Since a habit requires no thought, something has to cause the behavior. This is the trigger. To find a good trigger, make sure it’s easy to do the behavior you select in #1 after the trigger. For example, if your habit is to take a sip of water after you send an email, you need to make sure that you have water on your desk. If you have to walk 5 minutes away to a water fountain, you’re not likely to perform the behavior.
It also helps if the trigger even happens several times a day. The formula is AFTER (trigger event) PERFORM (simple behavior). So the more times your trigger event happens, the more frequently you are performing the behavior.
For my pull-up habit – At the time, there was a small gym right beside the bathroom closest to my office. So I decided to make going to the bathroom my trigger event (to be more specific, washing my hands was the trigger).
3. Pick a tiny behavior – I could have said that AFTER (I go to the bathroom) PERFORM (10 pull-ups), but this would be too hard. Habit’s always start small. For me, I could do 3 pull ups without too much effort, so I decided to start there. If you want to develop a habit of working out every morning, start by just putting on your clothes every day for a week. If you want to develop a flossing habit, start with one tooth. The secret to BJ’s method is that the behavior has to be small.
4. Create a reward – all habits provide some sort of reward. Think about how you feel when you pull out your phone to check Instagram – there’s a tiny emotional reward you experience. Again, the reward starts small and grows over time. BJ recommends a fist pump or affirming that you did this right. I go for the fist pump – that used to be the reward. Now the reward for me is a bit deeper. I feel better when I actually go a do my pull-ups. I still do the fist pump – out of habit! I was out of town this past weekend at a retreat center and I thought about pull-ups every time I went to the bathroom. I went search all over the retreat center for a decent pull-up bar. I finally found a cross beam that I could do a few pull ups on.
Definition. Check. Method Check. Create Habits – Go
Do you have some habits that you want to create? Do you want to learn more about these methods? I’d highly recommend going through BJ’s Tiny Habits course. I’d also love to hear about the habits you are trying to create and answer any questions you might have.
Now it’s time for me to do some pull-ups.