The No-Gimmick, Fastest Way to Make Real Change
One of the secrets to making a Tiny Habit work, says Fogg, is celebrating every single time you complete it. "You need to have a set of ways to celebrate," says Fogg.
"Candy?" I say.
"No," he says. "Sing a little song in your head. Some people literally pat themselves on the back. Some people do a fist pump and go, 'Awesome!'"
I picture myself doing this, and a little flower deep inside blackens and dies.
Self-celebration, however, is crucial, insists Fogg. You have to have something physical to affirm the great but tiny thing you've done, which is actually two great tiny things: 1) remembering to complete the habit after the anchor and 2) actually completing the habit. Remember the ukulele? That is Fogg's Tiny Habit. Each morning he strums his chord progression and then says, "Hmm, I'm awesome!" For me, he suggests "Way to go!"
The next day, I approach the front door, turn the key, do my three pliés, and then I say very quietly to myself, "Way to go...?" I feel not empowered, not psyched; I feel preposterous, as if my ear had suddenly begun to grow as large as my head.
"Some people are really good at the self-celebration," says Fogg when we catch up later, "and some people—it embarrasses them, and they just can't do it."
"I can't do it," I say. "I'm WASP. We stand around and feel bad."
"The emotion of celebration glues in the tiny habit," says Fogg. "The reason why is that your brain wants to feel happy and excited." So, do your habit enough times and you're brain starts saying, "Oh, key goes in, do the plié, I get happy."
I'm pretty sure that my inability to self-celebrate is part of a larger life problem—one thankfully, I don't have to deal with right now. However, there is hope for people like me—in that sometimes the celebrating can come externally. Because at 5:38 a.m., I manage to put on my running shoes and not run. But I do remain upright, and since I am upright, I'm able to work for one hour before the kids get up and then make them waffles. There are very few things that make me happier than making my kids waffles—the look on their sleep-stunned faces when you open up that iron, as if they expect a giant live butterfly to peel off the griddle and fly through the room. That is my "Way to go!"
Failure Is Success
The whole point of Tiny Habits, says Fogg is not necessarily to accomplish your habit. In fact, he asks that each Habiteer pick three habits, so that, with luck, one will not work out, and that you'll begin to understand why that is the case and be able to design more effective habits for yourself the next time.
By day five, the last day of the program, I give up on the pliés. Either three pliés are too many or pliés are too awkward for a woman to perform outside a ballet class or I'm trying to do them at a time when I can't concentrate on habits (I'm at the door, I just want to get inside that door and see my family). The next time, I decide, I'll do one plié, after I brush my teeth in the morning.
I can, however, mumble my gratitude before turning off the light, and I can slap on those running shoes at 5:38 a.m., then remain vertical, then work for an hour, then make the kids some kind of breakfast, at which point my kindergartener says, "You're not allowed to wear shoes in the house."
"These aren't shoes," I say. "These are running shoes."
"You're not running," he says. "You're eating my cereal."
I look down at my feet. The shoes are there—fresh green with white stripes, not a splash of mud to mar their breathable nylon uppers. "Oh, for God's sake," I say, and leave my husband in charge of the kids while I run out of the house and down the street and all the way to the ice cream parlor (which is closed, nevertheless inspirational) and run back to the house. This time, I do plenty to self-congratulation. I run around my living room with my arms straight up, going, "Look at Mommy! Mommy rocks! Mommy rocks!"
At the end of five days, Fogg emails a survey to me and all the other Habiteers. The first question is: How did your tiny habits affect your competence and ability to change your behavior in the future? Each week, results are almost always identical. Thirty-eight percent of the people say it greatly increased their confidence. Fifty-nine percent say it increased their confidence, and two percent say no change. Only on very rare weeks does he get a decrease.
"This is part of the reason I keep putting time into this," says Fogg. "I don't get paid for this. It's not really academic research, but it's so rewarding hearing from people who you've helped."
"You helped me," I say. "I'm one of those people. You helped me run!"
"No," he says. "I helped you put on your running shoes."
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