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Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg.
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In Tiny Habits, Stanford behavioral scientist BJ Fogg argues that the best way to change behavior is to start small. Fogg encourages us to drop any moral judgment about “good” and “bad” habits and view our behavior scientifically, using specific behavior design skills to engineer lasting changes.

The Fogg Behavior Model

The Fogg Behavior Model is a simple formula that lets you pick apart the components of any particular behavior. This formula is B = MAP, where B is Behavior, M is Motivation, A is Ability, and P is Prompt. A behavior only happens when all three MAP variables are present at the same time.

Let’s look at each of these components in turn:

  • Motivation is less important than most of us think. It’s unreliable, it’s hard to budge, and some of our motivations are unconscious or conflict with one another. On top of that, motivation can be especially difficult to muster when we’re stressed.
  • Ability is how easy or difficult it is for us to do the behavior. We can work with Ability in two ways: by improving our own skills, or by making the behavior easier (the central method in Tiny Habits).
  • The Prompt is your reminder to do the behavior. Without the Prompt, it doesn’t matter how high your Ability and Motivation are—the behavior won’t happen.

The Action Line is a graphical representation of this model, plotting Motivation on the horizontal axis and Ability on the vertical axis. In the graph below, the blue star is a behavior that’s very easy to do and for which you have a moderate level of motivation. It sits far above the action line, so when you’re exposed to the prompt you’ll have no problems doing this behavior. The green star is a behavior that’s much more difficult. Though you have almost as much motivation as for the blue star behavior, the high level of difficulty means that even with a well-designed prompt you won’t get above the Action Line and manage to do the behavior.

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The Behavior Design Process

The Behavior Design process is the method we use to convert the Fogg Behavior Model into a new habit. It consists of seven steps, which we move through one by one to convert a vague aspiration into a lasting habit.

1. Pinpoint your exact aspiration or outcome. Get very clear on what exactly you want to achieve. The clearer your aspiration is, the more likely your new habit is to succeed.

For example, let’s say your aspiration is to be less tired during the day. But when you really think about the root of the problem, you might realize that a better aspiration is “Get better sleep.” You use this as the starting point for your design.

2. Brainstorm possible behavioral solutions. Write your aspiration in the middle of a page or whiteboard and put a circle around it. How many different specific behaviors can you come up with that might help you achieve this? Be wacky and creative as well as logical and realistic, and aim to write down at least 20 different behaviors. When you’re finished brainstorming, you’ll have a diverse Swarm of Behaviors (“Swarm of Bs”) that you can use in the next step.

For example, let’s continue with the aspiration “Get better sleep.” You might come up with the following behaviors: “Buy a blackout curtain,” “Try a white noise machine,” “Move to somewhere quieter,” “Try aromatherapy,” “Stop napping during the day,” and so on. When you have your initial set of behaviors, look over them and make sure they’re as specific as possible. For example, you could change “Try aromatherapy” to “Take a hot lavender-scented bath.”

3. Identify the Golden Behaviors. To find your Golden Behaviors, you engage in a process called Focus Mapping. To Focus Map, write your Swarm of Bs on individual index cards. Then draw up some axes as shown here: The vertical axis shows the impact of the behavior, while the horizontal axis shows its feasibility.

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First, think only about the vertical axis. For each of the cards, ask yourself: Will this be an efficient way to achieve my aspiration? If the behavior is likely to be high-impact, put it near the top. If it’s not, put it near the bottom.

Then think only about the horizontal axis. For each of the cards, ask yourself: Is this realistic? Do I really want to do this? Move the cards to the left or right based on your answer.

You should end up with a few behaviors in the top right-hand quadrant. These are your Golden Behaviors. For example, you might find that “take a hot lavender-scented bath” is both high-impact (lavender and baths have both been shown to positively affect sleep) and feasible (you have a bathtub, you enjoy using it, and you often have some free time in the evening).

Choose a small number of these (one to five) and focus only on them in Steps 4 to 7. If you don’t have any behaviors in that quadrant, create another Swarm of Bs and try again.

4. Find the tiny version. The core of Tiny Habits is making any new habits so small that they’re completely unintimidating. By doing this, you’re protecting them as much as possible from the vagaries of motivation. This often results in a behavior that’s so tiny that it seems absurd: turning on the stovetop burner, putting on your walking shoes, flossing one tooth. This may feel silly, but go with it. Tiny actions can be surprisingly powerful.

There are two ways you can create a tiny version of a behavior. You can figure out what the very first step (Starter Step) of the behavior is and go with that. Or you can do a part of the behavior for a very short time (Scaled-Back Version). For example, let’s say that “take a hot lavender-scented bath” is one of your Golden Behaviors. A Starter Step for this behavior might be taking out the lavender oil and unscrewing the cap. A Scaled-Back Version might...

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Tiny Habits Summary Introduction

In Tiny Habits, Stanford behavioral scientist BJ Fogg argues that the best way to change behavior is to start small. Based on years of experience running a Stanford lab and helping people make changes through monthly Behavior Design Boot Camps, Fogg encourages us to drop any moral judgment about “good” and “bad” habits and view our behavior scientifically, using specific behavior design skills to engineer lasting changes. Through Tiny Habits, Fogg argues that the tiniest changes in our behavior can ripple out and have far-reaching effects, both in our own lives and in the lives of others.

(Shortform note: The book is structured in a series of overlapping circles: Fogg introduces models, methods, and examples of people who have succeeded with the Tiny Habits approach and circles back to them throughout the book, adding more information each time. This summary rearranges the book’s content so that each chapter covers a self-contained principle.)

What Is Behavior Design?

Many of us have tried to make behavior changes in the past. Sometimes we succeed; more often than not, we fail. And we blame ourselves for the failure. But **often we are not the problem. We just haven’t...

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Shortform Exercise: Choose a Habit to Work On

Think about an area of your life that might benefit from the Tiny Habits approach.


What’s the habit that you’d most like to cultivate in your life right now? How can you create a Tiny Habit recipe for this behavior?

Recipe:

  • After… [Anchor]
  • I will… [Tiny Behavior]
  • To celebrate, I will … [Celebration]

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Shortform Exercise: Try the Maui Habit

Experiment with the Maui Habit, a great way to start or continue the day on a positive note.


At this moment, how are you feeling? List any emotions or thoughts that come up.

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Tiny Habits Summary Chapter 1: The Fogg Behavior Model

The Fogg Behavior Model is a simple way of breaking down the components of a particular behavior. This helps us to understand the causes of the behavior, which in turn lets us pinpoint any problem elements and address them directly.

In this chapter, we’ll look at each component of the Fogg Behavior Model in turn, and we’ll learn about the Action Line, a way of visualizing how the Fogg Behavior Model applies to any given behavior. We’ll also discuss why motivation isn’t the best starting point for building lasting new habits and introduce some alternative, more reliable jumping-off points.

Fogg Behavior Model: B = M A P

Behavior (B): The specific action we’re considering.

This formula applies to any human behavior, from dropping dirty clothes on the floor to climbing Mount Everest. This means that the model applies regardless of culture or environment, and regardless of the ease or difficulty of the behavior.

Motivation (M): Your desire to execute the behavior.

Motivation fluctuates wildly from day to day and from behavior to behavior. Here, we’re talking about the motivation you have at the exact time you’ll execute a given instance of the...

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Shortform Exercise: Rethink Motivation

Dethrone motivation as the go-to solution for behavior change.


What habit have you tried to create (or break) in the past by relying too much on willpower or motivation?

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Shortform Exercise: Map a Behavior on the Action Line

Learn to work with Motivation, Ability, and the Action Line.


On a piece of paper, draw a vertical axis for Motivation and a horizontal axis for Ability. Now draw in the Action line curve.

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Tiny Habits Summary Chapter 2: Behavior Design Phase 1—Selection

In this chapter, we’ll start applying the Fogg Behavior Model, which we discussed in Chapter 1, to the following practical question: How do we build positive new habits into our lives? The complete Behavior Design process consists of seven steps divided into three broad phases: Selection, Design, and Practice.

Steps in Behavior Design

The seven steps in Behavior Design are as follows:

Selection

1. Pinpoint your exact aspiration or outcome

2. Brainstorm possible behavioral solutions

3. Identify the Golden Behaviors

Design

  1. Find the tiny version

  2. Choose your prompt

Practice

  1. Celebrate

  2. Repeat, refine, and upgrade

In this chapter, we’ll discuss Phase 1 (Selection), consisting of Steps 1 to 3. We’ll talk about Phases 2 and 3 in later chapters.

1. Pinpoint Your Exact Aspiration or Outcome

What exactly are you aiming to achieve?

Often our aspirations are vaguer than we realize. The clearer the aspiration, the more targeted your behavior design can be.

Sometimes we misfire when creating aspirations. It helps to consider carefully where we really want to end up. For example, if your aspiration is to...

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Shortform Exercise: Pilot the Selection Phase

Sketch out Steps 1 - 3 of the Behavior Design Process for a habit that’s meaningful to you.


Step 1. Pinpoint your exact aspiration or outcome.

Generally speaking, what would you like to achieve? Is it an aspiration (an abstract idea) or an outcome (a concrete result)?

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Tiny Habits Summary Chapter 3: Behavior Design Phase 2—Design

The complete Behavior Design process consists of seven steps. We looked at Steps 1 to 3 in Chapter 2. Now we’ll learn about Steps 4 and 5, which comprise the Design phase of the new habit.

Selection

  1. Pinpoint your exact aspiration or outcome

  2. Brainstorm possible behavioral solutions

  3. Identify the Golden Behaviors

Design

4. Find the tiny version

5. Choose your prompt

Practice

  1. Celebrate

  2. Repeat, refine, and upgrade

4. Find the Tiny Version

How do we make behaviors so easy that they shoot up above the Action Line?

We have two options for making behaviors easier: practicing more and working with the Ability Chain.

Practice

With each repetition a behavior gets easier, pushing it further to the right on the Ability axis. However, repetition isn’t the answer for all behaviors.

The Ability Chain

You can visualize the Ability component in B = MAP as a chain with five links: time, money, physical effort, mental effort, and compatibility with existing routines. As with all chains, the Ability Chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

To target Ability effectively, we use two questions:...

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Shortform Exercise: Work With the Ability Chain

Identify strong and weak links in the Ability Chain.


The “Ability Chain” has five links: time, money, physical effort, mental effort, and compatibility with daily routine. Think of a specific habit that you’d like to implement, or that you’ve been trying to implement without success. Assess each link in the chain individually. Which is the strongest? Which is the weakest?

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Shortform Exercise: Use Starter Steps and Scale Back

Practice creating your own Tiny Habit.


There are two types of Tiny Habits that you can implement: “starter step” and “scaling back.” A stater step is when you isolate the very beginning of the behavior. (For example, if you want to start drinking a big glass of hot water with lemon every morning, a starter step might be putting the kettle on to boil.)

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Shortform Exercise: Create a Pearl Habit

How might you turn an annoyance into a cue for positive change? In Pearl Habits, you transform events that usually prompt you to react negatively into prompts for a positive habit. (For example, Fogg turned the noise of an air conditioner into a prompt to relax.)


Think of a few stimuli that usually annoy you or trigger a negative reaction.

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Tiny Habits Summary Chapter 4.1: Behavior Design Process Phase 3—Practice (Celebration)

The Behavior Design process consists of seven steps. We’ve covered Steps 1 to 5 in Chapters 2 and 3. Now let’s look at the remaining steps, which comprise Phase 3 of the process: Practice. As there’s a lot of detail here, we’ve split Phase 3 into two chapters. In Chapter 4a we’ll look at Step 6 (Celebration), and in Chapter 4b we’ll look at how to repeat, refine, and upgrade the habit.

Selection

  1. Pinpoint your exact aspiration or outcome

  2. Brainstorm possible behavioral solutions

  3. Identify the Golden Behaviors

Design

  1. Find the tiny version

  2. Choose your prompt

Practice

6. Celebrate

  1. Repeat, refine, and upgrade

We first encountered Step 6 (Celebration) in the “recipe” in the Introduction:

We first encountered Step 6 (Celebration) in the “recipe” in the Introduction:

  1. After… [Anchor]
  2. I will… [Tiny Behavior]
  3. To celebrate, I will … [Celebration]

We now have a good understanding of the first two ingredients, the Anchor and the Tiny Behavior. But what exactly does a Celebration look like?

Step 6. Celebration

As we saw in the Introduction, we change best when we feel good. But feeling good can be more...

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Shortform Exercise: Personalize Your Celebrations

Get to know your celebration style.


What’s your personal celebration style? Do you like goofy, all-out celebrations, or are you more reserved and serious?

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Shortform Exercise: Try a Celebration Blitz

Put celebration into action.


Choose the messiest corner of your house or office. Set a timer for three minutes and start tidying things away. For every single thing you put away, celebrate! (You can use the celebrations you identified above, or whatever else feels right in the moment and gives you a sincere feeling of Shine). When the timer goes off, stop tidying and come back.

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Tiny Habits Summary Chapter 4.2: Behavior Design Process Phase 3—Practice (Repeat, Refine, Upgrade)

In the last chapter we looked at Step 6 (Celebration). In this chapter you’ll learn how to repeat, refine, and upgrade your new habits.

Selection

  1. Pinpoint your exact aspiration or outcome

  2. Brainstorm possible behavioral solutions

  3. Identify the Golden Behaviors

Design

  1. Find the tiny version

  2. Choose your prompt

Practice

  1. Celebrate

7. Repeat, refine, and upgrade

The seventh and final Behavior Design step continues for as long as you decide to maintain the habit. This step ensures that your habit is constantly adapting to the changing realities of your life.

Rehearse Your Habit

Any world-class athlete or musician can tell you about the importance of rehearsal, but our use of rehearsal in our daily lives is woefully inadequate. Fogg believes that this technique in particular will be much more widely appreciated in the future.

Rehearsing helps you to do two things: acquire the habit quickly and remember to do the habit if you’re having trouble.

Here’s how to rehearse. Think of your habit recipe. For now, let’s say it’s After I turn off the water in the sink, I will wipe the counter.

  • Go to the...

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Shortform Exercise: Work With Behavior Change Skill Sets

Identify your strengths and weaknesses in behavior change.


Fogg identifies five different high-level skill sets for behavioral change: Strategy, Clarity, Process, Environment, and Attitude. Which of these is your strongest skill set? Which is your weakest?

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Tiny Habits Summary Chapter 5: Unraveling Bad Habits

When people begin to cultivate their habit gardens, they usually find a combination of empty, fertile parts, full of space for new habits, and parts that are full of weeds: bad habits that need to be uprooted before you can plant anything new in that spot. In this chapter, we’ll learn some methods for pulling out the weeds.

Initially, the Tiny Habits framework didn’t include advice for eliminating bad habits. This was because Fogg didn’t want to cross over the boundary into giving advice about serious addictions. Tiny Habits isn’t designed for that. But after some of his Habiteers started designing bad habits out of their lives using Behavior Design principles, he realized that other people could benefit from this too.

Before we move on, let’s look at some of the benefits of shedding bad habits.

The Benefits of Shedding Bad Habits

When you drop an old habit, it creates space for new things to flourish. This might be a hobby, improved work performance, a relationship, or an identity, or it might simply make you more responsive to the world around you.

For example, Habiteer Juni worked hard over several months to free herself of her sugar dependence. One afternoon, at...

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Shortform Exercise: Design Away an Unwanted Habit

Select, analyze, and design away one of your Downhill Habits.


Downhill Habits don’t require much effort to maintain, but it takes some effort to stop them. Identify one to three Downhill Habits in your current routine.

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Tiny Habits Summary Chapter 6: Changing With Others

Up until now, you’ve been focusing on yourself in making changes. This isn’t a coincidence—it’s best to experiment on yourself first and get a feeling for the Behavior Change process before complicating things by adding other people. But in this chapter, you’ll see how to apply the insights you’ve gained in previous chapters to helping other people change, both individually and within groups.

Even individual changes can have far-reaching effects on others. Think back to Juni, from Chapter 5, who was able to encourage her son’s singing because she beat her sugar habit, and Jill, from Chapter 4, who created a harmonious family environment for her daughter by wiping the kitchen counter. These women created habits for themselves that had a direct positive effect on other people.

The People in Our Lives: Help or Hindrance?

The people around us can be incredible resources. When you’re going through the Behavior Design steps, it can help to enlist someone else to help you generate ideas.

But not all of the people around us want us to change. Look out for enablers, who consciously or unconsciously sabotage your new habit. These might be the husband who undercuts his wife’s...

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Shortform Exercise: Are You a Ringleader or Ninja?

Think about your behavior change leadership style.


Ringleaders lead change overtly, often as group leaders or teachers, while Ninjas take a more stealthy approach. Which one of these approaches do you gravitate to more naturally?

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Shortform Exercise: Identify Your Feedback Power Zone

Explore domains of maximum feedback impact.


A Feedback Power Zone is the overlap of a domain that’s important to you and a domain that you feel insecure about. See if you can identify some of yours.

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Tiny Habits Summary Chapter 7: Conclusion

By designing Tiny Habits and allowing them to take root in our lives, we’re committing to a view of behavior change that’s based on curiosity rather than obligation, non-judgment rather than self-criticism, and celebration rather than emotional pressure.

In Fogg’s approach to behavior change, a habit is a bit like a piece of computer code: If it doesn’t work the first time (and it probably won’t!), go back, debug the program, and try again. Keep going until you iron out the problems and have something that functions smoothly and reliably.

Introducing Tiny Habits into your life will not only make you more efficient and leave you more time to do the things you love—it’ll also make you a more joyful and resilient person.

And if you’re helping other people to change, even better. Helping other people is a powerful source of Shine.

To conclude, let’s circle back to the Fogg Behavior Maxims. Here they are again:

Behavior Maxim #1: Help people do something they already want to do.

Behavior Maxim #2: Help people feel successful.

This is the core of the Tiny Habits approach. If you’re focusing on building up things that you and others...

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Table of Contents

  • 1-Page Summary
  • Introduction
  • Exercise: Choose a Habit to Work On
  • Exercise: Try the Maui Habit
  • Chapter 1: The Fogg Behavior Model
  • Exercise: Rethink Motivation
  • Exercise: Map a Behavior on the Action Line
  • Chapter 2: Behavior Design Phase 1—Selection
  • Exercise: Pilot the Selection Phase
  • Chapter 3: Behavior Design Phase 2—Design
  • Exercise: Work With the Ability Chain
  • Exercise: Use Starter Steps and Scale Back
  • Exercise: Create a Pearl Habit
  • Chapter 4.1: Behavior Design Process Phase 3—Practice (Celebration)
  • Exercise: Personalize Your Celebrations
  • Exercise: Try a Celebration Blitz
  • Chapter 4.2: Behavior Design Process Phase 3—Practice (Repeat, Refine, Upgrade)
  • Exercise: Work With Behavior Change Skill Sets
  • Chapter 5: Unraveling Bad Habits
  • Exercise: Design Away an Unwanted Habit
  • Chapter 6: Changing With Others
  • Exercise: Are You a Ringleader or Ninja?
  • Exercise: Identify Your Feedback Power Zone
  • Chapter 7: Conclusion