Closing the drawer is what Fogg calls your anchor. You execute your new tiny habit after an old tiny one. Fogg has worked with innovators such as the founder of Instagram, helping him understand how and why people want to share pictures on the Internet. And now he's working with individuals.
With the Habiteers online program, participants execute three teeny-tiny tasks each day for five days. The idea? They learn the process of habit creation; and once they know how to create habits, they can leverage those habits into bigger positive changes in behavior.
Self-celebration is crucial to the process. "One of the secrets to making a Tiny Habit work," says Fogg, "is celebrating every single time you complete it."
I'm thinking of those fist pumps we see from athletes -- Tiger Woods, Maria Sharapova and others. Pay attention to the Olympics during the next couple of weeks, and I'll bet you'll find some outward signs of self-validation. Fogg also says we can create little sayings to repeat to ourselves, either internally or externally. How 'bout "Way to go!" or "I rrrrrrock!" Whatever anchors the success in you.
Some of you may feel silly doing this. Author Newman relates her experience of accomplishing some initial ballet postures -- pliés. Her anchor was inserting her key into her door. "The next day I approach the door, insert the key, do three pliés and say to myself very quietly, 'Way to go!' I feel not empowered ... I feel preposterous."
You have to have something physical to affirm the great but tiny thing you've done though, emphasizes Fogg, as he relates that some people are really good at the self-celebration and some are embarrassed by it. It doesn't matter. "Just do it," as the now famous Nike slogan urges.
"The emotion of celebration glues in the tiny habit," says Fogg. "The reason is that your brain wants to feel happy and excited." So, do your habit enough times and your brain starts saying, "OK, key goes in, do the pliés, I get happy."
Create, don't break: Tiny Habits are for the creation of positive new habits, not the ending of negative old ones. Breaking habits is a whole different psychology. However, what you can do is create a new habit that blocks an old habit. Example: You eat too many potato chips at night. Quitting chips would not be a tiny habit. But deciding to take out (not eat) celery and carrots would be one -- even if the celery and carrots were placed on the coffee table beside the bag of chips.
Practice: Practice makes perfect. The first time you assign yourself a tiny habit, repeat it five times from beginning to end to "seal it in."
Go early or late: Morning and evening seem to be the most effective times to focus on habits. The middle of the day is usually too crazy.
So, what teeny-tiny action can you take today? Find your anchor, do something tiny and lock it in with a fist pump. I'd love to hear your stories. I dare you -- go ahead and floss that tooth!
Linda Arnold, MBA, is a certified wellness instructor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications company specializing in advertising, public relations, government relations and interactive marketing. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or emailed to livelifefu...@arnoldagency.com.