I’m quieted today by the profound example of Martin Luther King Jr. and one of his many enduring proclamations,
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”
The answer I often feel is “not enough.” While most of us spend portions of our everyday caring for or enriching the lives of others, the enough-ness and potency of feeling we’re doing enough, or giving back in satisfactory ways, can yo-yo.
There’s not a better moment than now to augment who you are and what you do with your days.
We’re halfway through the first month of 2018 and perhaps today is a beautiful moment to pause on what we do each day routinely and how we contribute. Even in the tiniest ways. Resolution season is dying down so I suggest we think less resolutions and more intentional habit formation. More intention for you and your life I believe will likely translate to more for others.
BJ Fogg, a behavioral psychologist and founder and director of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, created a behavior model (see the graph below) that when dissected and simplified, details that making change in your life and forming a lasting habit is a blend of how much motivation you have for the change, the challenge of actually doing the behavior and the need for a triggering event to get the desired change habitualized. In some senses, if you have high motivation for a new habit or change, even if something is hard to do, you’ll do it with a proper trigger. If you have low motivation for the new habit, even if something is easy to do, you may not. But triggers and other barriers and thresholds can throw this all off. He recommends implementing “tiny habits” to drive change in your life by following 3 steps.
1. Start small. Make it teeny tiny.
“Pick a small step toward your goal—a step so tiny, you’ll think it’s ridiculous,” Fogg says. Because it’s radically easy, you’re more likely to actually complete the behavior, regardless of how much or how little motivation you feel.” What if it’s just holding the hand of your child each time you say goodnight or it’s a commitment to send a text to loved one every day expressing gratitude, even for seemingly tiny truths. Maybe it’s that you hand your child’s teacher an affirmation each day. Or simply a smile even when it’s a low-cloud kind of day.
2. Find an anchor.
Choose an existing routine in your life to act as a trigger for your new behavior. Fogg advises the blueprint for your new behavior should complete the following sentence: After I (routine), I will (tiny behavior)….
“I’ve created all these tiny habits in my life, from really practical to kind of crazy,” Fogg says. “One practical habit is, as soon as the phone rings, I put on my headset and I start walking. This has grown to lifting kettlebells or doing little one-leg squats while I’m on the phone. The desired behavior is to be active and working out in these small ways. I’m on the phone two to three hours a day, and now it’s a habit that I probably can’t stop. When I take calls, I’m up and walking around.”
3. Celebrate immediately.
In building a habit, it helps to reward yourself in positive ways that are as small as your tiny behaviors themselves—give yourself a thumbs-up, a smile in the mirror, or tell yourself good job! “Notice how often athletes celebrate and when they do it—immediately,” Fogg says.
Not only do small celebrations reinforce desired behavior, but they design for what Fogg calls “tiny thrills.” Thrills!!! Yes, please. Here’s a podcast with some thoughts on that and my philosophies and challenges as I start out 2018.
How To Help Change Behavior – BJ Fogg
- Option A. Have an epiphany
- Option B. Change your environment (what surrounds you)
- Option C. Take baby steps
I would be remiss if I didn’t share ways to help your children drive change and create resolutions for 2018 too, so browse some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics broken down by age here, too.
Tips To Help Your Children With Successful New Year’s Resolutions
- Make them fun and positive
- Encourage the whole family to participate together
- Be a resolution role model
- Be Practical
Resolutions For Preschool Age:
- Focus On Hygiene
- I will let my parents help me brush my teeth twice a day.
- I will wash my hands after going to the bathroom and before eating.
- Communication Goals
- I will be nice to other kids who need a friend or look sad or lonely.
- I will talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I need help or am scared.
Resolutions For Kids, 5 -12 years old:
- Focus On Health & Safety
- I will take care of my skin by putting on sunscreen before I go outdoors.
- I will always wear a helmet when riding a bike, scooter or skateboard.
- I will wear my seat belt every time I get in a car.
- I will not share my name, home address, school name or phone number on the Internet.
Resolutions For Kids, 13 & Older
- I agree not to use a cell phone or text message while driving and to always use a seat belt.
- I will follow our household rules for videogames and internet use.
- I will resist peer pressure to try tobacco-cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol.
Heather Cooper says
Thank you for this post and podcast! The Fogg Model really makes behavior change feel attainable. Your honesty about the crummy day you had on Jan. 2, and the difficulties of the year we just left behind, is so relatable. Thanks for sharing your challenges, your wins and your optimism. Happy New Year!