Thinking like BJ Fogg

So, I participated in BJ Fogg’s 3 Tiny Habits program last week. And now I’m running every day.

This isn’t a huge stretch for me – I ran cross country in high school, was a runner all through my 20s, and only in the last couple years have I sort of just let the running slide.

So, last month I decided I should start running again. Friends of mine are running and encouraging me to sign up for races. But, I just couldn’t do it. It was too dark, or my running clothes weren’t ready, or … I made up every kind of excuse.

I signed up for the 3 Tiny Habits thing thinking that maybe I’d learn something to apply at my new company, or maybe I’d manage to run just once.

Instead, I got up every morning, ran 2 or 3 miles every day, and LIKED IT. I was excited. And when Monday came around again, I WENT RUNNING.

My tiny habits were: do 1 pull-up right after getting out of bed, put on my running shoes after finishing my morning coffee, and walk outside after lunch. What I found was that after two days, doing all three things felt normal and putting on my running shoes was just enough a change to my routine, that I walked outside and went for a run.

So, the insight behind what made this work is mentioned elsewhere. I wanted to mention instead how I’ve shared what I learned at home.

BJ Fogg talks about “hot triggers” and how you can use them to influence behavior. The context figuring out exactly how to get people to do things like donate money for a good cause. Or, as in the example, how Facebook gets you to use their product.

What I’ve done with it is help my husband figure out how to break through a wall of stress. It was a couple tiny changes – taking a planner home in the evening, and opening it after we sat down to coffee first thing in the morning. It was just enough to get him back into some habits he’d started six months ago, and was incredibly calming.

An under-appreciated part of the experiment is that you give yourself a mental reward when you complete the habit. Something like saying “Victory!” to yourself, or giving yourself a pat on the back. I thought of it as the coach-y version of self-soothing you might be taught by a psychologist.

And what did I get out of that? Tons of smiles from my husband. :)

The great thing about the techniques I learned from “3 Tiny Habits” is that I am still applying them! And they were simple and effective enough that I can pass them along to family and friends.

I probably should report out at the end of the month. I’m on the road for the next 10 days, so it’s a real test of whether I can stick with habits even when my routine is completely thrown off. What’s great though, is that I feel confident I can do it.

Many thanks to BJ Fogg for sharing his research and doing it in such a practical way.

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