A Tiny Chance of Success

Today I am excited to tell you about a revolutionary new self-help program called “Tiny Habits.” No, Tiny Habits is not, as I first thought, a clothing store for diminutive nuns. Rather, it is a science-acquainted program for creating small personal habits to last a lifetime or longer. It is the result of data based on hundreds of psychological experiments done on tens of thousands of participants-data the Tiny Habits creator labored over for more than a decade to fit the conclusions he drew years earlier.

That creator is behavioral scientist and floss-enthusiast BJ Fogg. If you are looking for a well-lighted path on which to take a journey of self-discovery and see clearly into the depths of human behavior, remember the name Fogg. He is a giant in the behavioral science community, a conclusion I am basing on the fact that Professor Fogg teaches at Stanford, the Silicon Valley educational institution that has earned a well-deserved reputation for groundbreaking scholarship in the field of minting wealth.

I have been having a little fun with Tiny Habits, but in truth it is a brilliant program. I wanted to tell you about it because this program literally changed my life. Before Tiny Habits, I was an imprisoned, overweight, alcoholic, nicotine-addicted wellness coach. Now, thanks to the Tiny Habits system, I am out on parole. And although I do sing the praises of Tiny Habits, rest assured the Tiny Habits people do not compensate me in any way. All my #tinyhabits tweets-those promoting Tiny Habits T-shirts, coffee mugs, bumper stickers, Lego sets, weight-loss supplements, cryptocurrencies, all-natural male enhancement formulas, etc.-were completely unpaid, despite my best efforts.

But that’s enough background. Let’s discuss how Tiny Habits works. The core of the Tiny Habits system is the following formula: B = MAP, where:

  • B is the behavior you want to achieve. The behavior should be specific. Not, for example, “I want to be more creative.” But rather, “I want to express my originality through a carefully curated series of retweets.”
  • M is motivation. How motivated are you to do the behavior? Are there times when you are more motivated to take action, such as in the morning or under threat of blackmail?
  • A is for ability. Are you able to do the action? Ability refers not only to skill, but also to resources. For example, you may have the skill to turn your money-losing restaurant into a financial success. But do you have the resources to bribe the arson investigator?
  • P is for prompt. Say you keep forgetting to take out the garbage. A simple prompt, like a Post-it note or text alert, will remind you it is your responsibility to push the trash down far enough to make it somebody else’s problem.

What all this means is that when you combine motivation, ability, and prompt, the desired behavior results. But here’s the secret of Tiny Habits: You do not have to rely on motivation. You can make up for a lack of motivation by increasing your ability to do the behavior. Not in the sense of increasing your level of skill or obtaining additional resources. That would be silly. But in the sense of making the behavior so ridiculously easy that it is barely worth doing at all. In other words, you make it tiny. Then all you need is a prompt, and in no time at all you will acquire a new set of behaviors so insignificant they will make no meaningful difference to your life.

As you can see, Tiny Habits is great for locking in new behaviors. But can Tiny Habits break deeply ingrained bad habits like smoking or restaurant arson? Here is a letter I received asking this question.

Dear Mr. Delight,

I have been reading about the Tiny Habits system and I am wondering if it can help me. I have crippling social anxiety. Whenever someone tries to talk to me, I run away and hide. This is causing terrible problems for me at work, because the line at my register is getting very long.

Sincerely,

Cash Only

Cash, why is it that whenever I get in a long line at the store, the “cash only” sign is printed in letters small enough to make a spectacled eagle squint, such that when I finally do get to the front of the line, cashless, surrounded by impulse items, the only impulse I feel is to smash a rutabaga into the faces of the smug, cash-rich celebrities staring out at me from the cover of People magazine?

But I digress. Yes, Tiny Habits can help with bad habits, even ones like social anxiety. In fact, Tiny Habits has been proven to work in all kinds of situations. Don’t believe me? Just ask any of the thousands of students at Stanford University who willingly provided a testimonial:

“Yes, yes. Tiny Habits is great. Now will you please release my transcript?”
-Anne F., undergraduate

Better yet, reach out to a trainer certified in the Tiny Habits system, each of whom has been personally trained to print, frame, and tastefully display a certificate emailed to them. And of course visit tinyhabits.com. If you use the promo code DELIGHT, you will receive 50% off your first purchase of a miniature rosary.

Originally published at https://www.matthewdelight.com on December 22, 2021.

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