It is the New Year. Amit and
Naina are a young upmarket couple, just back from their vacation in Goa. The
sun, the sand and a whole lot of partying. They decide to start the New Year by
gifting themselves health.
Motivated, they buy an upscale
gym membership. Naina almost immediately decides that she needs a whole new
gear for the regimen. A new pair of sneakers, gym clothes and accessories.
After all, we are worth it, they said. So did the advertisement.
Day one was great. They met their
personal trainer who designed a personal fitness plan for them. He also helped
them warm up and get the basics right. This was good. The practice continued
the second and the third day. The fourth day the muscles were a little sore.
Naina also had a late night at work. She decided to get some rest. Amit went to
the gym, determined to be fit. The early signs of good exercise were showing on
his body and he felt happy.
Day five, then six, then seven.
Next week the frequency of visiting the gym reduced to three days. There were
late nights and early mornings at work. This is not bad, they thought, as long
as we are able to continue. One day Amit had to travel outstation for a week.
Naina did not feel like hitting the gym without him. She skipped gym for days. He
returned, tired from the travel. They decided to take a day’s rest.
They never went to the gym again.
Willpower and motivaton, it seems,
is vital for sustaining any change. However, it are finite resources (Roy
Baumeister, Willpower). Once the initial wave passes, the routines relapse to the
So what is needed for a long term
Prof. B.J. Fogg is a teacher of behavioural
sciences at Stanford University. He is obsessed with the science of behaviour
and focusses on what he calls behaviour design. He finds a place in the ‘Top
ten gurus you should know’ list by Fortune magazine.
In the behaviour model he has
built, Fogg postulates that long term sustainable change can happen only when
we eliminate the need for motivation.
With this theory he created tiny
habits. Tiny steps that require no motivation. This way a change may be
introduced that takes shape in due course.
The template for a good habit
design, he states, is as follows:
After I_<write anchor>_ I will_<write
A great idea right now would be
to use this template. Try designing a tiny habits for yourself.
How can it be done?
The first step is to write an anchor.
This is an existing routine after which you will perform the new action. Waking
up (hopefully), brushing your teeth, closing the door to leave home, entering
an elevator are some examples. A strong anchor is pivotal for the success of a
The anchor needs to be extremely
specific. After I finish my lunch is not a good example. A better one may be after I finish the last bite of lunch.
Anchors also determine the
frequency of a routine. If a routine is anchored on a once a day activity
(waking up in the morning) it gets done once in a day. If it’s anchored on
activities performed multiple times (getting up from the desk) the routine gets
executed multiple times.
Once the anchor is executed, the
design of habit shifts to what is to be done. This is the I Will part of the habit
This is a tiny routine that you
want to execute. Feel free to create any routine. At this stage it does not
matter. A few that I really like are I will take a deep breath, I will drink a
glass of water, I will stretch myself, I will give my wife a hug.
A rule of thumb is to keep it
less than thirty seconds. It needs to be that TINY. There is a tendency to make
the I Will difficult. Remember that what seems simple is more difficult. Exercise
the challenge to keep it simple and less than thirty seconds. Possible?
Celebrate. This is the last part
of creating a tiny habit. These celebrations are tiny acts of personal joy. An
example may be a small shout of ‘’awesome’’, a small pounding of the desk or one’s
chest. A smile to self.
Celebration creates a craving
mind causing an act to become a habit.
Design your tiny habits right
now. It doesn’t take more than five minutes. Use the template as under
After I_<write anchor>_ I will_<write
A few examples may be-
After I open eyes in the morning,
I will thank god for a fantastic day ahead and say ‘’awesome’’.
After I step out of my room in
the morning I will drink a glass of lemon and water and smile.
After I enter a meeting room in
the office, I will take a deep breath and say ‘’awesome’’.
The world is limitless. Let us
take the first step.
Vivek Slaria is a habits coach. Book time with him on twelveweek.com for life and career coaching