Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Web Secret #293: Tiny Habits

Around the middle of January is when I say to myself, "Crap! I need to start implementing those New Year's resolutions I made."

It's not easy.

Lucky for me, I have help from my colleague Mark Sagor.

Mark is one of the founders of Comp EAP, a Massachusetts based employee assistance program. He also writes an interesting, thought provoking blog called Stress.Health.Business. And he wrote a post "The Big News About Tiny Habits" that turns out to be just what the doctor ordered. He is letting me share it with you:

The path to perfect is littered with failure and disappointment and should be avoided by anyone seeking self-improvement. Perfect is the enemy of good because perfect is an oversized and complicated fantasy, not an achievable goal. When it comes to making changes in your work habits or your relationships or your health it often pays to think small.

I am one of the more than 14,000 people around the world who have taken the 30 minutes it requires to learn something important about how behavioral change works from Dr. BJ Fogg. Dr. Fogg, a professor at Stanford, has developed an ingenious 5-day method for initiating a new habit that is effective, easy and fun.

The way it works is you take about 12 minutes to learn what Dr. Fogg’s research has revealed about the formation of habits and then select 3 new behaviors (habits) you want to develop for yourself. Next you practice your three behaviors for five days and respond to a daily email message from Dr. Fogg. That’s all it takes (and it’s free)!

One of the behaviors I chose to work on back in March of 2012 when I participated in Dr. Fogg’s Tiny Habits program was how I responded to my wife walking in the door after work. Even though we have had a long and successful marriage, complacency is a poor strategy in both work and home matters and I believe in the value of continuous (albeit small) improvements in most meaningful pursuits.

Over the course of many years I had (unintentionally) developed the habit of remaining seated when my wife came home from work. She usually gets home later than I do and I am usually reading or doing email or watching the news on TV when she walks in the door. I decided that when she arrived home (the trigger or anchor for the habit I wanted to develop) I would get up and walk over to her and greet her with a kiss.

The first day I did this my wife smiled. The second day she smiled and looked at me quizzically, her expression translating as “What’s up?” I told her what I was working on.

I have been reliably getting up and greeting her this way for about 18 months now. This is a small behavior and its certainly not a “game-changer,” but it’s a good thing. It’s an improvement. And it has made a big difference in how I look at, and understand, behavioral change.

So if you’re looking to change a behavior at home or at work or in your personal health practices, do yourself a favor and check out Dr. Fogg’s program.

Thanks Mark!

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