In Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything (HMH, Dec.), Fogg, founder and director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford, explores ways that small changes can lead to personal transformation.
What originally interested you in the power of small habits?
The impetus came from wanting to improve. I’d done a start-up; it hadn’t worked. Things were a massive uphill battle and I was just overwhelmed. I was stressed. I would get up at night and watch those little puppy videos just to calm myself. And that led to me think: if I can just floss one tooth, I got something done. Everything else might go haywire today, but I got this done, I’m going to do that work. And then as I figured out that celebration piece, I think, “Oh my gosh.” That opened the door for me doing more and more experimentation on myself. And then things shifted for me. I had to see if this could work for others. And that’s when I started teaching. It just kind of kept going from there.
What’s the key from moving from motivation to action?
First and foremost, you have to help people do what they already want to do. If someone doesn’t want to save money or eat differently or share photos online, you’re not going to somehow motivate them to. But if you set behaviors, and then start designing for those, then it’s a system. When you can understand the next steps of what you want and tweak the steps some, you can match goals and behavior. It becomes not something that you hate or don’t want to do. It’s actually something you want to do.
How did you develop your behavioral model?
The behavior model is, in some ways, a breakthrough that is like the answer to the riddle. And once you see it, it’s like having keys to a car. Once I knew that simplicity was one of the keys, I moved on from there. Then came motivation. And then I worked to map the nature of habits out in those two dimensions. And then, finally, I came to what I initially called the “trigger.” I’ve since changed from trigger to prompt—trigger is a messy word that means a lot of things. Understanding how behaviors are dictated by prompts, that’s when the pieces all fell together.
What lessons do you hope readers take away from investigating their tiny habits?
To consider a lot of different ways to achieve. That’s the magic. What are the different ways I can reduce stress? Lose weight? Strengthen my relationship? When you don’t just guess at one solution, you then can find the best solution.