3 tips for building new habits

by | Dec 17, 2014 | Blog | 1 comment

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThree years ago this week, I experienced Tiny Habits® for the first time with the psychologist Dr. BJ Fogg.

Since then, more than 25,000 individuals around the world have joined me and signed up to participate in this breakthrough method for developing positive behavior change. Meanwhile, I’ve been practicing and studying habits regularly.

Many of us—me included— regard Tiny Habits® as life transforming.


Through the Tiny Habits® methodology, we learn the skill of developing habits at the same time we’re creating three small habits in five days—behaviors we want to introduce into our life.

We’re able to accomplish this feat with education, guidance and support along with practice on our part. We don’t have to rely on our personal willpower. As a result, the experience is very empowering.

As background, habits are a set of behaviors that we do so regularly that they become automatic and repetitive. The researcher Wendy Wood maintains that about 40% of our day-to-day activities are habits.

While habits seem buried in our unconscious and beyond our control after a while, we can manage our habits and other behaviors if we link them to the goals we want to achieve.

Based on my coaching hundreds of people in Tiny Habits® this year and immersing myself in the science of habits for my research project for my applied neuroleadership program, here are three pointers I’ve learned. They can help you accelerate your speed of adopting new positive behaviors whether you’re trying to do something for the first time or wanting to keep to a new schedule.

1. Pay attention to your morning routines and feelings. All too often we run on auto-pilot, ignoring what we’re doing—except for beating ourselves up for our bad habits or routines that are too time-consuming for our rushed mornings. Instead, set aside some time to think deeply about what you do each morning and how you feel about your routine. You often can get some much-needed clarity about your actions. By making some tweaks, you can improve your performance and your attitude that will positively influence your entire day.

For example, consider doing more preparation the night before, committing to having a great day when you rise from bed and your feet hit the floor and using the time between starting the coffee maker and having your first cup to set your daily goals. Mornings are the easiest time to establish new routines as we’re rested from sleeping (well, we should be), we haven’t had many interruptions yet and we have the opportunity to start the day in a positive direction.

2. Make things as simple, easy and fun to do as possible. Our instinct generally is to make things difficult for ourselves and others. We consider it a badge of honor to try to jump over hurdles. Instead, take the path of least resistance. It’s easy, natural and now backed by science. It’s also what nature does. For example, water always flows downhill.

Smartphones and apps can be great tools to help you add ease to your life. Set timers. Take pictures to remind you. And find apps that encourage you. For instance, the Pure Barre app allows me to sign up for exercise classes and put them on my calendar with just a few clicks. At the appointed time, I make sure I’m wearing my gym clothes and then I walk 10 minutes to the studio to do the hard, important work—lifting, toning and burning for 55 minutes.

3. Acknowledge yourself for your successes. Don’t take your wins for granted. Make it a point to celebrate them! In fact, BJ teaches that we should recognize ourselves twice: once we remember to do the behavior and then again after we do it. The science backs him up because the more we reinforce the positive actions with ourselves, the faster our brain rewires to adopt the new behavior as our preferred sequence of activities. See Making celebrations a habit for more details.

Check out Take tiny steps to make big changes for more about my experiences with Tiny Habits®.

During 2015, I’ll be immersing myself even more into the power of habits with the completion of my research project for my applied neuroleadership program. The subject is the brain science behind Tiny Habits® as a springboard for positive, bigger behavior change.

Also, I’m planning on using more and more behavior design techniques in my change leadership work to define and encourage behavior change, especially within organizations.

Habits are a subset of the broader behavior design field, which focuses on designing user experiences to help individuals behave in a certain way to reach a specific outcome. For example, right now, I’m asking you to read this blog post to become more aware of the power of habits and behavior design and to consider trying these three tips.

How ready are you to introduce more positive habits in your life?

1 Comment

  1. Shirley

    Liz, Letting you know I am including this post as a link in a presentation I am giving this March in San Diego to safety engineers. I’ll send you a copy! I really like (have liked) this particular post of yours. Best to you!

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