How to be intentional and trigger good behavior

by | Dec 19, 2016 | Blog | 0 comments

Who needs another morning chore, especially when you’re already feeling rushed getting out the door and to the office?  

But if you’re a parent with a child who’s hooked on Elf on the Shelf, you’re expected to find a new perch for the Elf each morning.

That way, the elf can watch the child (or children) from a new vantage point. Then after bedtime, the Elf flies to the North Pole to tell Santa Claus about all of the day’s adventures so Santa can better manage his naughty and nice lists.

How does a busy parent manage this responsibility reliably?

By creating a short-term habit so you can dependably move the elf every morning through Christmas Day.

Five years ago this week I learned the skill of building habits when I experienced Tiny Habits®  for the first time with the psychologist Dr. BJ Fogg.

Since then, I’ve been practicing and studying habits, especially the neuroscience behind them.

In fact, for my research project for my NeuroLeadership program, I immersed myself in the science of habits, including how to master habits by taking advantage of the brain’s plasticity. (For more on this, see Plastics. Brain benefits, present to future.)

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

Research also shows that most of us fall into daily habits, though, some good, some bad and some in-between.

However, if you intentionally adopt new positive behaviors, you improve your ability to turn these actions into dependable good habits. They then can serve as a springboard for more positive behavior change.

The skill of learning how to build good habits comes into play here.

To show how this works, let’s take the challenge that one of my clients has of moving the Elf on the Shelf to a new location each morning.

You want to make the task as easy as possible to remember and do. That way you don’t have to rely on willpower, motivation, or extra effort. You just do it!

You look for a trigger—something you’re already doing that you can use to remind you to do the new task.

For example, my client told me she opens her window blinds immediately after she gets up in the morning so her indoor plants will get natural light.

The opening of the window blinds is now her trigger to delight her son. After she opens the window blinds, she next goes to find the Elf and move him to a new location where he’ll be waiting for her son when he gets up.

While this tiny habit may sound trivial, it’s a huge help to my client and her son. It adds minimal time to her morning routine. It reduces her stress. It both pleases and reassures her son.

That’s one of the many reasons why I advocate the value of habits and help clients and others learn how to take control and build positive habits.

Back in December 2011 when I signed up for Dr. BJ Fogg’s free Tiny Habits® online program, he had just started it.

Five years later, more than 40,000 of us have “graduated” from the program, and the results continue to be life transforming for many of us. Check out Take tiny steps to make big changes for more about my experiences with Tiny Habits®.

Thank you, BJ, for developing this dynamite, dynamic way to learn how to build habits and introduce positive change more easily in your life.

Meanwhile, if you have an idea about a positive change that you would intentionally like to make, either consider signing up for Tiny Habits® or contacting me for help. Now is as good a time as any.

Happy holidays!



  1. The Science of Habits - Los Angeles High Tech News - […] dynamic way to learn how to build habits and introduce positive change more easily in your life. [17] One…

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