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How to Create Any Habit You Want With BJ Fogg's Tiny Habit Method

Updated on March 24, 2020
raymondphilippe profile image

Hi, I am Raymond. I picked up psychology after my banking career as a personal interest.

Tiny Habits - BJ Fogg
Tiny Habits - BJ Fogg | Source

In October 2019, I bought the book "Tiny Habits. The Small Changes That Change Everything" in anticipation of the official issue date in January 2020. I usually wouldn't buy a book that hasn't been released yet. But in this case, the information I had read about the concepts that would be covered in the book had aroused my interest. An advantage of pre-subscribing was that I would receive some extras. And I must say that the author did more than I had anticipated. As icing on the cake, he even organized 11 online sessions for those interested. In these sessions, he extensively explained the book's concept. He also left plenty of room for questions and answers. I must say that I enjoyed reading the book and following the online sessions. But more importantly, I followed the advice on building Tiny habits that he covered in his book and put them into practice,

How do you change your behavior?

Step by step. By using a system.

It must be a strange sight for an outsider to see this: as soon as I wake up and my foot reaches the ground, I say to myself, "It's going to be a great day." Next, I do a sun salutation. I finish it off with a push-up, squat, and a celebration. I celebrate by looking triumphant and shouting YES.

However strange this may seem, this routine fits perfectly in with the content of the book.

Why is it so challenging to change your behavior permanently?

The answer is because many behavioral changes fail. After all, you need motivation. Willpower. And we only have a limited amount of that.

Just ask yourself this question.

How do you get yourself into action? And how do you manage to persevere and hang on?

You need a lot of motivation and willpower to do all you need.

With only motivation and willpower, you will not make it. Our willpower is limited, and motivation is a lousy driver of behavioral change.

The Tiny Habit method

Over the years, many excellent books have been written about changing daily habits. One that appealed to me is called the Tiny Habit principle.

BJ Fogg of Stanford University developed the Tiny Habit method based on research. The strength of this method lies in its simplicity.

BJ Fogg claims that motivating yourself is not the best strategy to change your behavior. And he should know because he specializes in behavior and behavioral changes. Furthermore, he founded the Stanford Behavior Design Lab.

BJ Fogg is one of the great thinkers in the field of scientific research on the topic of influencing behavior. Perhaps you have heard of the concept of 'persuasive technology' or even 'persuasive design.' The BJ Fogg Behaviour model is a smart and easy to use tool in this field. It explains which three buttons you have to press to be able to convince or influence someone. Or as BJ Fogg explains it himself. Three elements have to take place simultaneously to change behavior: 'motivation,' 'ability,' and 'prompt.'

According to Fogg, these three elements play a role in achieving a goal. If your behavioral change does not occur, at least one of these elements is missing. When you discover the missing building block, you know what you can work on.

Behavior Design Model

This model helps you think clearly about behavior.

The elements of the Fogg Behavior Model are:

  1. Motivation: to what extent are you motivated to do something.
  2. Ability: how difficult or easy it is for you to do something.
  3. Prompts: what prompts you to do something.


The BJ Fogg Behavior Model shows us that behavior is the result of three specific elements coming together at one moment in time.

Behavior = Motivation x Ability x Prompt

Motivation - Ability - Prompts

Motivation and ability are easy to understand.

If your motivation is high and the new behavior is easy to do, you will start doing it.

If your motivation is high and the new behavior is challenging to do, it becomes a bit harder.

The Tiny Habit method emphasizes the importance of the third element: the prompts.


Your new behavior needs to be triggered

According to Fogg, behavioral change often fails because it lacks triggers. You will probably recognize this: things you want to do or change and still don't do. Usually, this is because you don't think about it at the right moment.

Even if your motivation is high and the new behavior is easy for you to implement, you still need triggers.

How do you trigger yourself?

You trigger yourself by unraveling the new behavior you want to learn in small steps or learning goals (Tiny) and linking it to already existing habits (Habits).

And that's the crux

The secret lies in all existing behavior. If you are already used to doing something, it is easier to add new behavior.

Performing a Tiny Habit after an existing habit (routine) makes it easier. The routine you already have is the prompt to execute your Tiny Habit.

Three simple questions to ask

What makes the model so easy to use in practice is that every time you want to understand why you aren't doing something, all you have to do is ask three simple questions. And then you find out pretty quickly what is missing to allow desired behavior to take place:

  1. Are you motivated enough? *M*
  2. Is the desired behavior easy (Ability) to perform? *A*
  3. Is something/someone prompting you to do that behavior? *P*

Fogg Behavior Model
Fogg Behavior Model | Source

The BJ Fogg Behavior Model

The BJ Fogg Behavior Model is a useful model that comes from studying behavior. It is a model to understand behavioral influence. If you want to change behavior, three elements must be present at the same time: motivation, ability, trigger. Also known as B=MAT. The advice is to always start with ability. Make the desired behavior as easy as possible. Or make the unwanted behavior as difficult as possible.

Have a look at the picture above.

Along the vertical axis is the level of Motivation for behavior. It can range anywhere from high to low.

The Ability to do a behavior can be found along the horizontal axis. It ranges from easy to do to hard to do.

If somebody is above the Action Line (the relationship between motivation and ability) when he or she is prompted, they will do the behavior. If they fall below the action line, they won't do the behavior.

Habit formation is a skill. Learn it via Tiny Habits

New Habits

Do You Find It Hard To Learn A New Habit?

See results

Tiny Habits Examples

Think about quitting smoking. If you don't want to stop smoking (low motivation), you can prompt yourself as much as you want, but nothing is going to happen. Because quitting smoking is very difficult to do (low ability). In that case, you are on the lower left side of the model. If someone is very motivated to stop smoking (high motivation), it is still tough to do (little ability). In this case, you have to think about how you can make this easier for someone (greater ability). An answer to do this can be to think about a smaller step. In short, make the desired behavior easier by breaking it down into smaller steps.

For example, you can order free nicotine patches (is easy, high ability). You can start by putting the patches on your arm. And from that point on, you can convince someone to do something more complicated. For example, reduce the number of cigarettes per day.

Behavior Design Method

The B=MAP Model applies to all human behavior.

When you make the step from the theoretical model to designing a behavior forming, the Tiny Habits method helps.

What's important is that your Tiny Habit:

Based on his research, Fogg comes up with a simple and behavior-changing method: actions that cut you into small habits, a tiny habit.

What are the criteria for Tiny habits?

  • they don't last more than thirty seconds;
  • you can do them easily;
  • they don't require willpower;
  • you can do them every day.

By making the Tiny Habits small, you avoid discussions in your mind that undermines your motivation and willpower:

  • "I don't feel like running right now. Yeah, but it's healthy for you. I'll do it tomorrow.

You avoid the inner resistance that arises because your brain has no desire for new, tiring actions.

Tiny habits work. Teaching yourself many small habits increases your self-confidence. You learn that you can change things. No matter how small, and that extends to other areas in your life.

Well, if you still want to, you can also achieve something big with all those tiny habits:

There are two ways to do that:

Expand a tiny habit

You can expand the tiny habit: instead of doing one push up, do 2, 3, 4, or 10.

Instead of writing one sentence as a new habit, write three sentences. And from three sentences, go to ten.

Create a lot of tiny habits around a theme

You can create a lot of tiny habits that will bring you closer to your goal.

For example, if you want to write more, you can create several tiny habits that will help you do so.

  • After you entered your study, put paper and pen on your desk.
  • After you have been to the toilet, write down a word.
  • After you put down your coffee cup, you write a sentence.
  • After you checked your mail, write a sentence.
  • After getting out of the door, describe in your head what the sky looks like.

An excellent way to put your Tiny Habit into words: AFTER I... DO I...

A few more examples:

  • After I had my first cup of tea or coffee at work, I think of a question with which I can cause change.
  • After I finished a conversation, I think about my contribution.
  • After I leave the office, I say something positive to myself.
  • After I notice during a conversation that I am working hard, I lean back more in my chair.
  • After I turned on my computer, I use the start-up time to take three conscious deep breaths, to start the day quietly.

You must link what you do to daily action. Then your tiny habit quickly becomes a habit, something you do automatically.

Don't forget to celebrate!

Rewarding your behavior is a great way to make it an automatism. Your brain then understands that the behavior is a good thing.

The effect

By constantly triggering yourself to make a small part of your change your own, you achieve success. And this increases your self-confidence. You experience that you can change things, no matter how small. And that reflects in your daily life!

My tip to you

Make an inventory of your current habits and add a tiny habit to them that will help you reach a bigger goal.

Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything
Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything

When it comes to change, Tiny is Mighty

Creating positive change isn’t as hard as you think

We all want to eat healthier, lose weight, exercise more, sleep better. But the alarming levels of obesity, sleeplessness, and stress in the headlines highlight the huge gap between what we want and what we actually do.


Bad Habits

Do You Find It Hard To Break Bad Habits?

See results

What This Book Taught Me

  • You can learn how to make a habit stick. This book teaches you the skills and shows you how to practice.
  • For anyone who has tried to make habit changes and felt like they failed, this book will give you an understanding of how motivation works, why it isn't reliable, and that you didn't fail, your system did.
  • If you know how behaviors work, you can see why one habit or behavior takes off while another flounders. The good thing is that with the models, methods, and frameworks laid out in the book, you will be able to assess the challenges, iterate your plan and try again.
  • The models and methods are laid out elegantly for easy reference. There's a quick guide on how to design a Tiny Habits recipe, along with examples of how to use celebrations and positive emotion to wire in new behaviors.
  • The Appendixes include 200 sample recipes for Tiny Habits across different life situations, such as for working Moms, caregivers, active older adults, people who work from home, and college students. There are sample recipes for common challenges such as strengthening close relationships, reducing stress, staying focused, business travels and even stopping habits you want to quit.

I can't recommend this book enough. If you can take even a few things away from the book (as I have), it will have meaningful impacts on your life.

Coronavirus Challenges

At the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, the world was challenged by a new virus that disrupted many people's lives and brought a lot of anxiety.

Here are some Tiny Habit recipes that you might find helpful.

After I anchor/cue I will tiny behavior and then celebrate

  • When I feel anxious, I will take 3 deep breaths and celebrate by saying I Can Do This
  • When I feel overwhelmed or anxious, I think of someone that I can help. Then I celebrate by saying YEA!
  • After I turn off the TV at night, I will think of one thing I'm grateful for and wiggle my hips or shoulders
  • After I use the bathroom in the morning, I go to my meditation spot and rub my hands together with excitement

An Example Of MyTiny habits



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    • raymondphilippe profile imageAUTHOR

      Raymond Philippe 

      4 days ago from The Netherlands

      Thanks for commenting Liz.

    • raymondphilippe profile imageAUTHOR

      Raymond Philippe 

      4 days ago from The Netherlands

      You are welcome. Reading Tiny Habits was a pleasure.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      5 days ago from UK

      This is a detailed and thought-provoking article.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      5 days ago from Houston, Texas

      This sounds like an excellent book to read and follow if one wishes to change one's habits. Thanks for your review of it.

    • raymondphilippe profile imageAUTHOR

      Raymond Philippe 

      5 days ago from The Netherlands

      Laurinzo, thanks for your thumbs up

    • Majestic Tells profile image


      5 days ago from Kanab, Utah

      A very informative hub...your psychology background shones througjh...nice

    • raymondphilippe profile imageAUTHOR

      Raymond Philippe 

      6 days ago from The Netherlands

      Thanks for leaving a comment. The purpose of the Tiny Habits book is indeed to make building and changing habits achievable for most of us.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      6 days ago from USA

      This is an interesting incremental approach and seems like what most people can live with, as it’s often too difficult to just up and quit a bad habit overnight. You’ve explained it well and I like your examples, especially the Coronavirus examples — broadly relevant.

    • raymondphilippe profile imageAUTHOR

      Raymond Philippe 

      7 days ago from The Netherlands

      @kyler never thought of it that way. But it makes sense. Many of our (mental) issues stem from ‘bad’ habits.

      @devika because tiny habits are by nature small and easy to do they are indeed easy to implement

    • Kyler J Falk profile image

      Kyler J Falk 

      7 days ago from Corona, CA

      A very helpful guide full of useful insights, reminds me a lot of my time in therapy.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      7 days ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Raymond Philippe this is an interesting hub. Tiny Habits is new and worth a try if one is able to change their normal routine. Such changes improves ones mind and you shared an excellent review on this book

    • raymondphilippe profile imageAUTHOR

      Raymond Philippe 

      7 days ago from The Netherlands

      Pamela, I’m glad you enjoyed the tiny habit examples

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 days ago from Sunny Florida

      This method to change habits sounds very good. B. J. Fogg obviously knows a lot about behavioral changes. You explained the book and the behavior change method very well. You examples were very good. Thanks for this good information.

    • raymondphilippe profile imageAUTHOR

      Raymond Philippe 

      7 days ago from The Netherlands

      Thanks for your kind words Umesh

    • bhattuc profile image

      Umesh Chandra Bhatt 

      7 days ago from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India

      This seems to be a great methodology and Ramond you have precisely narrated the zyst of it. Thanks a lot.


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