Insights- Tiny Habits – Notes from the book.

12th January 2024

Posted in: Insights

A week in from our latest New Years resolutions – how many have already fallen foul of their promises for the year?

In Tiny Habits, BJ Fogg talks about the techniques to help make lasting change easy- to make those changes stick.

As a follow up to reading Atomic Habits in the past I found some great tips to help both built positive habits but also get rid of some of those annoying bad habits that may have sneaked into our routines.


To design successful habits you should

  • stop judging yourself
  • take your aspirations and break them down into tiny behaviours
  • embrace mistakes as discoveries and use them to move forward

The reason making small changes works is

  • Tiny is fast
  • It can start now
  • It is safe
  • It can grow big
  • Doesn’t rely on motivational willpower
  • Tiny is transformative
  • Tiny starts with a key

Anatomy of tiny habits

  1.  Anchor moment – an existing behaviour
  2.  Behaviour – the new habit you do immediately after the anchor moment
  3.  Celebration – the positive emotion you do immediately after the new behaviour


People change based by feeling good not by feeling bad


Behaviour happens when motivation ability and prompt converge at the same moment

B = M & A & P

Motivation is your desire to do the behaviour

Ability is your capacity behaviour and

Prompt is your cue to do behaviour


Motivation and ability work together-  The more you have a one the less you need of the other

The more motivated you are to do the behaviour the more likely you are to do it.

The harder a behaviour is to do the less likely you are to do it.

A behaviour becomes easier to do when repeated


No behaviour happens without a prompt

To help others demonstrate the action to make it easier



Check to see if there’s a prompt

See if the person has the ability to do the behaviour

See if the person is motivated to do the behaviour




The desire to do a specific behaviour


Motivation is unreliable

1. Motivation is complext

Sources of motivation are different for all and we all have competing motivations

P –  Person               Yourself – what you already want

A-  Action                Benefit or reward – the carrot and stick

C-  Context               Your context e.g. are all your friends doing it


2. The Motivation Wave –  A temporary surge of motivation

Big spikes of motivation awesome for doing really hard things once.


3.Motivation Fluctuation- a smaller scale motivation changes from day today

Enduring motivations are called aspirations


4. Motivating towards Abstraction doesn’t yield results

Need to ensure people know what they are working towards


5.Motivation does not work for long-term change


Need to understand the difference between aspirations and outcomes and behaviours

  • A behaviour is something you can do right now
  • Aspiration outcome can only be achieved over a longer period of time


Step 1: Get clear on your aspirations (or outcomes)

  •  Define what you really want


Step 2:  Explore behaviour options

  •  Chose specific behaviours that will help you achieve- swarm of behaviours
  •  Magic sanding – be wildly optimistic
    • What behaviours would you do one time?
    • What new habits would you create?
    • What habit would you stop?
  • Narrow down and be more specific for each desired behaviour listed.

Wrong way to start

  1.  Just guessing – no methodology
  2. Inspiration from the internet
  3. Doing what worked for a friend


Step 3:  Match with specific behaviour

  • Golden behaviours
    • Effective in realising your aspiration – impact
    • You want to do the behaviour – motivation
    • You can already do the behaviour – ability

Can be found by focus mapping – maps impact and ability to do the behaviour

Fogg Maxim 1 – Help people do what they already want to do


Step 4: Start Tiny

  • Simplicity
  • Big bold moves don’t work as well as small stealthy ones
  • Avoid the burst and bust cycle by starting tiny
  • making the behaviour so tiny means you don’t need to rely on motivation

Ability chain  – only as strong as the weakest link

  • Time
  • Money
  • Physical effort
  • Mental effort
  • Routine

Breakthrough question – how can I make this behaviour easier to do?

1.Increase your skills

  • When you are better at something it’s easier to do
  • Research online ask a friend to take the class repeat the behaviour

2. Get tools and resources

3. Make the behaviour tiny

  • Starter step- begin with a crucial step in the process of behaviour
  • Don’t raise the bar prematurely
  • Scaling back- taking the desired behaviour and shrinking it.


Step 5: Find the right Prompts

  • No behaviour happens without a prompt

1 Person prompts

  • Something inside of you urges you such as basic bodily urges e.g. when our stomach growls
  • However if your survival is not dependent on your behaviour this isn’t a good solution because our memories are unreliable

2 Context prompt

  • anything in your environment that cues you to take action e.g. sticky notes notifications ringing Phone a colleague reminding you

3.Action prompts

  • Add something behind an action you already do – to remind you to do when you have to do it.
  • The right anchor is solid stable and able to help you or mute
  • Finding the right order is designing a sequence for a new habit

Match the anchor in terms of

  • Physical location
  • Frequency
  • Theme/purpose

You might find new habits to slot in after you’re reliable anchor activities

  • Meanwhile habits are when you create a habit to fill a waiting time e.g. the water warming up in the shower
  • Pearl habits – creating beauty from irritation

People change based when they feel good not by feeling bad


Step 6: Celebrate success

  • Positive experiences reinforce habits
  • Release of dopamine when we are rewarded in codes the activity or something good and we should definitely do again
  • Emotions create habits
  • Spectrum of automaticity-  on the left-hand side are decisions or deliberate choices these are not automatic on the right hand side you have strong habits behaviour should do without thinking
  • The bad news is that bad habits are also formed by emotion our brain does not distinguish between the two
  • Celebration is the best way to create a positive feeling
  • The definition of reward is an experience directly tied to a behaviour that makes the behaviour more likely to happen again: most rewards don’t happen soon enough to have the direct link to celebrate
  • Immediacy of celebration is important part of habit formation
  • Celebrations are personal need to find what works for you
  • Need to remember that even though small it is still worthy of celebration –  lower your expectations


Fogg maxim 2 – Help people feel successful


How to build habits fast

  • Practice or rehearse all parts of your habit, prompt, new habit and celebration- do it 7-10 times.
  • Celebrate 3 times- when you remember : when you are doing, when you successfully complete.
  • Although you may not need to celebrate once you’ll have it become automatic you may choose to to keep your habits rooted- for example when
    • You haven’t done you’ll have it for awhile
    • You are increasing your intensity
  • Also good to celebrate good behaviours even if you’re not trying to make a habit just to reinforce our best selves


From Tiny to Transformational

  • Start small and will expand naturally

There is no universal answer to how long does it take for habits to grow it depends on the person doing the habit habit itself and the context


  • Habits that grow:

Eg starts small and gets bigger Eg planking

Each habit will only grow so big, you either can’t do any more or you don’t want to – ie which is ability or motivation the weak link the habit

Do you more when you want to do more!


  • Habits that multiply

One good habit will inspire positive feeling that makes people attempt other good habits

Success leads to success and creates momentum


Motivational vectors

  • Peer social pressure
  • Hope- hope and fear push against each other


The big take away: Start where you want to on your path to change, allow yourself to feel successful, then trust the process


The skill of change


  • Behaviour crafting – Selecting and adjusting the habit she want in your life
  • Identify a lot of behaviour options
  • Match yourself with behaviours that will lead to your aspiration
  • Knowing how many new habits to do it once and went to add more
    • Focus on what interests you
    • Embrace variety
    • Stay flexible


Self insight

  • Understand your preferences strengths and aspirations
  • Clarify your desired outcomes or aspirations
  • Understand what motivates you i.e. the difference between what you really want and what you think you should do
  • Knowing which habits will have meaning to you
    • Affirms a piece of identity you want to cultivate
    • Helps you reach an important aspiration
    • Has a big impact despite being tiny



Using the dynamic nature of life to strengthen and grow your habits


  • How to revise your approach if it isn’t working
  • How to rehearse your habits
  • Knowing when to push yourself beyond tiny and ramp up the difficulty
    • Don’t pressure yourself to do more than the tiniest version of your habit
    • Don’t restrict yourself from going bigger if you want to
    • If you do too much make sure you celebrate extra hard
    • Use emotional flags to help you find your edge



What surrounds us i.e. our environment

Key is make our habits easier by redesigning our environment to suit what we want to acheive.

  • Start from the beginning eg when you design new habits invest time in redesigning your environment
  • Make environmental adjustments as you go
  • Find out what works for you
  • Question traditions
  • Invest in the gear you need



Your approach and attitude to change and your perception and interpretation of the world around you

  • Approaching change with attitude of openness flexibility and curiosity
  • Being able to lower your expectations
  • Feeling good about success by celebrating
  • Being patient and trusting the process
  • The skill of embracing a new identity – Finish the sentence “I’m the kind of person who”
  • Go to events with people and services relating to your emerging identity
  • Learn the lingo
  • Dress like who you want to be
  • Update your social media to convey your new identity
  • Teach others/ be a role model


Getting rid of bad habits

The inability to stop a bad habit can lead to guilt and shame

1.Focus on creating new habits

  • Build up confidence by showing you can change
  • New habit doesn’t need to be in the same area
  • Shift identity- you have become closer to the person you want to become

2. Design for stopping a habit

  • Get specific to stop a habit – focus on specific habits not general habits
  • List the specific actions that combine to form the general one
  • Pick the easiest one first

3.Focus on the prompt to stop a habit

  • Remove the prompt Eg turn off notifications
  • Avoid the prompt – don’t go to the place with the prompt
  • Ignore the prompt – relies on willpower

4.Redesign ability to stop a habit

  • Increase the time required – Eg no ice cream in your house
  • Increase the money required-  Eg a fine for behaviour
  • Increase the physical effort required- store TV away so need to get it out and set it up
  • Mental effort required- require to enter password to use social media
  • Make the habit conflict with important routines you already have in place.

5.Adjust motivation to stop a habit

  • Reduce motivation – change behaviours that promote motivation Eg going to bed earlier stops motivation to hit snooze button
  • Add a demotivater – make a social pledge or promise
  • Scale back the change – set a lower expectation, not all or nothing

6.Swapping a behaviour

  • Get specific to swap a habit – find something you want to do, is effective and is easier to do.
  • Remapping prompts – practice the new habit
  • Adjusting ability and motivation to swap a habit – make new habit easier or more motivating or old habit less easy or motivating
  • If these don’t work – find another habit to replace it or try a limited swap or return to step one and practice another new habit to build your skills


How to help others change – Lets change together!

You can take either of two roles:

The Ringleader – take the lead and share what you have learned about tidy habits and behaviour change

The Ninja – sneak behaviour designed in subtly so they don’t know they do it

1. Clarify your aspiration together

  • As the Ringleader you will clarify the aspiration by asking
  • As the Ninja you don’t specifically say, but will need to subtly understand the objective

2. Explore behaviour options together

  • As the Ringleader you could run a session of magic warning or use the form of behaviours worksheet
  • As the Rinja what do you us getAs the ninja you might get us what do you want to happen or imagine if we could get anyone to do anything what would that be.

3.Match your group with gold behaviours

  • As the Ringleader carry out the focus mapping method will help pinpoint the goal behaviours
  • As the Ninja ask the question “which of the previously mentioned options can we realistically get ourselves to do?”

4.Start by making the gold behaviour easy to do

  • As the Ringleader – Ask and identify what is making it difficult to do now. Is it time, money, physical or mental exertion
  • As the Ninja- ask more subtle questions to find the challenge

5.Identify the way to prompt the Golden behaviour-  prompt can be a person, context or an action

  • As the Ringleader, ask the group where might this habit fit naturally into your routine so the existing routine could help remind you to do the new habit
  • As the Ninja ask the group what would be a good reminder for this

6.Celebrate success to wire in the habit

  • Feedback from authority is a great motivator. As well as being a source of shine, teach them the importance of shine. Celebrate as a team.
  • Positive support whenever you can. -it might be:
    • recognising a personal best or success compared to others
    • reward for consistency
    • a perfect score
    • coming back from a bad experience
    • learning faster than anyone else
    • improve your score more than anyone else
  • Feedback in areas someone cares deeply about or where they have uncertainty or have come to you about is the Feedback Power Zone

7. Troubleshoot and reiterate together

  • As the Ringleader- Look for small changes to help habits work better- start with prompt and redesign
  • As the Ninja- need to consider prompt, motivation and ability and how we can help change this.


Author: Donna Bruce