Tiny surprises for happiness and health | BJ Fogg, PhD | TEDxMaui


Translator: Maggie Scartozzi
Reviewer: Denise RQ
Today I want to share with you
my favorite habit.
I’m a behavior scientist,
and in my research I’ve never set out
to find my favorite habit.
But I guess it’s sort of like a geologist
who’s studying a landscape,
in a new way.
And as he’s doing the research,
he stumbles across a gem,
and that’s hard to ignore.
And that’s what it’s like with me,
as I am doing my research here’s this gem,
it’s my favorite habit;
and I’m going to share it with you today,
in a way that might surprise you.
I’ve been studying human behavior
for about 20 years,
and in 2011,
I started sharing a new way
to bring behaviors into your life,
a method that I call Tiny Habits.
And along the way as I was sharing it,
I’m a researcher, so of course
I’m doing research,
on how to teach it better, and what works
and what doesn’t,
in terms of creating habits.
And,
the bigger questions, you look at the data
and you see some of the bigger
research questions getting answered.
For example:
What is it that makes a behavior
become automatic?
In other words, become a habit.
The short answer on that is
emotions create habits.
Another big research question,
What is the relative importance of
simplicity and motivation,
when it comes to behavior change?
The short answer on that is,
when it comes to long term change,
simplicity is the more reliable factor.
So those are some of the big
research questions, and I look at the data
and you try to make sense of it.
And at this point, I have about
a quarter million data points
around habits and what works
and what doesn’t.
And every week,
I’m getting about,
at least, 2000 new data points.
But the data itself,
doesn’t tell the story of what’s
happening in somebody’s life.
You try to interpret the data,
you try to make sense of it,
you see patterns.
But when I go to a conference and people
who’ve done Tiny Habits,
come up and talk to me,
I see into their lives.
And then I’ll get emails
where people will write me and explain
what’s going on.
Ten minutes
before I got on the plane
to come here to Maui,
I looked at my inbox and I had this
kind of email,
from a young father,
and I’ll call him Kevin.
Kevin, as he explained his story,
hadn’t been paid for 5 months in his job,
so he’s needing to look for a new job.
His wife left him, 4 months earlier, and
his 3 boys.
So he is there with his 3 boys.
And he said he was in the dark
of broken nights,
a pretty bad space.
And somehow he came across
my Tiny Habits Method,
and started learning the method.
And one of the habits he chose
was this gem,
what I’m calling my favorite habit.
And as he started doing it,
he found that naturally,
he did it first thing in the morning,
and then he found that he started
doing other positive things.
He explained that after doing
this one little thing in the morning,
that I’m going to tell you about soon,
he then,
(Laughter)
he then started doing a 7 minute work out.
And then at 6:30 in the morning,
when his 3 boys got up hitting the ground
running, as he said,
he was ready to help them.
And so doing this little behavior
then led to these positive outcomes.
And he thanked me.
And he said,
“Finding the right tiny behavior helps you
defeat giant sized self-sabotage:”
Wow!
So,
what I want to share with you today,
this my favorite habit,
has influences from Hawaii.
A few years ago,
it was my birthday,
my partner and I were sitting
out on our patio in California,
enjoying the evening,
on my birthday,
outside.
And our neighbor, Charlotte,
her Hawaiian name is Halaki,
came walking out playing the ukulele.
And she was walking towards us,
and she was our best friend,
And as she got closer I could hear that
she was singing “Happy Birthday”.
She was about 75 years old at the time
and she came up, finished the song,
it was charming,
and then she took the ukulele and she
handed it to me and said,
” I’m giving you this gift,
Happy Birthday.”
Oh my gosh.
And then I was blown away when
she explained this next thing.
Charlotte grew up in Hawaii.
Her mom was a schoolteacher.
I knew that, but what I didn’t know
was this ukulele,
it was an old Martin, with strum marks
into the board,
was her mother’s ukulele that she used
as she taught kids in Hawaii.
So this treasured possession
she was giving to me. Wow!
She also gave me a card,
a birthday card,
and the front of the card said,
“Everyday is a gift”.
And it had a picture of a sailboat on it,
on this water.
So,
blown away,
I took the card that evening,
put it on the fridge,
where we would see it all the time.
So as we would walk through the house,
we would see “Everyday is a gift”.
It was on our minds thanks to Charlotte,
thanks to Halaki.
Well,
what we didn’t know,
it was about 3 months later when Charlotte
came and said,
“Hey, will you come to a doctor’s
appointment with me.”
I’m like, “What’s up?”
She said,
” I think something’s up”.
What we didn’t know is, she
knew she had a terminal illness.
She wanted us to come to the doctor,
to be there with her.
We went to the doctor
and learned, that indeed,
it was serious and that she
would pass soon.
And she did.
So then as we walked through the kitchen,
months later, that card’s still up
“Everyday is a gift”,
had a lot of meaning in our lives.
And we started saying naturally,
my partner and I to each other,
to optimize that gift:
“Everyday is a gift”.
We started saying,
“It’s going to be a great day”.
And in the morning we would say,
“It’s going to be a great day”.
This then led
to what is now my favorite habit,
that I’m going to share with you,
and I’ll show you how it works.
So, in the morning,
when you wake up
(Laughter)
and you put your feet on the floor,
you say,
“It’s going to be a great day”.
That’s my favorite habit.
That’s the habit,
(Applause)
that’s what Kevin did,
that’s what many many others are learning.
It takes what,
2 seconds
and it has this big effect in your life.
So what I wanted us to do right now,
and I’ve never done it
like this before,
so we’ll see how it goes,
is practice together,
this habit.
And here’s how we’re going to do it,
I’m going to go 1, 2,
and like on the count of 3,
your feet come down,
you don’t actually have to stand up,
but your feet come down,
and then we’re going to say,
“It’s going to be a great day”.
Ready. So you can lift your feet,
and they come down on 3.
1,2,3,
“It’s going to be a great day”.
Awesome.
Let’s try it one more time,
I’m all about practice.
(Laughter)
Ready.
1,2,3
“It’s going to be a great day”
Thank you.
Very Good.
(Applause)
Nicely done.
Wow, that went better than I expected,
thank you all.
This, you know as a researcher,
as I look at the magic in this habit,
it matches patterns
that I see in the data.
And,
one of the things that really matters
if you want a habit really to stick,
one of the patterns that works reliably,
there are various patterns just like there
are various chord sequences in songs
that work really well,
but this one that works very reliably
is something that happens in the morning,
it’s really easy to do,
there’s an obvious spot for it
in the morning,
and it’s kind of fun,
or it makes you feel good.
Those combinations of items lead
to something that you can create a habit
quickly around it,
it’ll be effective.
In doing Tiny Habits,
it was about a year ago, that I started
offering this as a default option,
for people who couldn’t think up habits
they wanted to work on,
here was a default option.
And I opened up the latest database,
I have various databases,
and out of 10 861 people,
27% of them chose
this habit to work on.
At the end of every week I do
an evaluation of the people
that have done the Tiny Habits program.
And I went through and I grabbed
a sampling of the last 1000 people
who have done Tiny Habits.
And of all the habits people could be
working on, this was the number one habit
that became the most automatic.
In other words,
it became something people did
more and more automatically.
Let me compare that
to a different habit that,
the number one habit that people choose,
from the options,
so they don’t make up their own,
is one about expressing gratitude.
As soon as my head touches the pillow,
I’ll think of one thing
that I am grateful for that day.
30% of people picked that.
Slightly higher than 27% percent.
However,
the stickiness of it,
the automaticity is only one third
of the,
“It’s going to be a great day” habit.
So this combination
of people want this, they resonate,
with the ability for this
to become automatic in your life,
makes it my favorite habit.
Plus some other things.
So, as I look at this I think
wow this is a special behavior.
I think it needs a name
And I thought,
well, I can call it the Stanford habit.
I can call it the BJ Fogg morning habit,
and then I thought why don’t
we call this the Maui habit.
(Applause)
Maui, yeah!
And I think there are some reasons
why this makes total sense to me. One,
Halaki’s influence,
Hawaii’s influence.
Everyday is a gift,
optimizing that by saying
“It’s going to be a great day”
Maui, is very small, but it can have
a big impact in your life.
When you are in Maui
it is so easy to get up and think,
“It’s going to be a great day”
(Laughter)
And for those reasons, I think
calling it the Maui habit is perfect.
Now what I want
to share with you,
to challenge you to do,
is to practice
the Maui habit in your life.
There are some variations to it that
I want to share with you.
Some people say,
“It’s going to be an amazing day”
Kevin says,
“It’s going to be an awesome day.”
One of my habiteers last week reported
he says,
“Today is going to bring good things.”
As a couple, what you may want to do is,
as soon as you turn off the alarm
in the morning or wake up,
turn to each other and say,
“It’s going to be a great day:”
In my own life, there are some mornings
where I think,
“This is really going to be a hard day”,
that I have these challenges coming up.
Here’s what I do,
I get up and I say,
“It’s going to be a great day…
somehow”
(Laughter)
And I am surprised how often that works,
so I get to the end of the day and
and it’s like
“What was I thinking it was a great day”.
So, I do have the habit
even if I am not feeling quite sure.
It’s going to be a great day, somehow
and sometimes I laugh at myself.
It’s like
“Hey this has worked so many times”
Anyway, as you practice this habit,
I mean,
statistics and data are one thing
but I think really
put it to the test in your own life.
Practice it 3 days, 5 days, 10 days,
whatever.
Watch for 3 things.
Number one, watch how quickly
this becomes automatic in your life.
A habit is kind of a sloppy word,
it describes something we do
automatically.
So, watch how within a few days,
as the feet go to the floor you’ll think,
and I would say it out loud,
“It’s going to be a great day.”
Watch for that automaticity.
Number two,
watch for how the Maui habit leads
to you doing other good things,
right after and through the morning,
and day after day.
Watch for the ripple effects.
And, what I also want you
to watch for is
how your behavior works,
how human behavior works,
how you can welcome
habits into your life.
Sort of a meta level of,
wow I’m doing this Maui habit,
I’m seeing the ripple effects,
it’s making me happy,
how do I apply this in other ways.
How can I understand my own behavior,
by practicing this habit.
One of the things I’ve learned in my work,
is that behavior change is a skill.
Just like practicing the piano,
or cooking, or dancing or surfing.
It’s a skill and you can get better
if you practice.
I didn’t know that 20 years ago.
It’s one of my main messages
for people today is practice.
But, I think you need
to practice in the right way.
Let me give you an example where I
practice in the wrong way;
paddle-boarding.
I was here in Makena,
first time ever
trying to paddle, get on a paddle-board.
So I went out, I stood up,
paddle paddle, I fell in.
I got up again, paddle paddle, I fell in.
So, the afternoon kind of went like that.
I kind of called it a day, and I thought,
“Man,
I can ski,
I used to skateboard,
why am I so bad at this?”
And, I started blaming myself,
that I wasn’t good at paddle-boarding.
But notice,
I was practicing in the wrong way.
And then the next day when I was bringing
the board out, a guy named Keony,
who ran the activity shack there, said,
“Hey, when you go out there”
he gave me some tips,
but the one that really mattered was,
“Don’t look at your board or the water,
look at the horizon
and orient to the horizon”.
He was telling me how to
practice in the right way.
So, I go out on the board
and I did that,
and I was like,
“Oh my gosh”
paddle, paddle, paddle,
then I’d fall in but,
I did better and better.
I stayed on longer and longer
because I was practicing in the right way.
Well I’m still not an expert
in paddle boarding.
not at all,
but when it comes to behavior, and helping
people practice behavior,
I want to share with you
some tips for practicing in the right way.
One of the most important things,
is to pick behaviors to bring into your
life that you want to have.
Not behaviors you think you should have,
you can save those for later when you’re
more skilled at behavior change,
focus on behaviors you want,
first and foremost,
and new behaviors you’re bringing
into your life.
As you’re practicing the behavior and
it’s not working,
revise it!
Revision is part of the method.
I think of it a little bit like
rearranging a room.
You buy a chair you really like
you put it in the room,
if it doesn’t fit there,
don’t blame yourself;
I don’t have willpower,
I don’t have
motivation. You don’t do that.
You don’t do that.
You try another spot.
And if it doesn’t fit there, you try…
That’s how you should practice the skill
of bringing new behaviors into your life.
It’s a design challenge,
not a motivation challenge.
(Laughter)
Surprise,
I didn’t know that, even 10 years ago.
And, the last thing when you’re practicing
changing your behavior is,
have fun with it.
If you’re uptight and serious and stressed
it actually reduces
your ability to change.
Be playful.
Be light.
And that opens you up to possibilities.
Now if I had heard this,
as a scientist, a while back
I’d think, “Hmm.”
So I’m challenging you to put this
to the test, practice,
practice in the right way.
Don’t worry about being perfect.
I don’t really know where in our culture,
where this notion of,
you know I’ve got to be perfect everyday,
and if I miss one day it’s over.
Black and white thinking,
and I’ve been studying that
and I think it goes back to a guy named
William James,
who was a brilliant
philosopher, psychologist.
He published a book in 1890 that was
very influential called,
The Principles of Psychology,
Chapter 4 is about habits.
He and people back then weren’t
researchers,
they weren’t scientists in the sense today
where you run studies
and look at the numbers and interpret.
They’re more like philosophers.
But, despite that he got so many
things right,
and his book was so influential.
However in Chapter 4,
the book they call it “the Jimmy”,
you know
so go read Chapter 4 in “the Jimmy”.
In Chapter 4 he says,
to absolutely never fail to do
the new habit.
Very black and white thinking,
and I think that’s where it came from.
Well, he got so many things right
he could be forgiven that.
Sorry William James,
but my data shows,
my experience shows, working with people,
is that it’s not like,
get uptight and you’ve got to be perfect,
it’s be flexible, adjust, adapt.
If something’s not working,
try something else,
until you find the fit.
One of the things I teach,
and I think it’s absolutely dead on,
for bringing new behaviors
in your life is this,
plant a good seed in the right spot
and it will grow without further coaxing.
The good seed,
is a small behavior,
that you want.
The right spot is,
where in my day,
where in my life, does this fit.
And if you get that combination right,
it will grow, it will blossom
on it’s own.
I find it terribly exciting to study how
human behavior works,
to share it with innovators, people
creating products and services.
It’s really fun to share,
behavior,
design,
with you, and the Maui habit.
“It’s going to be a great day”
To wrap this up,
and people know that I’m all about
putting things into practice.
It doesn’t help that much
to talk and talk and talk.
Try stuff and learn and adapt
as you go along.
So I want us to put the Maui habit
into practice right now.
One, two, three,
“It’s going to be a great day”
and it is.
Thank you everybody.
(Applause)

26 thoughts on “Tiny surprises for happiness and health | BJ Fogg, PhD | TEDxMaui”

  1. Alcoholics Anonymous practice these tiny habits and teach them, –  have done for sinces the 1930s. Postive thinking, gratitude, out of self.

  2. Kudos to Zig Ziglar! In his programs, he has people star off with this exact phrase, "Today is going to be a great day!" BJ Fogg is reaffirming with data what Zig has taught for decades.

  3. BJ Fogg PhD is one of the most JOYful and enlightening teachers based on true science. Today is a GREAT day on Maui for sure! I love what and how he explains that these tiny habits can help to create even more beneficial habits. It's a GREAT day for a Maui style beach gathering for FUN with friends, and for me to hit a zinger across the table tennis board! Mahalo Nui Loa,

  4. as a person looking for lasting positive change … BJ Fogg had many great gems

    plant a good seed (intrinsic positive self-benefit …) , in a right spot (love, fun, laughter …) … it will bloom naturally without further intervention … (lasting change … stickiness)

  5. My warmest thanks, BJ Fogg. Today is already a great day on my island of Manhattan for meeting you here, on Tedx. All in one AM moment, you gifed me with a Great Day AND I Am So Grateful for you. Your luminous gentleness and powerful motivational invitation are a rare combination. Another "tiny habit" that is fun and radically transforms life:" If it takes 2 mns or less, do it right away. "offered by David Allen is going to be in excellent company with yours. Great power juice for the day!

  6. so all you have to do to have a great day is to say "it's going to be great?" – sounds like BS wishful thinking.

  7. I am sure that saying "It's going to be a great day!", will stop the Chicago gangs from shooting me as a required gang initiation ritual. Really dude?

  8. Wouldn't reinforcement or punishment be accountable for what makes a behavior become "automatic"? From a behavior science perspective, I think we need to clarify our backgrounds a little better as this is not an established principle of behavior science at all.

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