Life Changes: How to Create New Habits

Life Changes: How to Create New Habits

By Leigh Newman

B.J. Fogg, PhD, a social scientist and behavior researcher at Stanford University, helps people kickstart positive changes in behavior with his project Tiny Habits.

Sure, we all want to change. We want to read more poetry, do more sit-ups and eat less fried calamari dipped in so-called dipping sauce, which is really just straight mayo with squirt of lemon. We want to take up the cello and accomplish one kind act per day. And yet, when we make these decisions — enthusiastically in the middle of night, scribbled down as an absolute-to-do list in the margins of an old magazine (where are the Post-its when you need one?) — we tend to wake up the next morning and not follow through… or follow through for one day or two, then quit.

Enter B.J. Fogg, PhD, a social scientist and behavior researcher at Stanford University who has helped such innovators as the founder of Instagram understand why and howpeople respond to invitations to participate on the Internet — such as why and howpeople want to share pictures. These days, Fogg has taken his skills to the virtual streets in a lesser-known personal project called Tiny Habits. People following his online program execute three teeny-tiny tasks each day for five days. The idea? They learn the process of habit creation; and once they know to create habits, they can leverage those habits into bigger positive changes in behavior.

Just over 3,000 people — known collectively by Fogg as the Habiteers — have tried the program since its kickoff in December 2011, including myself. Here’s what we learned about how to actualize some pretty respectable self-transformation with the least possible amount of effort.