Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg - Review & Discussion Questions
The Small Changes That Change Everything
BJ Fogg, Ph.D.
320 pages - Harvest Ⓒ 2019
“There are only three things we can do that will create lasting change: Have an epiphany, change our environment, or change our habits in tiny ways.”
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BJ Fogg is a behavior scientist with a focus in behavioral change. He founded the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University. He teaches courses at Stanford in addition to his research. He also works in industry teaching & innovation and helps with any aspect of behavioral change. His other book Persuasive Technology (2003) can be found here. His website can be found here. You can find him on Twitter at @bjfogg He has a free 5-day course that is an introduction to implementing Tiny Habits.
What Problem Does This Book Attempt To Address?
The introduction states it best: “There is painful gap between what people want and what they actually do.” The goal of this book is to bridge that gap. By using the Tiny Habits methodology, readers will be able to understand the components to creating a successful change plan, learn how to make a change plan, learn how to adjust the plan as necessary, and ultimately discover how to create the habits they want and quit the habits that are no longer serving them.
· Concept explanation: Clear
· Related stories: Many
· Data references and studies: Many
· Charts and graphics: Many
· Practical application: Strong
While the book is called Tiny Habits, and it certainly talks about the importance of creating tiny habits, there are also other aspects of habit building and breaking in the book that aren’t specific to tiny habits, but to any behavioral change. This includes factors that influence habits, how to manipulate these factors, how to “hack” bad habits, and how to influence the habits of others. It could be argued that making a habit tiny is only one component of the framework laid out in the book and not the sole focus. Considering that it that is very unique to his approach, and that it makes for a catchy title, I can see why he (or his publisher) decided to use it for the title, even if it misses the full essence of the content. If you look at it from the perspective specifically of creating tiny habits the content can feel off-topic at times. If you look at it from the perspective of creating the foundation and principles for behavioral change, it makes sense.
There is a lot of original terminology in this book and a number of processes with multiple steps. Unless you have a phenomenal memory, taking notes while you read will be necessary in order to remember all these terms and the order of steps in the various cycles, and chains, and frameworks. It should be mentioned that he uses quite a few real-life examples to demonstrate the principles, which definitely makes them far easier to understand.
Another unique aspect of this book is how he develops a story from one of his main examples throughout the entire book. Without giving away too much, the book starts with this story and ends with this story. It was unexpected for a nonfiction self-help book. I really appreciated it and I think most readers will too.
Lastly, you can tell the exercises in this book were clearly designed by someone who does this for a living. The exercises ask you do to very specific tasks, most of which can be completed immediately, which is convenient and makes readers more likely to actually do them. You don’t have to hunt down someone to help you, find a tranquil location, or come up with what you’re supposed to do from a vague set of ideas. Most of them just require a piece of paper and a couple minutes of time. They don’t just help you apply the principles taught in that chapter, but they help you apply them in a specific way, designed based on the very principles being taught. Using behavioral design to teach you behavioral design – it’s pretty cool.
Writing Style & Presentation
· Tone: Conversational
· Organization: Excellent
· Flow: Good
As mentioned previously there are a lot of original terms, flow charts, steps, phases, and other processes in this book. That can be a lot of information to digest. For example, if a process has five steps, there will be a visual aid that is repeated with each new step added until at the end you have a completed diagram or flowchart at the end of the chapter. The repetition is a key part of the organizational structure of the book. The terms introduced in earlier chapters are integrated into new concepts later on, and everything builds on each other. Given the amount new concepts and terminology, I believe the organization is the best it could be for this type of book. I wouldn’t say the flow is exceptional, but it is just fine, and you won’t notice it getting in the way while you read.
Bringing It all Together
One thing done really well: Visual aids are plentiful throughout the book and help the reader learn and remember the various concepts and process steps much more easily than if they had not been included.
One thing that could be better: A short review of the information at the end of each chapter would have been nice to include, although there is reference to all the material at the end of the book.
One main thing I took away from this book was: Our intuition on how to change habits is wrong, and that’s why most people fail when trying to change them. This book addresses these false underlying beliefs about our habits and corrects them so we can be successful.
Overall recommendation: 5/5
Who I would recommend this book for: Anyone who wants to change a habit and has been unsuccessful thus far.
What cultural message do we internalize about change?
What is flawed in our approach to change?
What does popular thinking about habit formation lead to?
What three things should you do to design successful habits?
What does not reliably change behavior on its own? What is the name of this fallacy?
In what three ways can we create lasting change?
How does the scarcity mindset affect our ability to change?
Describe the Maui Habit.
How does risk impact our ability to change?
How does our aspiration culture negatively impact our ability to change?
Which two components of behavioral change are unreliable?
What is a key maxim of Behavior design?
What does celebrating small successes teach you how to do?
What is the anatomy of Tiny Habits?
What are the three elements of behavior?
What is motivation?
What is ability?
What is a prompt?
Draw the Fogg Behavioral Model graph.
What happens when a behavior is prompted above the Action Line?
What combination causes a behavior to be above or the below the Action Line?
Where do habits fall on the Fogg Behavioral Model?
When will people do a behavior if motivation is middling?
What makes you less likely to do a behavior?
How do motivation and ability work together?
How does repetition affect behavior?
What does it mean to say motivation and ability are “continuous variables?”
How can you disrupt a behavior?
What is the rule of reciprocity?
What are the three steps for troubleshooting a behavior?
What are the two purposes of observing the world with a Behavior Model lens?
In which two scientific ways should you examine your own behavior?
What does the Motivation Monkey do?
What two words are indicators that you are relying on motivation to drive change?
What are the three sources of motivation?
What are the four elements of motivation that make it hard to control?
Why is motivation unreliable?
Why don’t aspirations yield results?
What is the difference between aspirations, outcomes, and behaviors?
When can you achieve aspirations and outcomes?
What does the term “goal” usually indicate?
Draw the Swarm of Behaviors tool.
What question do you ask when creating a Swarm of Behaviors chart?
What are the three ways NOT to find your best habit?
What are the three steps in Behavior Design?
What are the criteria of a Golden Behavior?
Draw a Focus Map grid.
What question is asked during the first round of focus mapping?
What question is asked during the second round of focus mapping?
What distinction can help you avoid judgement during the second round of focus mapping?
What is Fogg Maxim #1?
What is the purpose of a Focus Map?
What is the last step of Focus Mapping?
What should you think about your new habits as?
What assumption do most people operate under?
Why are small changes better than big changes?
What are the drawbacks of attempting big changes?
What is the “burst and bust” cycle?
What are the 4 steps in Behavior Design?
Why do we want to make behaviors easy to do?
How does ability affect behavior on the Behavioral Model graph?
When you design a new habit, what are you designing for?
What question should you always start with when creating a new habit? What is the name for this question?
What are the 5 ability factors?
Why is the Ability Chain a transformative tool?
What makes a habit design unstable?
What is the Breakthrough Question?
What three things make behaviors easier to do?
What is “skilling up”?
When should you engage in skilling up?
What is decision fatigue?
What are the two ways to make a habit tiny?
What is the objective of the Starter Step?
What is an important part of the Tiny Habits mindset?
Why does the Starter Step have a big impact?
What is Scaling Back?
How do you determine which step you should start with?
What are the four questions in the Design Flow?
How do you keep a habit alive?
What feelings are a sign that your habit is not tiny enough?
What is important to remember about procrastination?
What is crucial to know about the effect of prompts on behavior?
What makes prompts an invisible driver of behavior?
What are the 5 steps in behavior design?
What two things will keep a behavior from happening?
Why don’t many prompts work?
What are the three types of prompts?
Why do person prompts often not work?
What is a context prompt?
What kind of behaviors are context prompts best suited for?
If a prompt is not working, what should you do and not do?
What is an action prompt?
What type of prompt is the most useful?
What is an Anchor?
What is behavior sequencing?
What creates a reliable habit?
What is the Tiny Habit Recipe?
List a few examples of anchors.
What three things should you take into account when looking for a good anchor?
Why is experimentation important in habit design?
What is a Trailing Edge?
What is a Meanwhile Habit?
What is a Pearl Habit?
How can a pearl habit help in situations where we feel powerless?
How do people change best?
What do adults rarely do?
What results from celebrating the Tiny Habits way?
What two things define what celebration is?
Why is celebration an important element of behavioral change?
How does effective celebration affect the brain?
How does celebration correlate with learning?
What is the psychological definition of learning?
What reinforces behavior?
Aside from positive feelings, what is another type of positive experience?
What is the relationship between dopamine and good feelings?
What is reward prediction error?
How do celebrations hack the reward prediction error?
What is directly connected to how you feel when you do a behavior?
How quickly can habits form when connected to strong positive emotions?
What creates habits?
What is the Spectrum of Automaticity?
What causes a behavior to become more automatic each time you do it?
What is the definition of a reward?
When do rewards need to occur?
What types of rewards are unhelpful when trying to create a new habit?
What two factors are the dopamine reward reaction dependent on?
What is Fogg Maxim #2?
What are the 2 steps to help a habit root quickly?
What will occur if your celebration feels phony?
What is Shine?
What is a Power Celebration?
What are the three reasons you should celebrate after doing a tiny habit?
What may be happening if you feel celebrating small stuff is hard for you?
Why can digging deep help you discover the value of celebrating?
What is the purpose of lowering your expectations?
List a few strategies for cultivating the feeling of success.
What is the fastest way to wire in a new habit?
What two things are you training when you rehearse your tiny habits?
What are the three times to celebrate a tiny habit?
After you develop a habit, under what circumstances should you reimplement celebrations?
What will cause your brain to rewire a habit to want to avoid it?
What is the benefit of engaging in unplanned celebrations?
Why do celebrations affect confidence?
What is a celebration blitz?
Describe the garden metaphor for habits.
How long does it take for habits to grow to their full expression?
What three things does habit formation time depend on?
What determines how difficult it is to form a habit?
What are the two general categories of habits?
Describe an example of a growing habit.
What is the limitation of growing habits?
What does a multiplying habit look like?
What role do aspirations play in creating growth and multiplication habits?
What doesn’t matter very much in terms of success?
What can happen when fear is removed?
How do demotivators affect habits?
Why is the first time you do a behavior critical?
When can people do harder behaviors?
How do you acquire the skills of change?
What are the three steps of Behavior Crafting?
What skill helps you go from tiny to transformative?
What are three guidelines for behavior crafting?
How will you feel when you are doing the right thing?
What are the two components of Self-Insight?
What are the three guidelines for self-insight?
What kind of change should you look for?
What three skills are associated with Process Skills?
What is the Process Skill?
What moves your comfort edge?
List the 4 guidelines for adjusting the difficulty of a habit.
Why are Context Skills important to develop?
What is the Context Skill?
What two questions guide you for developing context skills?
What are the 4 guidelines for Context Skills?
What are 4 skills associated with Mindset Skills?
What is the Mindset Skill?
What deeply rooted human drive can help cultivate habits?
Write some examples of ways to utilize the Mindset Skill.
List the 5 Skills of Change.
Name and define the three categories of habits.
What language isn’t helpful for changing bad habits?
What is a better analogy for changing bad habits?
Why does the inability to stop a habit cause shame?
List the three steps in the Behavioral Change Masterplan.
What type of habit should you focus on in Phase #1 and why?
What is the benefit of starting with creating new behaviors first?
What are the three components of a habit you can alter to stop a behavior?
What is a common mistake when trying to stop a bad habit?
Which of your specific habits should you start with when working towards changing a general habit?
What are the three ways to address the prompt of a habit in order to stop a behavior?
List the 5 factors in the Ability Chain and how you can use each of them in your favor to stop a habit.
Why is starting with motivation a mistake when trying to stop a habit?
What are the two options for decreasing motivation to stop a habit?
What is a demotivator?
What are the drawbacks to using demotivators?
List the 4 ways you can scale back a change.
Why does scaling back work?
What will cause habit swapping to fail?
What is prompt remapping?
What can help if you find yourself forgetting to do the new habit?
What visual aid can help you while designing a habit swap?
What are the four options for swapping a habit?
What are some options to try if your habit swap isn’t working?
What are habits of omission?
What is a powerful driver of behavior?
Why is it important to get cooperation when you are designing change?
What maxim helps influence others to change their behaviors?
What can open other people up to new types of change?
When are we influencing the behavior of others?
What makes change harder for others in the future?
What two things must you do in order to help others change?
What are the two approaches for getting others to change?
What is the first step in designing change in a group?
What is the second step in designing change in a group?
What is the objective of the second step?
Describe the process as a Ringleader for finding golden behaviors.
Which question should the Ninja use for step 3?
What is step 4 for designing change in a group?
What question should a ringleader ask in step 4?
In step 5, who should you talk to in order to find out what is successfully prompting a target behavior?
What method helps other people feel successful?
When should we offer positive feedback?
What should we look for in response to giving positive feedback?
When does feedback have the most emotional power?
What should a ringleader do in step 7?
Under what 4 categories can people fall when you are trying to design a behavioral change?
What group(s) should you focus on and what group(s) should you not spend time on?
What do innovators often do wrong with respect to these 4 groups?
Key Terms List
ABC of Tiny Habits
... download the workbook to see the full list!
Behest: (n.) An urgent prompting
Berate: (v.) To scold or condemn vehemently
Dubious: (adj.) Questionable or suspect as to true nature or quality
Forebode: (v.) To foretell
... download the workbook to see the full list!
Discussion Question Workbook
The workbook that accompanies this post includes:
Chapter discussion questions with space for writing answers
Space to write your own summary for each chapter
Vocabulary words with space to write definitions and add words
Key terms with space to write definitions and add words
Chapter reflection questions
Final reflection questions
A condensed list of all discussion questions and vocabulary for reference
Reflection pages for writing extra notes and ideas
You can download the eBook or paperback workbook here.
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