AN ALTERNATIVE APPROACH TO EXERCISE
Blades of grass, shrubs and trees
Creating tiny habits is like planting a seedling. If you find the right spot for it, it’ll take root and flourish. Some habits by their nature will always stay very tiny. An example might be: After I place my feet on the floor I will say “It’ll be a great day” This little habit that BJ Fogg calls the Maui Habit is an excellent tiny habit. Many people report it lifting their spirits and opening them up to positives that could arise during their day. It is also a habit that never has to grow. It will always just be a small blade of grass. Other tiny habits are tiny versions or starter steps of a bigger habit we want to create. Rather than just staying a blade of grass, these tiny habits need to be planted in a spot within your day where there is room to grow. They might need enough room to become a shrub or even a tree. With these habits we need to plant them where there is room for them to take root, grow and flourish. I learnt this lesson by getting it wrong. I wanted to create a habit of reading again. In recent years I have listened to audiobooks and was even getting a little worried about my ability to concentrate on reading. I set myself up with the following tiny habit: After I make myself a cup of tea I will read a paragraph of my book The problem was that I was reading the paragraph standing in the kitchen (I had the book on the bench to help prompt me) and I was doing it frequently throughout the day. In reality, the habit I really would like to have built up to would have been reading for maybe half an hour sometime in the evenings, or for longer in the weekends. My frequent tiny habit would never grow into the mature reading habit I was after. It's important to note that moving a habit is effectively building a new habit, so there was no point continuing with my existing tiny habit. I needed to redesign it completely. The anchor was wrong, it had the wrong frequency, and the location was wrong. When it comes to exercise, however, I have opted for a “many blades of grass” approach. Some people want to grow a shrub or maybe even a tree of an exercise habit. This could be in the form of an hour at the gym four times per week. I’ve decided for me, my lifestyle and my commitments, that a patch of grass is going to suit me best. My tiny exercise habits include: After I put the toilet seat down and flush I will do two squats and After I walk into my bedroom I will do a 10-second plank These exercises habits can grow a bit. I sometimes now do 10 or 15 squats and a 45-second plank. But they are never going to become trees, and I am happy with that. Any moving or using my body is a win to be celebrated.
What’s your experience?
Are you someone who has struggled to develop and maintain an exercise habit? If you were able to develop an exercise habit what would you like to be doing? How would that look?
BJ Fogg's TEDx Talk was the starting point for me in terms of finally being able to successfully make significant lifestyle changes. BJ has since written a book, Tiny Habits - The Small Changes That Change Everything, which goes into even more detail, and includes the latest thinking based on his ongoing research.
The difference Tiny Habits made to my life has been so dramatic I became a Certified Tiny Habits Coach and now help others move from just surviving to thriving.