• Kat Newson


A daily habit of tai chi inspired by seeing tai chi in the park in the Beijing
Life changes are possible once you know this secret to making successful changes

If you are anything like me, you know what you need to do to achieve the results you want, or at least to significantly improve where you are now. For me, it was all the usual stuff. I needed to eat well, exercise, get enough sleep and do some sort of meditation. It felt as though those four things were the crux of every solution to every problem one might have. Despite knowing what to do and feeling motivated to do them, on any given day, these things were just never actually happening. Early 2018 I discovered the secret to making life changes. Thanks to Stanford University Professor BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits Method, I was finally able to start and continue with new behaviours. I came across BJ Fogg’s Tedx Talk and from there signed up for the 5-day coaching, which was offered free as part of his research lab’s study into people and habits. A tiny habit has a structure: anchor - behaviour - celebration (or ABC). The behaviour is the new habit you want to do regularly, but you start by identifying a tiny version of it. The aim is to make the barrier to doing the new behaviour (when triggered by the anchor) so small that there is no resistance. For instance, if you want to become a regular runner, your behaviour wouldn’t start by being “go for a 20 min run”, but rather “put on my running shoes”. For me, one change I wanted to make in my life was to mediate. About halfway through my working life, I realised that my brain was not going to go the distance if I didn’t address the high levels of stress I had tended always to have. Classic meditation didn’t particularly appeal, I wasn’t confident I could just sit still and not think, but tai chi, on the other hand, did appeal. Some describe tai chi as “moving meditation”. I had had the opportunity to spend a few days in Beijing and was inspired by seeing people practising tai chi in parks. By the time I discovered Tiny Habits, I had already been doing a tai chi class once a week for six months. Despite wanting to make it a daily habit, I had never actually ever managed to make myself do it at home. Applying tiny habits to my situation and the goal of doing tai chi daily at home, the tiny habit I opted to adopt was: After I have fed the cats in the morning I will walk into the hallway and do the first tai chi form The basic tai chi routine is made up of 24 forms and takes about 4 - 5 minutes to complete. To say I was going to go into the hallway and do the first form was to effectively be saying I was going to go into the hallway, raise my hands to shoulder height and lower them again. That’s it. It was laughable it was so small, and I did laugh at myself the first few times, but quickly two things happened. There was the start of a sense that feeding the cats was a trigger and it was natural to then walk into the hallway to do tai chi. The other thing that happened was that sometimes I simply carried on and did more of the 24 forms. Soon I was doing the full 24 forms after some warm-up exercises daily. BJ Fogg also talks about the importance of the celebration and encourages people to do an immediate celebration after the new behaviour. After completing a tiny habit, you might pump your fists in the air and say (ideally out loud) “Awesome!”. For me, the celebration component of the formula for behaviour changes was the hardest. I struggled to remember and felt more than a little silly doing it, especially when the new behaviour was so tiny. Fortunately for me, there was an immediate feel-good factor in finally doing something daily that I had wanted to but never managed to do. The feeling was my celebration, but I have since developed my powers of celebration because not all new behaviours have the same feel-good factor when doing them. Before discovering BJ Fogg’s tiny habits, I had never consciously thought about actually designing a new habit. I had never really thought about my existing routines and where within a routine, it made sense to insert a new habit. I never consciously thought about how I could change my environment to make it easier to be successful at creating a new habit. Habits just seemed to form of their own will, and so in that sense, I wasn’t in the driver’s seat when it came to my own life. This “Tiny Chi” habit was life-changing. I now knew how to change my behaviours across all areas of my life.

What’s Your Experience?

Have you ever been frustrated with yourself because you never do something you always want to do? Please share in the comments below.

Check out BJ Fogg's Tiny Habits. Tiny Habits have been truly life-changing for me. I wish I could go back to my younger self and get her to develop these skills decades ago.