For a better-feeling life in 2019, start tiny habits. Here’s a trick for making them stick.

I loved my co-workers (mostly), but my job as Toxics Campaign Scientist at Greenpeace wasn’t working for me—no sooner than I walked in the office, was I itching to walk out.

Don’t ask how I got this idea because I don’t know, but I used dread for my job as a force to stay hydrated, which was something I hadn’t been good about.

This was my scheme: I couldn’t go home until I’d finished a two-liter jug of water.

The scheme worked.

Highly motivated to leave the office, my jug was empty by 11 a.m. on most days. But once I resigned from Greenpeace, I returned to my dehydrated ways.

Without HIGH motivation, BIG resolutions don’t work.
Tiny habits do better at changing our behavior than resolutions or will power, in the long run.

One day while binge-watching YouTube, I saw a TEDx talk by a guy named BJ Fogg; his talk title about sums up his remarks: Forget big change, start with a tiny habit.

BJ had tried to slim down by tweeting out his weight; it didn’t work, and his followers hated it. But by adopting a series of tiny habits, he lost almost 20 lbs over a year or so.

Had I seen BJ’s talk before devising my (ultimately failed) plan to drink more water, I wouldn’t have committed to drinking two liters to start.

By drinking less but consistently—thus making my task easier and reducing my need to be highly motivated—I’d have stood a better chance at drinking more water over time…had I remembered to do it.

Tying tiny habits to a trigger helps us to do them consistently:
After I [existing habit], I will [new tiny habit].

To get started, pick an existing habit you do at the frequency you want for your new tiny habit.

So let’s say your goal is to do 20 squats twice a day. I’ll assume you brush your teeth twice a day (or more), so setting up your tiny habit might look like this:

After I brush my teeth (existing habit), I will do two squats (new tiny habit).

Two squats twice a day isn’t the goal, but it’s an easy place to start and stick with.

And BJ says you should celebrate accomplishing your tiny habit.

(He suggests the happy dance, but a simple nod is more my thing.)

Then, over time, ratchet up your tiny habit: make two squats, four squats; and four squats, six squats; and six squats, eight squats and keep adding squats until you hit 20 squats twice a day. Even if you don’t hit 20, you’ll still be doing more squats a day than before you started.

At the time of his talk, BJ had amassed over 20,000 tiny habits from various people; below are some examples to help inspire you to create our own.


After I step on the scale,
I will thank God for a new day.

After I start my morning coffee,
I will tidy one item in the living room.

After I start the dishwasher,
I will take my vitamin.

After I enter my house at the end of the day,
I will kiss my wife for 10 seconds.

After my head hits the pillow,
I will think of something I am grateful for.