Forgetfulness is a trait which every human undoubtedly experiences at one point or another. Honestly consider, who hasn't forgot where they placed their keys or an important date or appointment? To some extent, forgetting is rather unavoidable, not to mention it isn't always good to forget. So how is it that we effectively remember those very things we keep forgetting? BJ Fogg just may have cracked the code. Fogg's theory was first brought to my attention in one of our class meetings and I was instantly intrigued by such a simple, straightforward approach.
Fogg's theory is transparently named Tiny Habits. In his theory, Fogg insists that changing or learning a behavior is as easy as adding the desired behavior to an existing behavior. This theory also accounts for both the level of motivation to change or learn and the difficulty of the task, creating a contingency of success. If your motivation is low and your task difficulty is high, you will easily become tired and throw in the towel. On the other hand, if your motivation is high and the task difficulty is low, you are more likely to find success. Keeping it small and simple is the name of the game here. To apply this theory I thought through many ideas, but nothing seemed as simple as keeping my face moisturized just once a day.
Since excessively drinking water has only helped my skin so much, my solution was to apply a moisturizer to my face in the mornings. As mentioned, pairing the desired behavior with an existing behavior is a key factor. Brushing my teeth in the morning is a definite must, so this makes for a perfect trigger behavior to participate in the new behavior, moisturizing my face. To create an environment of success, I placed my moisturizer right next to my toothbrush holder on the counter. For tracking the effectiveness of this pairing, I used a mini-whiteboard and created a chart. This chart was placed next to my towels which was also in sight whenever I look in the mirror. The routine became that I brush my teeth, use the moisturizer, and immediately after doing a happy dance for healthy skin.
Fogg explains celebrating that you completed the desired behavior, or in this case the desired task, is crucial. My happy dance for healthy skin became a jingle and silly dance. There were many times I was still fairly tired while doing it so while the physical dance was meant to be the celebration, the little jingle became the main celebration. In addition, the jingle is a reminder of what I'm working for which has served as good motivation. Another strong motivator was my skin feeling less itchy and less red after only three consistent days of using moisturizer. On days five and six, Friday and Saturday, I did not use the moisturizer and by Saturday evening my skin had started to itch again so I noticed the change go backwards as well. Feeling these shifts has kept me motivated for almost six weeks and since then I have only missed two days of moisturizing, 11 days apart.
The first 27 days were tracked and out of these, I had moisturized (and followed other protocol) on 23 days. Based on this information and the satisfaction I've had with creating this new habit, I have certainly found this learning technique effective. While I'm hoping this simple celebration is motivation enough for quite some time, I believe that changing the celebration at some point could be helpful to boost motivation again, if necessary. Not only is the celebration a motivator, but it is also a way to take a moment for myself and to be silly and start the day off right (and fun)!
Being my own subject was great because I feel I got to see more of a full-circle idea of the entire process. I would be interested in using Tiny Habits with others in a manner that reflects positive reinforcement, such as using verbal affirmations. Admittedly, I'm not sure it would be as successful as making a personal change. While I am slightly surprised by how much I've enjoyed exploring this theory, I do appreciate this intervention style and hope to find application for this in other parts of my life at one point or another.
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