How one single push-up can make all the difference

Jun, 2016

Can you get strong by doing one single push-up? Surely not.

What if you did that one single push-up a couple of times a day? Every day?

What if you after a while found you had enough strength to do two push-ups? And then five? And then ten? And twenty?

Small disciplines can lead to great changes. And if you combine small disciplines with tiny habits you can transform your life (should you want to – you might be quite happy where you are, thank you very much).

From tiny to habit
The phrase “tiny habits” were coined by Dr. BJ Hoggs and refers to a method of creating new habits by breaking them down into ridiculously small sizes. This can be the single push-up I mentioned earlier, or flossing a single tooth, writing one sentence, reading one paragraph, tidying one single shelf and so on. You simply make the task so ridiculously tiny that you give yourself no reason to avoid it.

However, you might want to make sure you settle on a “tininess” that makes sense to you. To me, things can get too small, to the point where I cannot be bothered to pull out the flosser if it’s only to floss one tooth (yes, I am that lazy). I would need a slightly bigger section to be bothered to do it, such as the teeth in the bottom left part of the jaw or similar.

– Behavior and behavioral changes are not as difficult as people think. They are systematic.

BJ Fogg

behavior scientist

You also need to be motivated if you are to have any success implementing the tiny habits into your daily routines. If you feel you ought to do something, but you are not really bothered about it, you probably won’t be able to establish a habit.

        TIP! Only implement one or two habits at the time.

Trigger makes the habit
In addition to creating the tiniest task you can perceive yourself doing, you need to find a trigger that will make you do it. This can be anything, although you will probably want to work with some logical sequences such as “after I get undressed for the evening, I will remove my makeup”.

However, you might also have success making unusual connections, such as “after I put on my shoes to leave the house, I’ll do one sit-up” or “after I’ve used the toilet, I’ll read one paragraph of Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu”. The quirkiness could make it easier for you to remember to do your tiny habit.

Either way, the important factor is that your new habit comes after an existing and well-established action.

Further resources

BJ Foggs TEDxFremont-talk on Tiny habits

Tiny Habits – the website

BJ Foggs Behavior Model 

How I did it
When I first heard about tiny habits, I went overboard and wanted to change it all – and change it now! I was creating sequences for exercises, for drinking water, for taking my vitamins, for flossing a tooth, for tidying up my hot-spots. You name it, I tried it.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t go very well. There were simply too many new things for me to remember.

So I scaled back and settled on one thing: getting stronger in time for my new baby. And so I started doing push-ups against the kitchen counter after I had placed the moka a pot on the (I was eight months pregnant at the time, I wasn’t going to start doing push-ups on the floor.)

That baby is now a 15 months old toddler and I still use the time when the coffee is brewing to exercise. It is no longer purely countertop push-ups, but rather any type of strengthening exercise I can do in short burst. If the coffee is brewing, you will find me on the kitchen floor doing squats or lounges or hip-lifts or whatever.

The tiny habit has become a regular habit.

These tiny daily exercises haven’t transformed my body, mainly because I am not motivated by the changes in my physical appearance. But I feel stronger in my body, more prepared for the everyday challenges I’m faced with as a toddler mum. And my posture has improved.

Now I just need to get that flossing habit sorted …

Have you tried the tiny habits method? If not, which tiny habit would you implement if you were to try it?

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