Tiny Surprises for Happiness and Health: B.J. Fogg (Full Transcript)

B.J. Fogg

B.J. Fogg is a behavior scientist and author. He is the founder and director of the Stanford Behavior Design Lab.

Here is the full text of Fogg’s talk titled “Tiny Surprises for Happiness and Health” at TEDxMaui.


Today I want to share with you my favorite habit. I’m a behavior scientist, and in my research I’ve never set out to find my favorite habit.

But I guess it’s sort of like a geologist who’s studying a landscape, in a new way. And as he’s doing the research, he stumbles across a gem, and that’s hard to ignore. And that’s what it’s like with me, as I am doing my research – here’s this gem, it’s my favorite habit; and I’m going to share it with you today, in a way that might surprise you.

I’ve been studying human behavior for about 20 years, and in 2011, I started sharing a new way to bring behaviors into your life, a method that I call Tiny Habits. And along the way as I was sharing it, I’m a researcher, so of course I’m doing research, on how to teach it better, and what works and what doesn’t, in terms of creating habits.

And, the bigger questions, you look at the data and you see some of the bigger research questions getting answered.

For example: What is it that makes a behavior become automatic? In other words, become a habit. The short answer on that is emotions create habits.

Another big research question: What is the relative importance of simplicity and motivation, when it comes to behavior change? The short answer on that is, when it comes to long term change, simplicity is the more reliable factor. So those are some of the big research questions, and I look at the data and you try to make sense of it.

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And at this point, I have about a quarter million data points around habits and what works and what doesn’t. And every week, I’m getting about, at least, 2000 new data points. But the data itself, doesn’t tell the story of what’s happening in somebody’s life. You try to interpret the data, you try to make sense of it, you see patterns.

But when I go to a conference and people who’ve done Tiny Habits, come up and talk to me, I see into their lives. And then I’ll get emails where people will write me and explain what’s going on.

Ten minutes before I got on the plane to come here to Maui, I looked at my inbox and I had this kind of email, from a young father, and I’ll call him Kevin.

Kevin, as he explained his story, hadn’t been paid for 5 months in his job, so he’s needing to look for a new job. His wife left him, 4 months earlier, and his 3 boys. So he is there with his 3 boys. And he said he was in the dark of broken nights, a pretty bad space. And somehow he came across my Tiny Habits Method, and started learning the method.

And one of the habits he chose was this gem, what I’m calling my favorite habit. And as he started doing it, he found that naturally, he did it first thing in the morning, and then he found that he started doing other positive things. He explained that after doing this one little thing in the morning, that I’m going to tell you about soon, he then — he then started doing a 7 minute work out.

And then at 6:30 in the morning, when his 3 boys got up hitting the ground running, as he said, he was ready to help them. And so doing this little behavior then led to these positive outcomes. And he thanked me. And he said, “Finding the right tiny behavior helps you defeat giant sized self-sabotage.” Wow!

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