When trying to establish good habits, we often unwittingly set ourselves up to fail. Here’s why.
Ever noticed that when you’re trying to make a change in your life – be it to up your practice or exercise regime or revamp your diet – the same phrases crop up again and again.
No pain, no gain. Go hard or go home. If it isn’t hurting, it isn’t working.
In the world of self-transformation, change and suffering go hand in hand. If you’re not sweating blood or battling inner demons, then you’re not doing it right – or so some experts would have you believe.
But there’s another school of thought (backed up by a whole lot of science) that says this ‘all-or-nothing-it’s-really-gotta-hurt’ approach is downright nonsense.
According to Dr BJ Fogg, who runs Stanford University’s Behaviour Design Lab, the trick to lasting change isn’t to ‘go big’ – it’s to go small. In fact, the smaller, the better.
Yes, you read that right. Tiny changes, ones that are easy to introduce, are the best way to get started on the road to forming good habits.
BJ Fogg is the author of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything. In the book, Dr Fogg argues that the key to habit formation is to set yourself up to succeed – not fail.
So instead of attempting to radically alter your lifestyle in a short period of time – a tall order that is most likely to result in your motivation fizzling out and failure – you build small steps into your daily life that are easy to achieve.
When these small goals become part of your life, you slowly up the stakes. If, for example, your ambition is to meditate for an hour a day, you start by setting yourself a goal to meditate for a few minutes a day.
Now at this point, your mind kicks in and says ‘a few minutes, that’s too easy’. Ditch that thought. Sometimes easy is okay – you’re much more likely to do something if it’s achievable.
And once that five minutes of meditation has become part of your daily life, up it to seven minutes. Over time, increase it to ten minutes and so on, until you’ve reached your goal.
Remember, it’s not a race, and you’re not trying to punish yourself. You’re aiming for consistency and long-lasting change, and it might take a bit of time.
Good habits, build more good habits
The Singing Teachers Talk podcast spoke to Gemma Sugrue, a vocal and mindset coach who has put Tiny Habits to the test.
Gemma has followed the programme herself (she liked it so much she qualified as a Tiny Habits Coach) and now uses it with her students.
In the podcast, Gemma explains that motivation is a fickle friend. (Think of how many people start the New Year trying to implement a habit, and how many people flounder within days or weeks).
“You want to remove as much friction as possible from the doing of the habit,” she says. “That is going to increase your ability [to main the habit] and therefore offset your necessity to stay highly motivated.”
Gemma also explains how to use prompts to embed the habit and why it’s important to reward ourselves when we nail our goal (high fiving may seem cheesy but apparently it really does have a positive impact).
And Gemma also explains how she approaches goal-setting with her students. She says it’s useful to invest the time at the beginning of the process to identify the right goals in the first place.
Find out more
Tune into the podcast to learn more about forming good habits and helping your students with goal-setting.
LISTEN HERE: How to develop lasting and positive habits.
BAST also has a great webinar on the subject. Check it out here: Wired for Success – Why Habit Formation is the key to vocal progress.