When I work with individuals, we always start with the small habits that can be easily implemented. I was not an easy convert to this process when I first learned of starting with a “tiny habit” through BJ Fogg’s research. In my mind, it seemed like the tiny habit would be too small and uninspired to keep someone motivated. One of the standard examples used when describing the tiny habit process, is that a person should develop the habit of flossing by flossing just one tooth. That practice will then develop into a habit where you are flossing all your teeth daily. The skepticism I had was that a person would often choose to not practice the simple habit, such as flossing the single tooth, because it alone has no value.
The research continues to show that starting small is the best way to develop new and healthy behaviors. I have enough experience at this point that I am convinced that if you truly desire to have long lasting change, this is the approach you should take. This is the entire reason for the instructions in the article, “Knowing is not doing”.
This fact does not mean that there is no value in understanding what the final outcome looks like. This end goal is defined differently in different situations. In the book, “Smarter, Faster, Better” by Charles Duhigg, he calls it your stretch goal. When I talk to individuals, I like to use the term ‘vision’. I like using that term because it gives me a feeling of inspiration. This is also the outcome that many people have in mind when they start a new program to become happier and healthier.
One lesson I took away from Duhigg’s book is that when you set your stretch goal, you should define something that seems a little unrealistic today. This advice is a little nuanced because there is a fine line between something that is unrealistic today and something that is completely impossible. The reward that comes with setting stretch goals that feel slightly out of reach, is that when you successfully implement the daily habits and practices, they will gradually make what once seemed unrealistic a very real possibility.
Here are some examples of stretch goals related to being happier and healthier, along with one daily habit that could be the first step to making the vision come true:
Stretch goal: To be 50 pounds lighter.
Daily habit: Put on walking shoes and walk around the block.
Stretch goal: To manage work stress better.
Daily habit: Set a pomodoro timer and walk for 1 minute each cycle.
Stretch goal: To run a 5k with family at Thanksgiving.
Daily habit: Put on running clothes, run to end of block.
Stretch goal: To get out of chair without knee pain or support.
Daily habit: Set alarm on phone, do 5 body squats to comfortable depth each time it goes off.
Stretch goal: To have less frustration and more positive mindset.
Daily habit: Set alarm for 3pm each day, when alarm goes off acknowledge 1 thing you are grateful for that day.
When you are working hard to develop a new lifestyle, it is important to be committed to the daily process. However, to remain inspired and achieve outcomes that seem unrealistic today, it is valuable to have a vision for what the future looks like.