What tiny daily habit could be life changing?

Michał Stawicki
Mar 22, 2016 · 4 min read

The definition of tiny habit says it’s an activity that

-you do at least once a day,

-takes you less than 30 seconds,

-requires little effort.

Tiny habits were invented by BJ Fogg from Stanford University, as a result of his study on behavioral change. They are the tool for common mortals to learn the nits and grits of the process of habits development.

I won’t go into the details of my study about the etymology of the word ‘habit,’ but it clearly revealed that your habits define who you are.

Thus, any tiny habit in itself is life changing. If you learn how to develop habits, you and your life will never be the same. I didn’t learn the art of habit development by practicing tiny habits, but I can confirm that one’s life changes when his habits change.

99% of answers to this question don’t refer to tiny habits. Heck, the top answer is “Read books at least 30 minutes a day!” That’s 60 times greater than tiny!

Here is the really tiny habit that has not only the potential (“could”), but real power to change lives:

It has the power of setting your brain to positivity. Experiments confirmed that it’s enough to come up with three new reasons for being grateful every morning for one month to change hardcore pessimists into optimists.

Why is that important? Will those “newly created” optimists going around in blissful state with goofy smiles and saliva in the corners of their mouths? Nope. Their brains will be positive. Here what happens when your brain is positive:

“Every possible outcome we know how to test for raises dramatically.”

Cultivating gratitude is one of the easiest habits on earth. I started from jotting down 1 to 3 things about my wife in a dedicated gratitude diary.

Let it sink in. A tiny habit, less than 30 seconds a day. Every measurable output increases.

How’s that for a life change?

The above revelations are the result of scientific studies and they are right at the general level. Let me tell you a couple of stories that demonstrate the power of gratitude on individual level.

Stronger Than Death

I have a friend, let’s call her S. She had been keeping a gratitude diary for well over a year when her boyfriend died in a car accident. Can you imagine a more excruciating experience? Her whole world fell apart in a single moment. But she had a gratitude habit. Habits are not to be taken lightly. They are hardcoded in the most primal part of your brain. It’s not easy to get rid of them.

She kept her gratitude diary even throughout that dark time. It helped her to stay sane.

Today she is in a new relationship and her gratitude streak is well over 1,000 days long.

Saving Relationships

As I mentioned above, my adventure with gratitude started with a diary about my wife. As a proper tiny habit, it opened doors for more gratitude in my life. Now I am thankful for everything. I also started separate gratitude journals about my kids and about my days. I’m a fount of gratitude.

I’m deeply thankful for this first small habit however. The past three years were tough on our marriage. It was the usual story: years of marriage brought routine, boredom, over-familiarity and predictability creeping in.

I decided to turn my life around and my wife was absolutely not prepared for that. Quite often she said “I don’t recognize you.” This was obviously all “her fault,” (blaming is the easiest way in a relationship, isn’t it?), however the daily conscious effort of looking for something to be grateful for in or about her helped me to keep the right perspective.

I don’t claim that, if not for my gratitude journal, we would have been divorced or some other tragedy would have happened. It’s just that this tiny discipline made the turmoil in my life and marriage more bearable. It helped me to diminish my ego a bit.

Begin in a Tiny Way

Every morning (morning shapes your day), take a journal and note down at least one thing you are grateful for. If you can come up with 100, that’s fine, but 1 is enough. If you can elaborate why you are grateful for it, that’s fine, but focus on writing this one thing first. It should be a new thing every day.

There is no excuse for not doing this, not even the one my rebellious teenager throws at me: “I don’t know what I’m grateful for.” Everything can be a starting point: air, water, food, shelter, your body or its parts…

If S. found reasons to be grateful after her boyfriend’s death, you surely can find something too.

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

Michał Stawicki

Written by

Authorpreneur. Progress fanatic. I help people change their lives… even if they don’t believe they can. I blog on http://ExpandBeyondYourself.com/

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.