BJ Fogg (@bjfogg) is the founder and director of the Stanford Behavior Design Lab, and author of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything.

[Featured photo by Nathaniel Gerdes]

What We Discuss with BJ Fogg:

  • The main reasons we fail at behavior change — even when we rationally know the long-term benefits heavily outweigh any short-term discomforts.
  • The B=MAP Fogg Behavior Model that can be applied universally to understanding (and correcting) every type of behavior there is.
  • How starter steps and tiny habits work as effective ways to “trick” our change-resistant human brains into radical behavior change.
  • Why BJ prefers the term “untangling” rather than “breaking” in reference to habits we want to discontinue.
  • Why repetition is often repeated as being the catalyst for creating habits, why this tidbit of popular misinformation is so wrong, and what works as a better catalyst.
  • And much more…

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Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything by BJ Fogg Ph.DJanuary might just be the most wonderful time of the year to talk about behavior change. Like a lot of people, you may have made an enthusiastic new year’s resolution at the beginning of the month to better yourself in some way. But now that the first month of the year gives way to the second, you’ve noticed that the behavioral changes necessary to make your pledged resolution stick aren’t easy to maintain. Discouraged, you may have already given up, convinced that you’re just not “wired” for the willpower essential to make a meaningful difference in your own life. Other people succeed with regimens that promote dramatic weight loss, responsible financial practices, and reading over a hundred books a year, but you never seem to catch a break. What are you doing wrong? Don’t take it personally; creating good habits doesn’t seem like an easy feat at first glance, but the good news is: it doesn’t have to be hard.

In this episode, we talk to Stanford Behavior Design Lab founder BJ Fogg about the principles of his book Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything. Here, you’ll learn the secrets to addressing the all-too-human resistance to change (even the change that’s good for you) — sometimes resorting to downright self-trickery that ultimately serves your greater goals and has you making maximum lifestyle strides with minimal effort. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

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Transcript for BJ Fogg | Tiny Habits That Change Everything (Episode 306)

Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:03] Welcome to the show. I’m Jordan Harbinger. As always, I’m here with producer Jason DeFillippo. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world’s most brilliant and interesting people and turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you. We want to help you see the Matrix when it comes to how these amazing people think and behave. And we want you to become a better thinker. If you’re new to the show, we’ve got episodes with spies and CEOs, athletes and authors, thinkers and performers, as well as toolboxes for skills like negotiation, public speaking, body language, persuasion, and more. So if you’re smart and you like to learn and improve, then you’ll be right at home here with us.

[00:00:41] Today on the show, BJ Fogg, he’s a social science research associate at Stanford and an author. He’s really just the OG of behavior change and habit change. This guy has almost founded the fields of researching this area, the modern field of this area. He’s just one of the absolute gangsters, if you will, in this area. And it’s funny cause he’s such a super nice guy. That gangster probably isn’t an adjective that most people use for BJ. BJ was the first researcher to articulate the concept of captology, the study of how computers can be used to persuade people to change their attitudes or behaviors. And when he first came up to studying this, people thought he was crazy. That computer could never change human behavior. But there you are using your phone to listen to me. In 2010, he basically coined the term behavior design as a set of models for understanding human behavior. You’ve heard the term behavior design all over the place, and about 10 years ago, Fogg’s lab was a toll booth for entrepreneurs, product designers on their way to Facebook, Google. I mean, he has just influenced a lot of the stuff that we do now online and offline. His book now is the go-to, I think this is going to be the go-to guide for habit change. Tiny Habits is the name. It’s a great read, a lot of practical advice and I think you’ll enjoy the show here today. The book Tiny Habits is a great read. There’s a lot of practical advice in the book and in our conversation here today.

[00:01:58] If you want to know how I managed to book all these great folks and manage my relationships, I use systems and tiny habits myself. Check out our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free over at and by the way, most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to the course and the newsletter. So come join us. You’ll be in smart company. Here we are now with BJ Fogg.

[00:02:21] I had so many questions while reading the book. And now I’m going to go through a bunch of them in a totally inappropriate order, probably

BJ Fogg: [00:02:29] Awesome.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:30] Because otherwise, it’s the summary of the book.

BJ Fogg: [00:02:32] That’s cool.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:33] Yeah. I would love to take a step back to the sort of early professor, PhD days. Do you have any idea of how people perceive your work? Were people going, “Oh, habit change, that’s important,” or were they like, “What are you thinking?”

BJ Fogg: [00:02:44] You rewind to early ’90, where I was living in the South of France, like a hobo, learning French, and one of the things I was doing was reading to almost like a cliff notes version, but in French. I was reading about rhetoric and communication in French, and it’s like, “Oh my gosh, this is going to come to technology someday.” Computers are going to be used to influence our attitudes and behaviors. That’s what I want to do. When I go back to the US when I stop being in the hobo, living in France. Fast forward, I ended up at Stanford as a social scientist, as an experimental psychologist, running a lab experiments about how people interact with computers and could computers influence attitudes and behaviors. And the response to answer your question was, people thought I was crazy. They were like, “No, computers don’t do this, and they will never do this.” And it’s like, “Ah, look at my data and yes, it’s going to happen.” They were like, “No, no, no, no, no. Something’s wrong in the experiment. People aren’t going to reciprocate to a computer. People aren’t going to feel like a computer is a teammate.” And I was like, “No.”

[00:03:44] And after running a series of experiments. The social influence dynamics, mostly I was taking Robert Cialdini’s work at great book Influence and taking those principles and showing that a computer could leverage those social principles in the same way —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:00] Yeah. Wow.

BJ Fogg: [00:04:01] — to influence us. And so it wasn’t until Tamagotchi came out —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:06] Tamagotchi, yeah, the little egg with the electronic bird on it from Japan.

BJ Fogg: [00:04:11] Yeah. So you’ve nurtured this little digital life form. It wasn’t until that, that was after I was publishing, and people were like, some people are skeptical. Some people are like, “Oh my gosh.” People will come up and say this like multimillion-dollar —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:23] Groundbreaking.

BJ Fogg: [00:04:24] But then once that happened, then people were like, “Oh, my daughter cried when the little digital pet.” “Okay, I’m getting it.” And then Amazon came along and so on. Then people are like, “Oh yeah. Got it.” So it was like one of those things where you’re able to see the future, not everybody believes what you’re seeing.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:41] Right. And that’s normal. I think now with smartphones and the fact that even my 74-year-old dad can’t put down his dang phone. Now, there’s no debate as to whether or not computers are influencing our behavior.

BJ Fogg: [00:04:53] So, yeah, it was almost exactly that. So I’m in my apartment, my parents are visiting, hanging out at our place in Maui, and I walk in from surfing and my parents in their 80s both on devices, so I walk and I’m like, “Hi mom. Hi dad.” And they’re like, “Hi. How was surfing?” They don’t even look up. So it was that moment. Oh man, I hope my parents don’t listen to this. It was that moment and said, “Oh, I know what my class is going to be on Stanford this year. It’s going to be on helping people reduce screen time.” Which is what we did all of 2019 and that project still is part of my lab’s research project. Screen time and developing a resource that matches people with the best ways to reduce their screen time. So it was that personal moment of my parents, my own parents are just like, so on their screens. We’ve got to do something about this.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:39] That’s interesting. It’s kind of like the medical equivalent would be, you are working on some sort of biological weapon in a past life and then being like, “Oh, I’m going to be a vaccine doctor now.” Not quite as extreme of course.

BJ Fogg: [00:05:50] Not quite because the main thing, despite what some journalists have written, the main thing I taught in my classes was simplicity changes behavior. Because I saw that in everything other than something like you were required to do like Microsoft office or some Oracle products are complicated. Everything that people grabbed on to and used consistently, the pattern was simplicity. It was super, super simple. And so fast forward to where my work shifted away from technology about 10 years ago. Now to today, there’s a clear line between the insight of simplicity changes behavior and tiny habits as a way for changing your own behavior.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:27] About 13 years ago, I wanted to go do this couch to 5K running plan. And it was in Michigan in the middle of winter, January. And I would go to bed going, I’m going to get up and run and I would wake up and be freezing in my dorm room with like its little space heater. And I go, this is not happening. And so I told myself. I can’t remember if I made this up or if I read it somewhere. I said I’m going to put my shoes on or my gym stuff on and walk outside. And then if I want to go back to bed, I will. And I, in some days I admittedly went back to bed, but it was like one in 30 days every other day.

BJ Fogg: [00:07:06] Right on.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:07] Because I was outside. I was freezing my you-know-what off. And I was like, I’m already outside, the best way to warm up isn’t to go back in my cold-ass dorm room, it’s to go for a run. So I did that and I started running in the middle of winter in Michigan. And that reminded me of this type of tiny habit. Look, you can floss one tooth, you can put on your shoes and go back to bed.

BJ Fogg: [00:07:27] Yeah. And there are two versions of this. I don’t know how much you want me to break into it. So with tiny habits, you can do the starter step like you did. And for other people, it’s like just put them in the walking shoes. You don’t have to eat broccoli, just prepare it or whatever. You take the first step in a process. The other type is you do a tiny version. Floss one tooth, do two pushups and so on. Either way, you can use tiny habits for, but when you do, the start is to have like you saw, even though you think, “Yeah, I’m not going to go run in this cold weather.” The fact that you do that first step has the power to help you continue absolutely.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:02] Writing a book is no tiny habit, you know? Did you use starter steps and things like that of writing?

BJ Fogg: [00:08:10] For sure, yeah. You know, when I look back even doing my own dissertation, you know, people would complain about how hard it was. I just went right through it, wrote it. It was done. In fact, I was like, “Oh, I’m done. I got my doctorate. Can I delay a year somehow”? But I look back and I see that I got myself to right by hacking my behavior. Kind of an intuitive way, not in systematic ways. The book’s about, there’s a system behind this. Writing the book is the same. It’s how do you reliably do a behavior that you need to do, and there’s a little more complicated in the writing alone because there are editors and other things that are looking over your shoulder. But certainly, we stay at 100 percent on schedule, which is great.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:54] And does that ever happen?

BJ Fogg: [00:08:55] I know, right? We executed exactly like we said we were going to, in fact, we moved up the pub date from March to January, which I was thrilled. I want it to do the book much, much faster. And they’re like, “BJ, no, for this kind of book. If you’re Michelle Obama, we can do it, but you’re not Michelle Obama, so we’re going to go normal pub date, but yeah, we will move it up to January.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:14] Yeah. I guess if you’re exposing Donald Trump something, something, they’re going to rush that.

BJ Fogg: [00:09:19] New cycle, yeah.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:20] Yeah. This isn’t exactly it. They’re thinking, “Most people are going to procrastinate on everything. They’ll read in the book anyway, so let’s release it in January.

BJ Fogg: [00:09:28] Don’t people in TV land, podcast land, don’t procrastinate. We’ll talk about that.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:32] Yeah, we can talk about that definitely. I’m curious what habits you’ve changed using this methodology, anything that comes to mind? Is flossing a real example of something you changed?

BJ Fogg: [00:09:41] Yes, so we’ll start there, but that’s in the book. I’ll search for some that are not in the book. Flossing, I do twice a day. All my teeth, my hygienist loves me. My dentist comes in and I’m like the star patient. The pushups that I do.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:54] You got to be up to like 200 pushups now.

BJ Fogg: [00:09:57] I do them throughout the day. I do anywhere from two, which is the tiny version up to 25, 30 if I want to push, but then I do it through the day. So that adds up. I mean, some simple things, not in the book, like a banana. What I learned in tweaking my own eating behavior was a whole banana is actually too much for me. My body doesn’t respond well to that, so I snap it in half. So if I had a banana here, surprisingly, you can just snap it.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:24] Really.

BJ Fogg: [00:10:24] I know, right? You take a banana —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:25] It doesn’t just squish out inside.

BJ Fogg: [00:10:27] No, no, if you do it with vigor and commitment. Bam! It snaps in half. Then you eat half of the banana. With an apple, I scale it back and I only eat the peel. So I eat the peel and I don’t eat —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:40] Wait.

BJ Fogg: [00:10:40] — because there’s more nutrition, right?

Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:42] Oh, the rest is just kind of fiber with sugar in it.

BJ Fogg: [00:10:44] Yeah. So it’s like, okay, so there are tweaks around snacking, tweaks around what I do in the morning. Like this morning, I got up before five, which is not by design. I just wake up that early. So there’s no virtue in thinking that I get up at four 30 and it happens, but I play the flute, like my little recorder every morning. So it’s a great habit. Whether it’s relationships, the way I send birthday cards, whether it’s productivity, how I prioritize, whether it’s nutrition, fitness, calming, and so on. It’s just — Here’s how it feels from my perspective. Once you know how to create habits quickly and easily, whenever you need a new habit, just create it. There’s no reason to wait for New Year’s. There’s no reason to go, “Oh, I got to be motivated.” It’s almost like, “Oh, I need to like drive to the Post Office and back.” You get in your car and go. You don’t debate. You don’t wait for New Year’s. But driving at one point was probably intimidated and you had to learn how to do it. So once you know how to create habits — and that’s really what this book is about us — there’s a really reliable way to do it. Then whenever you need a new habit or change or behave in other ways, you can do it quite readily.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:47] That makes sense. And I think now looking at the way people struggle with things; January is the month where everyone makes a resolution and then breaks it like three weeks later because they’re not using any sort of systematic way. They’re trying to use willpower to overcome a lifetime of bad programming.

BJ Fogg: [00:12:03] Well said.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:04] What do you think are the two or three main reasons why people fail at behavior change? Before we get into how to change behavior.

BJ Fogg: [00:12:12] Number one, they believe what the headlines and bloggers, and they received wisdom around how to change and how to do resolutions sets people up to fail. So number one, it’s a little dramatic to save this, but I’ll say it. I’d probably need to dial it back a little bit. It’s like, forget everything you’ve heard about behavior change and habits and start over. There’s a much better way of doing it because so much is either distracting or just taking you down the wrong path. So that’s number one.

[00:12:39] To get more specific, the other thing that I think is a general problem is people pick an abstraction like, “Oh, I want to be more productive.” It’s not specific, but it’s an abstraction, and they try to motivate themselves to the abstraction. Like, “Oh, I’m just going to motivate myself. I’m going to make a commitment. I’m going to write a check to a candidate. I hate that. If I not more productive, I’m going to cash the check.” So it’s the combo of abstract thing — outcome or aspiration — most people would call it goal — and focusing on motivation alone. So that combo does not work.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:12] The motivation is one of the big myths, right? And motivation is actually a big industry. We see it in social media all the time. “I’m watching these motivational people. I’m following these motivational people,” because the need for motivation is like a black hole. It can take as much content. A human can take as much motivation because it doesn’t work.

BJ Fogg: [00:13:31] Our motivation goes up and down over time and we don’t have tons of control over that. Now, there are moments where motivation really matters. Like if you have to do a one-time behavior that’s really hard, then you need lots of motivation. Or if you’re feeling lots of motivation, you can leverage that to do hard things where it doesn’t pan out. “Oh, I’m going to do this day after day — this hard thing — day after day after day after day.” And most people cannot do that unless you’re like in the military and they make you. Unless you’re in a class and a grade is at stake and they make you. I mean there are systems that can threaten you, bribe you, manipulate you into doing hard things, but in our everyday lives, there’s not a way to do that. There’s not a way that I know of where there’s this really hard thing and you continually keep your motivation up in the air, so you can do that hard thing. Motivation fluctuates.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:27] There’s a curve in the book. Is it the action curve or the motivational action — ?

BJ Fogg: [00:14:30] The action line.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:31] The action line, can you tell us about that? Because that’s genius. And I love the idea that things that are above it, you can do and think about below it, aren’t really hard.

BJ Fogg: [00:14:38] It looks so simply, but it really is such an important concept. So in the graphical version of my Behavior Model, there is this curve line. And it shows that motivation and ability work together. So when it comes to behavior, there are three components, and motivation and ability are two of them. And what that curve line shows is they have a compensatory relationship. And so if your ability is weak, so if the behavior is hard to do, then the motivation has to be high or you won’t be above the line. If it’s really easy to do, the motivation can be high or low. And it can actually be kind of low if it’s super easy to do. And that’s exactly the part in my model that I looked at to start creating tiny habits. Before I knew I was calling it that it’s like, “Oh, if it’s really, really easy to do, then I don’t need lots of motivation for it to happen. I just need a prompt.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:32] Sure, the prompt. That’s key because otherwise, everybody would wash their stinking hands after they go to the bathroom. It’s so easy to do, and yet here we are, a bunch of unwashed hands hanging out all over the world.

BJ Fogg: [00:15:43] Yeah. Well, there are different sources of prompts. And there are, I’ll say hospital system, that’s a challenge. They don’t want to talk about it, but there are systems. Like at least from my experience with Kaiser Permanente, they’ve nailed the provider hand-washing. They’ve worked their routine. They come and they wash their hands. That’s what they do. But yeah, so it really all behaviors, whether you’re wanting to do a one-time behavior or habit or stopping a behavior, it always comes back to those three things — motivation, ability, prompt.

[00:16:15] And it’s like when I first unearthed that in 2007 and put the puzzle together. I was like, “Can it really be this simple.” So I worked with it for a while, published the academic paper on in 2009 and it was like, “Yeah, it is this simple.” Everything comes back to those three things, every type of behavior.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:32] Is there a difference between the approach for let’s say, breaking habit and negative habit — because I know you don’t like breaking.

BJ Fogg: [00:16:39] I know.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:40] You don’t like that.

BJ Fogg: [00:16:40] We can talk about that.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:41] Yeah, let’s talk about that.

BJ Fogg: [00:16:42] That’s your question though.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:42] Yeah. Well, actually let’s start with that. Why don’t you like the term breaking habits? What’s wrong with that?

BJ Fogg: [00:16:48] So short answer to your, where you’re going on the question is, yes, the process of forming and breaking or stopping unwanted behaviors is different. They all come back to motivation, ability, prompt, but the way you do, it’s different. I’ve put the word out and it’s in the book as well, that even the phrase breaking a bad habit is unhelpful because it implies if you put a lot of force in at one moment, you’re done. So it sets up the wrong expectation. And that’s not how you get rid of these unwanted habits. You don’t just like in one moment I’m going to do X and I’ll stop smoking, or I’ll stop using social media or so on. And so what I am explaining in Tiny Habits and in other contexts — I’ve explained this, like in the healthcare industry and so on in industry settings and professional settings — is let’s start talking about is untangling these bad habits. That sets up a better expectation because it’s a bunch of different habits that we call — unhealthy snacking or using social media or procrastinating or what have you — and it’s not just one thing. It’s a tangle and the way you resolve it is you start with the easiest tangle first, then the next one, then the next, and you will get there. Even though, like if one of these cords here were all tangled up —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:01] You’ll wish it every day of my life.

BJ Fogg: [00:18:02] Bam! Every day of your life, we all have that. You pull out your phone, headset, it’s all tangled. You’d look at it and you’re like, “I have no idea. How am I going to resolve this?” But you know, the untangle, and this is why I think untangling bad habits is good. Even though you may seem intimidating, you just start untangling the first little snarl in the phone cord, the next one, bam. You’ll get there.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:24] I love the idea of untangling as well, because usually when you have a tangled headphone cord, you go, “How in the F did this happen? It was in my pocket for 30 seconds.” Like one day, you’re smoking your 30th cigarette of the day and you go, “I was only smoking when I drank 20 years ago. What’s happening? This was a social habit. How did they get down this far?” So when you are untangling,

BJ Fogg: [00:18:45] Thank you for adding to that, that word and that, yes, because I hadn’t described it that way yet. Thank you so much.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:51] But it makes perfect sense. The concept of shine comes through in the book as well. Can you explain what you mean by Shine and what am I using? Such a California term by the way.

BJ Fogg: [00:19:02] I’m very excited about this. So I’ll start with shine and then explain why it matters. So we’ve all had the feeling, the emotion of success. We see it. We based it in exam, you score a goal, what have you. That internal emotion does not have a name. And so after consulting with four of my academic colleagues around the world who are — I think are top of their game in emotions research — I felt like I had the thumbs up and go head to give this a name, and so the name I picked was Shine. The reason it matters is because emotions create habits and the emotion of Shine specifically is what you use in the Tiny Habits method to rewire your brain and why are the habit in. Now, this goes against the received wisdom or the traditional notion that its repetition that creates habits. That’s not the case. Anybody can go look at the research side and see that.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:56] Let’s highlight that. I want to repeat that. Repetition is not what creates habits. That flies in the face of everything most of us think we know about habit formation.

BJ Fogg: [00:20:04] Remember what I said earlier? Erase everything that you heard. That’s one of them. Now, the study cited most, this is from 2009/2010, and you can see for yourself that the study shows a correlation between repetition, habit, strength. It doesn’t show that it causes the habit to form. It wasn’t even designed to show causality. So what the headline writers and bloggers and other people talking about are confusing correlation for causation.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:32] Oh, I see. So since we observed those two things together, we commonly think, “Well, of course, this is the way that is. Look at these things showing up together all the time.”

BJ Fogg: [00:20:41] So here’s the analogy and people need me to take it a little further to cross the finish line. Let’s say I ran a study about people that are fit, and what I found was the people that are most fit spend the most time in the gym. So you could run a headline like spin time in the gym will lead to fitness. Somebody will read the headline, go hang out at the gym bar and go, “Okay, I’m spending tons of time in the gym. I’m not getting fit.” So, of course, it’s not time in the gym. It’s what you do in the gym. Same way, it’s not repetition. It’s the emotion you feel when you do that behavior that sends a signal to your brain and goes, “Oh my gosh, take note of this and wire this in.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:16] That’s interesting. Otherwise, the guys folding towels at Equinox would all be rich. Maybe, that’s why they’re folding them so slowly. “Got nowhere else to go, man. I’m pulling overtime.”

BJ Fogg: [00:21:31] So the reason I decided to really set the record straight on repetition is if people believe that repetition is the key to habit formation, then they’re going to think, “Oh, if I can just endure for 21 days, it’s really terrible workout, or this new way of eating for 21 days or 66 days.” Then bam, that habit will wire in and I’ll have the habit. And that’s a problem because one, they’re thinking of behavior change is a matter of endurance or suffering. So they’re probably going to procrastinate it, which is a problem. Number two, they’re actually suffering, which is not good. So in the Tiny Habits approach, you change my feeling good, not bad. And number three, when 21 days or 66 days, or 108 days, whatever arrives, the habit doesn’t automatically wire in. So helping people see that it’s emotions that create habits and you can use the positive emotion of Shine to wire it, and it’s a whole different approach. It’s like why wouldn’t you create a habit when you need it if you can, you’re feeling good, by feeling successful.

Jason DeFillippo: [00:22:34] You’re listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest BJ Fogg. We’ll be right back.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:38] This episode is sponsored in part by Hydros. Hydros, these bottles are awesome. First of all, they filter your water, which I know a lot of bottles do, but these filters faster five times faster than typical water filters. You don’t have to wait around at the sink for your tired ass-Brita to fill up slowly so you can make some coffee. You don’t have to let it drip for 20 minutes. Simplicity, the same filter works with all Hydros bottles, so the one in your gym bag works with the one in your car, works with the one in your fridge. You can just buy a bunch of filters. You don’t have to get the right one for each thing, and they’re sustainable. They use less plastic than most other brands about half the plastic of other brands, and the filter has no plastic resins in it unlike its competitors. 100 percent activated coconut charcoal tested and certified to the highest NSF 42 standard class ones. So these things filter like a boss and you can get 20 percent off at,

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[00:24:40] Thanks for listening and supporting the show. To learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard from our amazing sponsors, visit And don’t forget, we have a worksheet for today’s episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways from BJ Fogg. That link is in the show notes at If you’d like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, just go to Subscribing to the show is absolutely free. It just means that you get all of the latest episodes downloaded automatically to your podcast player so you don’t miss a single thing. And now back to our show with BJ Fogg.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:17] Early in the book, there’s this mantra that you said, I think to put it up on your bathroom mirror or something like this. And it’s, “I changed by feeling good, not by feeling bad.” It sounds almost like a bumper sticker that you’d find on some hippie’s car here in NorCal but it makes a lot of sense. And it’s really important to remember this because I think most of us. I’ll be honest, I try to create habits in the past, I’ve tried to create habits by pretty much putting myself through as much torture as possible. Get off the couch, 5K, I’m going to run until I barf, and then eat kale only. I mean I built a habit of running, but it was when I decided to do it in a way that was fun, that had actually worked.

BJ Fogg: [00:25:55] And then the problem is people blame themselves or the habit didn’t wire in. There must be something wrong with me.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:02] Right, character defect.

BJ Fogg: [00:26:05] It was about 2010 so I did conferences at Stanford about using texting for health and so on. And it was about that time. I got bold enough and cranky enough, that I got up — and these were all industry innovators creating products and programs for insurers and wellness institutions and so on. I said, “Look, if you create a behavior change program and people fail on it, that is not a neutral event. You are damaging that person. Let’s be clear here. You’re damaging them and you’re setting them back and you’re making them less capable of changing in the future. Thank you for being here. We’re going to talk about how to really make it work.” And one of the conferences I did was about baby steps. So let’s do a conference on baby steps, which was before that was — there was a movie called, What About Bob? Hysterical movie, but nobody was taking baby steps seriously. And so I thought, well, I’ll do a conference on this at Stanford because Stanford gives me this great way to shine a spotlight. Like messaging, I thought it was a huge deal. I really thought I was looking backwards and I was like, “No, no, this is messaging. It doesn’t have to be whizzy. Just text messaging can be powerful.” So in the next year, I think it was Baby Steps and I lost one of my funders because they’re like, “No, this is not innovative. We’re not going to fund this conference.” And I was like, “No, this is, this is what works.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:20] It was always too simple that nobody wanted it. “We want something sexier.”

BJ Fogg: [00:27:25] Exactly. And this is an agency that funds events like this, but it struck whoever was like writing the check for 25,000 to a sponsored conference and said, “No, we’re out this year, BJ, sorry.” And I was like, “Okay. Well, this is what really works.” That’s what the conference was about. And hopefully that conference, I think, started shifting people’s mindsets away from let’s have people take these big leaps and have some fantasy where we’re going to keep them motivated to “Oh, let’s have people take these small steps and support them and make it easy and help them feel good.” So, that was all happening about that time.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:57] Next time you get to have Baby Steps on the blockchain, then you’ll get your check. Everything on the blockchain, sexy and gets funded.

BJ Fogg: [00:28:04] That’s on the VR.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:05] Yeah, VR, blockchain, VR, climate change, baby steps. You’ve said that you can never change just one behavior. Our behaviors are interconnected. So when you change one other behaviors also shift. Can you give us a clue as to what that might mean? I mean, it sorts of sounds simple enough, but I think a lot of people go, “Well, I have to floss. That’s the only behavior I need to change.”

BJ Fogg: [00:28:25] Well, for better or worse, the behaviors, the changes that we make seem to travel in packs. So the good side of this — maybe we’ll touch on the bad side — the good side of it is if you just focus on one healthy snacking behavior. And you make that a habit and you feel successful — you have to feel successful — then you will naturally start doing other healthy snacking behaviors. It will just naturally ripple out. My data shows that over 70 percent of people, it’s like 73 percent in the last snapshot report having changed other habits within five days. So when they do the five-day program, I assess it every weekend and so on. That’s typically the number. It’s in the ’70s, so the vast majority of people naturally start changing other behaviors and the dynamic there, the mechanism, I believe, is that people start thinking of themselves differently.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:14] So identity level shifts.

BJ Fogg: [00:29:15] Yeah. And that happens not through like cheerleading or rah-rah or posters on the wall. It’s they see themselves eating a healthy snack. They see evidence, they can change, and they feel successful, which then makes them go, “I’m the kind of person who eats healthy snacks.” And on a broader scale, “I’m the kind of person who can change.” And that in some ways is what my subtitle is about, “The Small Changes That Change Everything.” It’s not like flossing one tooth changes everything. But it’s how you look at change and your identity and that global sense of I can’t change and learning how to feel Shine. That’s what changes everything.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:52] There’s real stuff here. Because I started walking maybe a couple, two or three years ago before I got married because nobody wants to be the chubbo in their wedding pictures, and I lost 30 pounds, not by walking off 30 pounds of weight, but by walking and then going, “I didn’t just walk for three hours to eat a pizza.”

BJ Fogg: [00:30:11] Good for you.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:11] And then that kept going, and I was reading a lot of audiobooks when I was walking. I was like, “I’m super productive now. I’ve got to keep doing this.”

BJ Fogg: [00:30:18] That’s so great.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:18] And then it was like, “Well, if I’m doing this for my body, I should probably do other things for my body, like floss regularly.” And I was already probably doing that more or less, but it was like, why bother? And then it’s like, “Wait, if I’m flossing, then I better be doing it in the morning too.”

BJ Fogg: [00:30:34] What a great example.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:35] It’s a snowball effect.

BJ Fogg: [00:30:36] Awesome. Yeah. And the implications for that from a design perspective and I unpacked it in Tiny Habits is start where you want to start. Start anywhere on the path to change. Start where you want, and if there’s some behavior like eating kale or meditating that you don’t want to do right now, don’t focus on that. But as things change in your journey, there’ll be times when you start doing the other stuff naturally. So start where you want to start.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:03] That’s a really brilliant insight because if somebody had said, “Hey, you don’t want to be a chubbo on your wedding photos, great CrossFit five days a week, personal trainer, diet overhaul.” I would’ve just been like, “You know what? Who cares? People will understand. I’ll just have a funny wedding.”

BJ Fogg: [00:31:17] One day of CrossFit, you would have been totally sore, and intimidated and not go back. So, but that’s too often what people do and then they blame themselves. I didn’t understand the extent of that, of how much self-trash talk there was until I started teaching Tiny Habits in 2011. I didn’t intend it to be this thing where I taught eventually 40,000 people and I stopped counting at that point, but I was teaching two to three hundred people a week through email coaching them personally, and I was actually sitting about a hundred yards from here. And I was processing the emails for that day. It was a Wednesday in the five-day program and a woman we just talked about celebration and using positive emotions to change your habits. And she wrote me and said, “BJ, I now see that I’ve endured a lifetime of self-trash talk.” And I read that in the email, and I was like, “Oh my gosh,” because that just hadn’t dawned on me.

[00:32:10] Then I started reading all the other emails from people then and the weeks later differently. It’s like this is where people are at. They beat themselves up. They blame themselves. They have all these negative scripts and teaching them and helping them embrace like I did a good job on this and teaching them exactly how is a huge deal. And I was able to bring a lot of that into Tiny Habits and say, “This is emotions, great habits. Here’s how you create the emotion. And yeah, it’s not just creating habits. There are all these other great effects of this.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:43] That makes sense, right? Because I think for a lot of us, we do look at any failure, whether it’s a habit or just something in our business. It’s really hard to depersonalize it. We say, “Oh, you know, this failed because I’m not cut out for business.” Not, “I had a crappy idea and poor execution because I had a lack of experience.” I stopped going to the gym or I stopped running Not because I bit off more than I can chew and completely designed a or didn’t design a process, but because I’m a person who just can’t get my ish together and get fit. So we take it and we turn it into a character flaw. A personal flaw instead of a system design flaw.

BJ Fogg: [00:33:20] Yeah. And that tends to be what people do. And that’s not helping them. Well, it’s not accurate, at least when it comes to behavior change, it’s not accurate. They’re using a program that sets them up to fail. Whether it’s something they got online or in some other book, or just trying to remember what they saw on TV shows. There’s this old way of thinking about behavior change, and so that phrase, “You change best by feeling good, not by feeling bad.” I decided to really turn up the volume on that throughout Tiny Habits to, yes, I bring it up early, but to bring that theme back, it fits in every chapter and it’s important for people to know. If you’re feeling like you’re tapping into willpower to change, bam, that’s a sign you’re not doing it in the best way. So rewind, and there’s a better way.

[00:34:08] If you’re feeling guilty or shameful when you didn’t do something, well there’s a specific skill that I talk about in the book, how you can let that go. And so there are even times when let’s say there was something I intended to do. Let’s take two days ago, I didn’t work out. I have a gym right here that’s 15 feet away from us. I didn’t work out. And I didn’t say, “That was bad. You didn’t work out.” I was like, “I had a crazy busy day.” The fact that you actually did pushups after you pee, good for you. It’s something in, and you did some stretching. You didn’t do a gym workout, but you had a big day. Good for you. You’ll work out tomorrow.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:43] A lot of people might say, “You’re letting yourself off too easy. You’re going to rationalize all this bad behavior. If you just say, ‘Oh, well, at least I did three pushups after I took a pee.'” “That’s not how you’re going to get in shape, BJ. Come on.”

BJ Fogg: [00:34:55] Well, I don’t have any evidence to say that they are right. All my data shows that it’s by feeling successful on these tiny things and by feeling good, that’s what leads to the transformation. So we’re not talking about just doing one habit. We’re talking about creating a transformation in your life, even how you perceive the world, and Tiny Habits is a means to that end.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:19] there’s something called the Information-Action Fallacy — I love that term by the way — that was great because it sorts of sums up everything that’s wrong with Internet advice of what you’re consuming right now. Like, “Oh, people just need to know how to get in shape. People just need to know how to change a habit. People just need to know how to eat right.” Sure, having nutritional knowledge is beneficial, but I’m not sure there are too many 18-plus-year-old people anywhere in North America that go, “Oh, pepperoni pizza is bad for you. I have no idea.”

BJ Fogg: [00:35:51] You know about — what was it? 10 years ago — the quantified self movement was kind of huge and buzzy and people are like, “BJ, this is your area. Why aren’t you on board with this?” And I was like — I didn’t say this publicly but I didn’t get deeply involved — because it’s like, “No, I know it’s not data that changes behavior.” So even if people can see they haven’t worked out or they slept poorly or whatever. Data alone, information alone is not what changes behavior. What’s funny about that, that you bring it up, Jordan is in the book, so the book is pretty much done and then I’m like, oh, I was teaching and I taught Information-Action Fallacy and I thought, “This is not in my book. What? How did this not end up in my book?” I mean, it’s kind of there, but I didn’t call it out and give it the name. So I went back and I was like, “Where can I share this in the book? And to share it early to set the record straight.” So if you read carefully, I think it’s on like page seven or eight. Hopefully, you won’t see the seams where I worked it in but I did because it’s so important for people to get rid of the notion and including professionals. I do call out professionals. People will say, “Oh, education is the key.” If people were just educated about healthy foods, they would then need healthy foods. It’s like, “No. That’s not what leads to it.” So part of that wasn’t just for everyday people. It’s also for professionals reading this saying, stop assuming that information alone changed the behavior.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:13] That, of course, leads to the idea that it’s simplicity that changes behavior, not just information. We should know that good food or healthy food is good for you. You’ve been forced to eat things you didn’t want to eat because it was good for you since before you could talk. We’re force-feeding kids with broccoli and pouring cheese on it. Nobody grows up not knowing what healthy food looks like, period. Simplicity changes behavior. That’s one of the mottos in the book itself, and I love the idea that design is how we workaround, as you call it, fair-weather friends like motivation and willpower.

BJ Fogg: [00:37:45] Yeah. So you outsmart them. So I personify them in the book and you work around them by making it so easy to do. And again, my Behavior Model shows this. It’s super easy to do. You don’t have to rely on motivation very much. Now, it can’t be zero. If motivation is zero, the behavior can’t happen. But even the smallest amount of motivation can lead to you doing the behavior fits easy enough. Like if somebody came and said, “Donate a nickel to a cause.” You don’t care about very much; you donate a nickel. Now, if it’s cause that you hated completely, you wouldn’t even donate a nickel. So there is this curve we talked about earlier. It is such an important concept to understand that you have these levers you can dial in, and the one that you have the most control over is the ability, the simplicity aspect of something.

[00:38:32] You don’t have tons of control over the motivation. So that’s the dial that as much as possible, you make things easy to do by redesigning your environment, by skilling up. In Tiny Habits, I walked through, “Here are the three ways to make anything easier to do. There are three general categories.” And that’s where you make the most progress. Once you make it easier to do, then your motivation can go up and down and all over the place and it won’t derail you. So that’s how you outsmart the Motivation Monkey.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:00] I know that that is in the book, but I’d love to talk about how to make things easier. Skilling up was the example you just gave. That’s obviously really important because if you have a way to make an ability seem less difficult because you’re better at it, it pushes you up on the curve.

BJ Fogg: [00:39:15] Okay, so geek out for a little bit here. So the model — I mean, if you could see it in the book, you’ll see a picture — but imagine that you have a person doing an action in a context. So the context I draw a little circle around him or her. So when it comes to making things easier to do, you can change the person, you can change the context, or you can change the action. Those are the three ways. Let me walk through those. You’ve changed the person by skilling them up by training them so that actually makes them more capable of cooking healthy foods or meditating or consuming more written material. That’s one option, but not everybody wants to skill up.

[00:39:53] So next, change the environment or context. So they have tools and resources that make a behavior easier to do. That’s why I have the home gym here. It’s basically a CrossFit gym. That’s 20 feet away from where I typically work. So that is why design, so I’ve changed my context. There’s a bunch of ways to do that. Then the third way is the hack in Tiny Habits, you take the action of the new habits you want and you change that, so it’s very tiny. So not 20 pushups to two, not working out for an hour, maybe just getting on the air assault. So you’ve changed that to be tiny.

[00:40:26] So those are the three ways you can look at change — the person by skilling up, change the context by providing tools and resources, and the other one is just to take that thing and just make it tiny.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:39] That’s brilliant. And I think that’s very practical. We make worksheets for every episode, so we’ll throw that in the worksheet for this episode so that people who are driving aren’t like, Crap. I’ve got to pull over now.” The concept of the Anchor Moment or prompts, these are brilliant because now you found that — well, I think when, once you explained this, we’ll see that every bad habit we have probably has a prompt or a trigger. You hear about this, right? “Oh, stress triggers my smoking, or hearing from my mom, or whatever.” People say, “That triggers this. I can’t walk into a casino, triggers my gambling addiction,” that kind of thing. But we don’t necessarily look for those prompts or those triggers for good habits.

BJ Fogg: [00:41:15] Except in Tiny Habits, you will.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:17] Well, now we will, but normally people are only spotting them because we’re trying to reverse engineer bad habits.

BJ Fogg: [00:41:23] So back to the Behavior Model. If you want to stop a behavior — remove ability, remove motivation, or remove the prompt, so it’s one of the things. Now some of the prompts are hard to remove because they — let’s go back to the PAC person model.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:37] What’s that?

BJ Fogg: [00:41:38] PAC person, Person-Action-Content, so that it sounds like a really simple model, but it’s very elegant. It’s super powerful. If you look at where do prompts come from, there are three places. One, it comes from the person where you just suddenly remember to do something. Next, it can come from your context or environment. So these are the same three things of sources of motivation and ways to make it easier. So this PAC person model that I use — the bigger point here is behavior is a system and there are systematic ways to understand it. And there are systematic ways to design for it. That’s, yes, I share the Tiny Habits method in the book Tiny Habits, but I’m sharing this new broader system and one of the models is his PAC person.

[00:42:20] So yes, you can self-prompt that’s not very reliable. You can put a prompt in your environment like I can get a Post-it Note, alarm, you can ask another person to prompt you. And then in the Tiny Habits way you use your existing action or routine to be the prompt. So in this case, flossing reminds you to brush. Starting your coffee maker reminds you to stretch or whatever it is. So in that case, you’re not relying on Post-it Notes or alarms or just your memory. You’re designing it into your routine, and I call it Anchoring. So you attach the new habit, you anchor it to something very firm in your life, which should be a routine you already do very reliably.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:59] You mentioned that you do pushups after you pee. I would imagine —

BJ Fogg: [00:43:02] You like a demo?

Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:03] If you’re at an airport though, you’re not doing that.

BJ Fogg: [00:43:05] No, I’ll squat if nobody is in there. If I feel like I’m just going to be observed and thought weird, I just look in the mirror and smile as I wash my hands. No, I don’t do it in public restrooms, but you can do squats and right now, you know because I’ve done pushups for many years, I wanted to use that same prompt, that same anchor for a new skill, and so I’ll switch off push ups with very deep squats. Shall I demo?

Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:30] Sure.

BJ Fogg: [00:43:32] So squatting down like this for a man my age 56, it’s like crazy hard, but I’ve worked on it. So I just practice doing that and then going all the way down. And I could do this. Well, it’ll look weird in a public bathroom. I could do a stall.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:47] You can do in a stall.

BJ Fogg: [00:43:48] But what you can do is once you have a solid anchor, then you can use that to remind you to do different habits. So yeah, sometimes it’s pushups, but if I want to change it up, or if I get to shoulder injury, then I do something else. And the bigger point here is that as you design your habits, be flexible. And evolve them over time to match what you want and what your life needs. So once you create a habit, it doesn’t mean you always have to have that exact habit. Think of it like a garden with a bunch of different plants and flowers and stuff, and you want to change that up over time. That’s how you should look at your habits as well.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:25] So like if you don’t call your mom enough, you can call her after you go to the bathroom.

BJ Fogg: [00:44:29] Be flexible.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:29] Then she’ll be like, “Stop calling me every time you pee. I don’t need to hear from you every time you take a leak.”

BJ Fogg: [00:44:33] Or maybe texting, that’s easier.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:34] That might be easier. All right, a lot of people are going to go, “Great, I know how to change my own habits, not going to do anything. I’m perfect. How do I get other people to change their habits?” That’s when we really are here for. “To get my damn kids to do something for once.”

BJ Fogg: [00:44:45] What we found in our screen time research at Stanford. Yeah, people talk about screen time a lot. It’s really about changing other people’s screen time.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:53] My dad, who watches a ton of TV, will go, “I can’t believe kids are watching three hours of TV a day,” and my mom is like, “You watch like five.”

BJ Fogg: [00:45:01] Yeah. So in Tiny Habits, there’s a chapter on that, “How We Change Together.” It was about five years ago in my Stanford lab. That was the theme for the entire year. We’re going to study changing together. For certain types of behavior, changing — I’m a huge fan of household, having the household change together. The way you eat, that’s very important to do it as a household if you can. Because everybody’s eating crappy food and you’re trying to eat good food is hard.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:26] Yeah, they’re waving pizza in front of your face. That was in the book.

BJ Fogg: [00:45:31] True story. Just the way you use media, the way you sleep, the way you manage stress, those kinds of bigger aspirations because the people around you in your household influence that so much. That changing those things together is the best way to go. And there’s a way, a step-by-step process of getting consensus from your family or housemates around what are specific new habits in terms of nutrition or media use or so on. So you don’t really have to persuade or convince or intimidate other people into it. There’s a way to build consensus. In the book, it’s the section on focus mapping where within 30 minutes in a pretty fun process, you can all say, “Man, yeah, that’s exactly what we want to do together. We’ll change this together.”

[00:46:19] Now I’ve outside the household this exact same process. I don’t know if I can name names, a very large health providing organization in the US has trained their employees in this focus mapping method to help them change together and what they call unit-based teams. And what they do using my materials as they go through and they figure out — stress-reduction behaviors, eating behaviors, exercise behaviors, productivity behaviors — and as unit-based teams, they reach consensus on here are the habits we’re going to do and so on. And it just aligns everybody. So everybody is headed in the same direction and supporting each other.

Jason DeFillippo: [00:46:58] You’re listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest BJ Fogg. We’ll be right back after this.

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Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:24] This episode is also sponsored by Credible. Credible is an online marketplace that gets you pre-qualified student loan refinancing rates from up to 10 different lenders, so you can save on interest. You can either lower your monthly payment. It means more money in your paycheck, or you can sometimes do both. And of course, you can consolidate all your student loan bills in one place, get a lower term, which means debt-free faster. And also, it has pretty good reviews. They actually care about their customers. Go figure. You can see actual pre-qualified rates with Credible. Most marketplaces you’ll get ranges of rates, ballpark estimates and stuff like that. You can also check the rates in just a few minutes. You just need to throw in your emails, school, degree type, income, and some other info, and they don’t even sell your data. Nice of them, huh? No spam mail, no phone calls from dozens of other lenders. It’s actually quite a nice place to do business. Jason.

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Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:37] So basically you get a $200 gift card if you do close a loan with them, and if you find a better rate elsewhere, you still get a $200 gift card. Can’t beat that.

[00:49:45] Thank you for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers keeps us going and keeps us on the air. To learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, so you can check out those amazing sponsors, visit Don’t forget the worksheet for today’s episode. That link is in the show notes at If you’re listening to us in the Overcast player, please click that little star next to the episode. We really appreciate it. And now for the conclusion of our episode with BJ Fogg.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:14] How do we use things like focus mapping or mapping behaviors that we want to change and practice? It’s in the book and it’s outlined, so it’s something like, go and grab this if you want an in-depth course on it.

BJ Fogg: [00:50:28] Let me give just the high-level concepts of the step-by-step process of focus mapping really won’t come across very well in audio. But yes, there’s a step-by-step visual way to do it that I do all the time and it’s super fun. But what you’re looking for is — let’s say you want to reduce your stress. First, come up with a whole bunch of different ways to do that. In Tiny Habits, I give you a guide of how you come up with a whole bunch of ways. Once you have a whole bunch of ways, you’re not committed to any, now you’re looking for the best ways for you, and it comes down to three criteria.

[00:51:00] You’re looking for a new habit that you want to do. That you can do. So notice you’re motivated too, and you have the ability. And then the third component is it’s actually effective that when you do that behavior, it will reduce your stress. And so in focus mapping and what I explained in the book and elsewhere, it’s a way to pull out of the larger set of behaviors, the golden behaviors, I call them the ones that are strongest on those three criteria. You want to do it, you can do it, and it’s actually going to be effective. And then those are the behaviors you designed for the habits you designed for, and you forget about all the others.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:38] That seems so deceptively simple. No one, our people are. Putting their checkbooks away. “Hey, where’s the sexy version of this? Come on.”

BJ Fogg: [00:51:46] Yes. I’m so delighted that the focus mapping process seems simple and it’s very straight forward, but it took 10, 12 years to develop it. I started as early as when LinkedIn was a tiny company. I sat down with Reid Hoffman and he gave me some advice on some stuff I was doing. That’s at tiny LinkedIn headquarters, and as a kind of a reciprocity thing, I did a focus map for them on what their products should be designed for. So I remember doing it was that 2002. I remember doing all the way back then. Then I evolved it and I evolved and I evolved it and iterated to what it is today in a more final form. And I’ll confess, I used to keep the method a secret, so now I do teach and train in the industry, but I don’t do any consulting. I don’t want to do consulting. I want to teach you on a train you. But back in the day when I was doing consulting, it was like the secret method I would use for my clients to get clarity on what they were doing. And then I would also share it with my clients, and I knew it gave me this huge advantage because within 30 minutes for a very abstract problem, I could get a lot of clarity around what we should be designing for.

[00:52:56] Then I started sharing it, then I started teaching it, and then boom. With this book, this is the first public time where I really say, here’s this method called focus mapping. I don’t say in the book that I withheld it as it was so powerful, but then the day, but that’s the fact. It just helps teams aligned, but also in your own life where it’s like, “Okay, which is the best new habit for me to reduce stress.” When you’re at the end of that and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, that’s exactly right.” In the same way, when Amazon suggests a product or Spotify plays the next song, it’s that recognition of, bam, that’s exactly what I want. That’s essentially what it’s doing.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:29] Using prompts that exist already — the idea of prompts is really, really useful and having prompts that exist already so we don’t have to prompt ourselves. For example, me stretching in the morning, not going, “All right, I got to remember to stretch every morning,” that’s had mixed results. Stretching while my coffee is making in the from the little Nespresso machine. Now that’s been a game-changer because what else am I doing? I’m staring at the machine. All I have to do is lean forward with my hands on the counter. Easy enough. So you make this so easy to do that. You cannot do it unless you’re kind of trying not to. You’re being a rebellious towards your own habits maybe. But the idea of locking habits in with celebration, I think in the book you said if people take one thing away, it’s that you need to celebrate. And you need to do it all the time. Why is celebration so powerful? It just seems, again, deceptively simple, a little hokey, maybe I don’t want to be that guy.

BJ Fogg: [00:54:26] This is part of the book that I know is going to be controversial and it matters because that’s what wires the habit into your brain, the emotion. So you’re hacking that. You can do things over and over and over again but if you get no response, no charge from it, or if it’s negative, it’s not going to be a habit. You can force yourself to like — I’ll give an example, a really tough example — people who take medications that make them sick. Those don’t wire in as two habits, and that’s a massive problem for cancer treatment, other things. People just really have to be very deliberate and whereas other things, wiring is really fast habits. And the difference there is the positive emotion that your brain associates with the behavior. So when you get good at celebrating, when you get good at firing off shine on demand, you’re essentially creating a superpower for habits. And you can get good enough where you can wire in a habit really fast, really, really fast, like almost one and done.

[00:55:27] There are some exercises in Tiny Habits where people can figure out what their own natural celebration is. It’s important to use one that works. One exercise is this. Imagine you’re watching the Super Bowl, your team is losing, and in the last five seconds, they score and win. What do you do at that moment? Whatever you do, tune into that and then if you want to create flossing as a habit, as you floss one tooth, bam, react like you did for the Super Bowl and feel it. Don’t resist it. Feel the emotion. Then day two, as you’re brushing, guess what? Just watch what your brain says. Your brain is going to go, “Oh, remember to floss.” Just put it to the desk. People that are doubtful about this, but you’ve got to find that celebration that moves you, that has that positive emotion and go for it. Let it happen, and let that natural process happen in your brain.

[00:56:20] If it doesn’t wire in, this is even going to strike people as crazy. It’s called me saying, “Hey, computers will be used to influence our behaviors, and people thought it was crazy. Here’s the next thing.” Now, it was like, “Yeah, that’s obvious.” Well, no, it wasn’t obvious. Here’s the next thing that I think people are going to say I’m crazy about, but in 10 years ago, that’s obvious. If you need to wire a habit in quickly, you basically can rehearse it with celebration. So let’s say you want to create the habit of being more tidy in the kitchen. So you take something that’s out of place, you put it in the right place, and you celebrate. “Good for me. Awesome!” Little dance, sing a song, do to do whatever it is. I give a hundred different examples of celebration in the book and then take the item and do it again. So you drill, you practice it seven to 10 times, just like you’d practice a free throw, just like you’d practice a passage on the piano with the celebration. So you do the sequence, anchor, new habit, celebration, and do it again and do it again and do it seven to 10 times. So you are accelerating. You are deliberately wiring the habit into your brain and that way with rehearsal of the habit with celebration.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:27] That’s interesting. You’re really, you can really hack this process then by forcing yourself to celebrate, which is easy because it’s just kind of a fun, silly thing to do. But after you put away a dish or put it in —

BJ Fogg: [00:57:38] So rehearse with celebration, rehearse with celebration, and then the next day when you wake up in the morning and that thing’s out of place, your brain is going to go, “Hey,” because your brain is going to know that it’s going to feel good. You put it there, you celebrate. Now, once the habit wires in, you’re done with celebration for that habit.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:53] Oh, you don’t have to do it.

BJ Fogg: [00:57:54] No, you don’t have to do it forever because the purpose of it is to hack your brain and wiring the habit. Once it’s wired in, you’re good.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:02] Yeah, that makes sense. Can we celebrate for someone else? Like, let’s say I’m trying to get my kid to do something. Do I have to celebrate with them? Do I have to celebrate in front of them? How does that work?

BJ Fogg: [00:58:13] Well, the mechanism is it’s the emotion that they feel. So if you do something that helps somebody feel that emotion of Shine, you’re helping them to wire in the habit. So the answer is yes. You can celebrate others too because it’s not a matter of who celebrates, it is that person feeling the emotion that then rewires their brains.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:33] Got you.

BJ Fogg: [00:58:34] Now, notice how early stages of video games, so I’m not a big video game player. But every so often I’ll download some game onto my handheld just to kind of see what’s going on.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:44] Sure, yeah, a little Candy Crush.

BJ Fogg: [00:58:45] Yeah. I haven’t actually done that one, but I should.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:47] Ooh, they’re the masters of that, man.

BJ Fogg: [00:58:49] Notice how they’re causing you to feel successful. Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. I was like, “That’s not an accident.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:55] It’s not.

BJ Fogg: [00:588:56] Not an accident.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:57] Candy Crush, I downloaded when I wanted to check it out, how they were doing this because I knew that that company — I think they’re called the King. They really are the masters of this. So when you play Candy Crush, even in the initial stages, after every level, if you have any moves leftover, and I think even if you don’t, what it does is it sends you all these bonus little things, and they’re exploding and your phone’s vibrating and it’s making all these animations. And then it says out loud, sweet. And then, there’s a character dancing on the screen. It’s just like this really in your face, unmistakable celebration after you beat any level. So of course, what do you want to do? Even if you think it’s the dumbest game in the world which is, you want to play another level and —

BJ Fogg: [00:59:41] They make sure of that, I mean, think of that and your habit.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:43] Long story short, I’m on level 1080 now or something like that. Not good.

BJ Fogg: [00:59:48] So last night in my lab meeting at Stanford, we talked about exactly this. Let’s find a game maker who’s willing to strip out all that celebration and then just put it out in the world. 100 people use the regular version. 100 people use the version that doesn’t great feelings of success and just measure retention and so on, so pretty simple experiment. We just have to find a cooperative game maker that would pull it out and I think there’d be a clear difference. The only thing that changes, it wasn’t the actual experience, what change is you’ve taken out that design for positive emotion. Now, we’re not very interested in game design and I’ve never been involved in game design, but the dynamic, the mechanism is the same. They are designed for that feeling of Shine, so you remember and want to do it again and you’re wiring the habit.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:37] Ooh, man, they’re scary good at it. And I was just thinking, what if this game was me learning, I don’t know, Chinese characters or something like that, I’d know thousands more than I do already. I learned the Korean alphabet years and years ago because somebody had made a really well-designed game where the bricks fall, and if you don’t type, the romanization of the sound correctly, it blows up like Tetris. And then of course, when you beat the level, it celebrates for you. I learned the Korean alphabet in like two or three days and it was like, boom, I could do them instantly. It was genius. So when you get this stuff right, this is kind of like some Jane McGonigal type stuff, when you get the game design right —

BJ Fogg: Huge fan of hers!

Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:15] I’m sure. She’s been on the show. She’s brilliant as well. When you do the celebration stuff right, you really can kill it. Your rules for celebration were celebrated three different times — when you remember to do the habit, when you’re doing it, and immediately after doing it — and then you’d said, we can stop celebrating once we get in. How do we know if our habits are locked in?

BJ Fogg: [01:01:33] Whether you do it or not — I mean, I don’t have an outside objective measure of this was totally automatic and this was not. If for some reason, you know, let’s say you want to pee after you do pushups and you missed it one day. It’s like, “Oh, okay, good. I need to rehearse with celebration to wire that habit in more.” It’d be an indication.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:54] What about prompts for things that we want to stop doing? So if we’re, we kind of talked about prompts for good habits. We briefly mentioned prompts for bad habits. How do we remove or ignore or avoid prompts? Actually, I think I just answered the question we have to remove, ignore, or avoid prompts for negative habits.

BJ Fogg: [01:02:11] Yes, exactly, but I’m going to give the larger piece of it. When it comes to stopping unwanted behaviors, people have very little guidance on that, very little. And so what I’ve done in Tiny Habits is I did a ton of research and a ton of new work that people haven’t seen before exactly on that. And I created a three-phase plan that I called the Behavior Change Masterplan. That’s specifically for unwanted behaviors. Phase one is all about creating new habits, like forget your snacking habit, forget your social media habit, whatever, and create new habits. Get good at that. And there are some reasons for that. Number two, now that you know how to create habits, look at your bad habit, look at the tangles, and just try stopping. Just remove prompt, remove ability, remove motivation. And in some cases, you can do that. Then phase three, if you can’t just simply stop, then you look at how you can swap. Notice that’s phase three? Now, the things you’ll read on the Internet is you always have to swap. That’s not true. Some habits will stop on their own bad habits if you just start doing enough good ones because like you just think of yourself differently and some habits you can simply stop. You go to the swapping only after you’ve tried those other things. It’s the most complicated. But then if you go through systematically, as I outlined phase one, phase two, then in phase three. In fact, I’ll just point it out. In the back of the book — I love systems. So did you see the flow chart?

Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:42] I love the flow chart.

BJ Fogg: [01:03:43] Oh, my gosh. I taught at Google last week and I knew that was an audience that would like flowcharts. They couldn’t get over it. My editors and staff say like, “There’s no way we’re putting the flow charts in the actual text of the book because nobody wants to see flow charts.” And I’m like, “Well, some people do.” So that phase one step-by-step, if that doesn’t work, do that. Then phase two, do it this way. You know, remove the prompt, remove ability — there’s an order to it step-by-step. And if it works, you do this next. If it doesn’t, you do this. And then if that doesn’t work, then you go to phase three and that’s how to swap step-by-step.

[01:04:16] I’m hoping these to become posters and show up in clinical settings where people are helping out, professionals say, “Boom, here are the three phases. We’re going to start here,” and these will be huge posters because this is the roadmap and if you said, what one thing are you proudest about in the book? It’s probably those three pages in the appendixes.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:36] Those three pages in the back of the book, worth the price of admission for sure.

BJ Fogg: [01:04:40] I think so.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:41] Removing the prompt, avoiding the prompt, or ignoring the prompt. And sort of examples of this would be maybe removed notifications from the annoying app on your phone that says, “Hey, you haven’t played three levels of candy crush today. Come and join your pals,” or whatever it says. The avoiding it, maybe not going to Dunkin Donuts to get your coffee, maybe you just go to a coffee place, there are no donuts. Or if you can’t, because the only place within a hundred miles of your house is Dunkin Donuts — and that’s where you get your coffee — you’ve got to ignore the prompt. You got to ignore the donuts, but that’s the hardest one.

BJ Fogg: [01:05:12] That’s the last in the sequence, and again, it’s a method and a process, you do the things that’ll be easiest to work at best at the beginning, and you only get to ignore, because then in that case, you’re tapping into willpower. You’re being tempted and you’re saying no. You only do that as a last resort. And in fact, in the bigger flow of things, you don’t stay there very long. If that doesn’t work, boom, there’s other things you can do. So you move on.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:38] Stopping bad habits or replacing bad habits. Stopping, of course, is great. Replacing is genius. I’ve never really thought about this, but the example you’ve given the book is mapping the old prompt. I think it was somebody had left the refrigerator door open. It’s like a guy with a teenager. “The fridge door is open, the fridge door is open, the fridge door is open,” and every time the fridge door was open, he would yell at his daughter and would just get freaked out. That was the bad habit. So instead he replaced it with asking her how her day was going after she left the fridge door open, which is funny because it’s counterintuitive. Why would you show that you care and that you’re being nice to this person when the door is left open?

BJ Fogg: [01:06:15] It’s your daughter, you’ll care.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:16] It is, maybe I’m a little too cold-hearted, but what happened was, of course, he says, “You left the door open. Oh, don’t get mad. Hey, honey, how was your day?” “Oh, it was good.” And then she goes, “Oh, yeah, right. He hates it when I leave the door open,” and she started closing the door, I think, on her own which is partially coincidence, but also because she’s not feeling like crap because she’s getting yelled at every time she closes the door. So you end up positively reinforcing good behavior by replacing your own bad habits. I thought that was pretty damn good.

BJ Fogg: [01:06:46] Again, the theme of feeling good, not feeling bad. Let me build on that and give us specific. There’s an extension of that that I call Pearl Habits. So you take something negative in your life and you use that to be your prompt or reminder for something positive. Here’s an example that’s not in the book. True in my own life, so I live half the time in Maui. Surfing every morning is very important to me. I mean, if I have an addiction, that’s it. But if you get cut, that’s a huge problem because you can get infected and there are some big risks of being cut. So I was in Maui and I don’t know what I was doing and I got caught on something and so it was a cut that was like right here on my thumb.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:07:24] You can get an infection from the ocean?

BJ Fogg: [01:07:27] Oh, yeah, and it can be bad.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:07:28] I don’t really know that.

BJ Fogg: [01:07:30] From where I surf, you do not get in the water with a cut. It can be seriously bad. And it hurts, it stumped, and I have a whole first aid kit in my car and I do all the thing, but it’s still hurt. It stumped. And I thought, okay, rather than think, “Oh, I won’t be able to surf tomorrow, for a few days and it hurts.” Take that and use that as a prompt to think, “I feel so lucky that I can be out and active and that my body works well and I can do what I like and I feel so lucky that I heal.” So every time I would feel that sensation, that pain sensation, rather than thinking I was going to compromise my surfing, I spun it around to think of it in a positive way which works awesome.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:10] That’s great.

BJ Fogg: [01:08:10] That’s a Pearl Habit. Take an irritation and you make something positive or beautiful out of it.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:15] It’s great. It’s kind of like positive thinking, except it’s not totally delusional and you’re using the negative as a prompt instead of just trying to make your whole life generally positive in some way.

BJ Fogg: [01:08:24] And I picked something that I feel is genuinely true. “I feel so lucky to be in nature. I feel so lucky to be active and so on,” and so I just use that as. The reminder to think of something that I truly feel and believe, and that pushes out the pain to some extent, and it pushes out — you know, for someone who just really has to get in the water every day like me, then I’m not feeling so sorry for myself.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:50] This can also be applied to business. I want everybody to know that you have this free eBook available on your site. We’ll link to the URL directly to that. It’ll be in the show notes for this. Tiny Habits for Business Success is what it’s called, right?

BJ Fogg: [01:09:02] Yeah. And that’s more practical. So in writing this book, Tiny Habits, it’s really geared toward everyday people. What I do outside of Stanford is I teach business people these models and methods in a practical way. And the editorial decision was that the book cannot do both things. It will confuse people. This book, yes, it talks about these new models, these new methods. Savvy business readers can apply immediately to what they’re doing, but there’s an extension that’s not in the book that’s about specifically about business and how do you use behavior design and tiny habits for business success.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:36] What kind of things can people expect in that eBook? Or what’s an example of a business habit?

BJ Fogg: [01:09:41] Well, it’s the same set of methods in share except for the examples are business examples. And then there are worksheets and the book as written, we have pulled together — and I say we because I had a team that helped me gather the stories and select the stories, true stories, all true. Apparently, in a lot of books, they have fake stories or composite stories.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:01] Yeah. Well, that makes sense. If you need a perfect example, why go find one when you can just make one up?

BJ Fogg: [01:10:05] Well, but I’m a scientist and my whole life and career depend on my integrity. So it’s like, “No, we’re never going to use a fake story.” The book has these great stories in it and these descriptions and explanations that I’m hoping every everybody can understand, but when it comes to business setting, there’s a different language and a different approach because this is what I teach all the time, and yes, you can see it in Tiny Habits, but we can help cross the finish line with this special chapter.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:32] Great. Thank you very much.

BJ Fogg: [01:10:33] Thank you.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:34] Fascinating.

BJ Fogg: [01:10:34] Thank you.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:37] Big thanks to BJ Fogg for having me over to his house to do the show. Just a lovely human being. His whole family is just wonderful. It was just wonderful to us. He really wanted to demo those squats. If you’re watching the video on YouTube, you know, you could see. He was jones into demo those squats. The book title is Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything. I highly recommended the book. Great read. Lots and lots of actionable practical stuff in there. That’s what we have in common, him and I, that we love the practical. If it’s not actionable, it’s not usable, it’s not useful, and his book is loaded to the brim. It’s actually a really well-designed book as well. There’s a lot of flowcharts and photos and graphs and illustrations so that you actually remember how to do things. I love books like that. I think it says something about me that I like books with lots of colors and pictures. I think, I probably will never outgrow that, even audiobooks with colors and pictures. It’s a problem.

[01:11:29] There’s a video of this interview on our YouTube channel at Of course, in the show notes, there’ll be a link to the book as well as other resources, including worksheet for this episode so that you can review what you’ve learned here from BJ Fogg. We also now have transcripts for each episode and those can be found in the show notes as well. A few folks have said they don’t know how to find the show notes. They are, of course, on the website at You can also tap your phone screen and there’s an abbreviated version, not the whole thing, but an abbreviated version of the show notes in most podcast apps. Hard for me to say which one because I don’t know what you’re listening on right now.

[01:12:00] I’m teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using systems using tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free over at Don’t do it later, do it now. It’s a few minutes a day. It’s not going to kill you. In fact, it’s going to make your business better. It’s going to make your personal life better. This is the best insurance policy I’ve ever had in my relationships. It’s helped my business. It’s helped my personal life. I met my wife through the show. Come on. This stuff is real. The drills take a couple of minutes a day. I wish I knew it 20 years ago. Second best time is right now though, right? If you haven’t started, try it now. This is all free. It’s real for free. Not enter your credit card for free, but real for free, And by the way, most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to the course and the newsletter. So come join us, you’ll be in smart company. In fact, why not reach out to BJ Fogg? Tell him you enjoyed this episode of the show. Show guests love hearing from you. You never know what might shake out of that. Speaking of building relationships, you can always reach out or follow me on social. I’m at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. I’m the guy with the checkmark, not the guy with 17 numbers after his name.

[01:13:02] The show is created in association with PodcastOne and this episode is produced by Jen Harbinger and Jason DeFillippo, and our engineer is Jase Sanderson, show notes and worksheets by Robert Fogarty, music by Evan Viola, and I’m your host Jordan Harbinger. Our advice and opinions, and those of our guests are their own. And yeah, I’m a lawyer, but I’m not your lawyer. I’m sure not a doctor or a therapist. So do your own research before implementing anything you hear on the show. And remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting, and that should be in every episode. So please share the show with those you love and even those you don’t. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we’ll see you next time.

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