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Tiny Habits Book Summary – BJ Fogg

What you will learn from reading Tiny Habits:

– Why you’re not entirely responsible for your bad habits.

– The 5 ability factors that hold you back from your good habits.

– Why motivation doesn’t matter as much as people say when it comes to habits.

Tiny Habits Book Summary

Tiny Habits sets itself apart from other habit-forming books with its innovative framework, developed by renowned researcher BJ Fogg. This framework has undergone continual refinement to align with the latest scientific understanding of habit formation, making it a widely recognized and highly effective approach to building habits. I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking to establish new habits and transform their life.


The Tiny Habits Mindset Shift:

Stop judging yourself.  

Take your aspirations and break them down into tiny behaviors.  

Embrace mistakes as discoveries and use them to move forward. 

Think about your habits as if they were recipes. If the result isn’t to your liking, you need to change the ratios and fiddle with the ingredients, not beat yourself up or give up.

The inability to stop a bad habit can provoke deep feelings of shame and guilt. 


In many cultures there is a lot of weight put on personal responsibility — the idea that if you can’t do the right thing you must be suffering from some weakness of character.


The Information-Action Fallacy:

BJ wants to set the record straight: information alone does not reliably change behaviour. This is a common mistake people make, even well-meaning professionals. The assumption is this: If we give people the right information, it will change their attitudes, which in turn will change their behaviors. I call this the “Information-Action Fallacy.” 


The Ethos of Tiny Habits:

The essence of Tiny Habits is this: Take a behaviour you want, make it tiny, find where it fits naturally in your life, and nurture its growth. 

This will show you how easy it is to get started, and it will help you learn the single most important skill in behaviour change — feeling successful. 

Keeping changes small and expectations low is how you design around fair-weather friends like motivation and willpower. When something is tiny, it’s easy to do — which means you don’t need to rely on the unreliable nature of motivation. 


B = Map – The Fogg Behaviour Model:



B (Behaviour) = M (motivation) x A (ability) x P (prompt)

You can stop a behavior by altering any of the three components of the Behavior Model. You can decrease motivation or ability, or you can remove the prompt.


The order you go through the B=MAP Framework:

You follow these steps instead. Try each step in order. If you don’t get results, move to the next step.  

Check to see if there’s a prompt to do the behaviour.  

See if the person has the ability to do the behaviour.  

See if the person is motivated to do the behaviour. 


Make habits easier (ability):

Here’s a related insight that might begin to transform your life (it transformed BJ’s): The easier a behaviour is to do, the more likely the behaviour will become habit.

BJ discovered how important making something easy was by studying what many successful products and services had in common: They helped people do what they already wanted to do.

If you try a product and it makes you feel clumsy or stupid or unsuccessful, you will very likely abandon it. But when something makes you feel successful, you want more. You engage. You make it part of your life.


Remove Prompts:

Whether natural or designed, a prompt says, “Do this behavior now.” But this is the crucial nugget: No behavior happens without a prompt.

You can disrupt a behaviour you don’t want by removing the prompt. This isn’t always easy, but removing the prompt is your best first move to stop a behaviour from happening. 

Other than getting off the grid, we may never find a perfect way to stop unwanted prompts from companies with business models that depend on us to click, read, watch, rate, share, or react.

Let’s say that you want to stop checking social media while you are at work. You can turn off your phone, put it on airplane mode, or turn off notifications for the social media app. Any of these will remove contextual prompts. And that might resolve the habit right there.



Here’s the unfortunate thing — most people believe motivation is the true engine of behaviour change.  

Words like “rewards” and “incentives” get thrown around with such regularity that most people think you can create whatever habits you want if you find the right carrot to dangle in front of yourself. 

In the Tiny Habits Framework there are three sources of motivation: 

Yourself (what you already want). 

A benefit or punishment you would receive by doing the action (the carrot and stick). 

Your context (e.g., all your friends are doing it). 

Whether you feel desire, excitement, or fear, it doesn’t matter — whatever is motivating the behaviour will be quickly rationalised by your brain.  

It suddenly feels totally logical to do this thing that might be costly, time-consuming, physically demanding, or disruptive to our everyday lives. 


Motivation, willpower and endurance:

But here are some more subtle and predictable shifts: Willpower decreases from morning to evening. Complex decisions get harder by late in the day. Motivation for self-improvement can vanish on Friday nights. 

That said, there’s a special situation in which motivation can be enduring. Consider a grandmother who is always motivated to spend quality time with her grandkids. Or the teenager who always wants to look good to her friends. These enduring motivations are called aspirations. 


Aspirations – time to be specific:

Millions of people genuinely aspire to live healthier, less stressful, and more fulfilling lives. But here’s the problem: People often believe that motivating themselves toward an aspiration will lead to lasting change. Problem is aspirations are inherently abstract 

You can’t achieve outcomes or aspirations solely through high levels of motivation, which is the least predictable and reliable of the three components of the Behaviour Model. 

Aspirations are abstract desires, like wanting your kids to succeed in school. Outcomes are more measurable, like getting straight As second semester. 

I’ve found that people don’t naturally think in terms of specific behaviours, and this tendency trips up almost everyone. 

We should be dreamy about aspirations but not about the behaviors that will get us there. Behaviors are grounded. Concrete. They are the handholds and footholds that get you up the rock face.


The Big Habit Question:

Can I get myself to do this? 

The phrasing of the question is important. It brings together both motivation and ability at the same time. With this one question, you are addressing two components of my Behavior Model. 


Design for Consistency:

When you are designing a new habit, you are really designing for consistency. And for that result, you’ll find that simplicity is the key. 

First you have to understand what makes something hard to do. That’s why you should always start with this question: What is making this behaviour hard to do? 


Ability Factors:

Here are Fogg’s 5 Ability Factors:

Time – Do you have enough time to do the behaviour?  

Money – Do you have enough money to do the behaviour?    

Physical – Are you physically capable of doing the behaviour? 

Energy – Does the behaviour require a lot of creative or mental energy?  

Routine – Does the behaviour fit into your current routine or does it require you to make adjustments? 


Use Anchor Habits:

After I (ANCHOR), I will (NEW HABIT). +  After I flush the toilet, I will do two push-ups. 

Match the physical location First, consider the physical location of your new habit. Find an Anchor you already do in that location. If the new habit you want is wiping down the kitchen table, look for an existing routine in the kitchen. 

Match the frequency Next, as you look at your existing routine, decide how often you want to do your new habit. If you want to do it once a day, then sequence it after an Anchor that happens once a day. 

Match the theme/purpose Finally — and this element is less vital than the previous two — the best Anchors will have the same theme or purpose as the new habit. If you view coffee and its jolt of caffeine as a way to be more productive, then this might be a good Anchor for a new habit of launching your to-do app. 


Pearl Habits:

BJ calls these habits Pearl Habits because they use prompts that start out as irritants then turn into something beautiful. 

Step 1: List at least ten things that often happen to you that irritate you (a long line, a noisy motorcycle, a barking dog next door).  

Step 2: Select the most frequent and annoying thing on your list.  

Step 3: Explore new, beneficial habits you could do after the annoyance. Come up with at least five options. 


Reward prediction error:

When an experience deviates from the pattern your brain expects (oh, my phone didn’t break after all), that’s when you get a “reward prediction error,” and neurons in your brain adjust the release of dopamine in order to encode an updated expectation. 

The definition of a reward in behaviour science is an experience directly tied to a behaviour that makes that behaviour more likely to happen again. 

Incentives like a sales bonus or a monthly massage can motivate you, but they don’t rewire your brain. Incentives are way too far in the future to give you that all-important shot of dopamine that encodes the new habit. 



No one has ever advocated that you rehearse behavior sequences followed by celebrations in order to wire a habit into your brain before. But that’s what I’m telling you now. 



Fear is the anticipation of bad outcomes.

There are a few ways to weaken or remove the demotivator of fear. One common approach to dampen anxiety in social situations is by drinking alcohol. 

Common scenario, at a work party your colleagues all invite you onto the dance floor. In this situation, you get on the dance floor and pretend to have fun because social pressure (a powerful motivator) which has overwhelmed your fear (the de-motivator).

One key to designing long-term change is to reduce or remove the de-motivators. 


Guidelines for redesigning your environment:

When you design new habits, invest time in redesigning your environment so they’re easier to do. And, as you continue doing your new habit, make the environmental adjustments as you go along. 

Question tradition. Who says you have to keep your vitamins in the kitchen or floss in the bathroom? Maybe your vitamins need to be next to your computer.

Invest in the gear you need. Suppose you want to bike seven miles to school even when it is raining and cold. Design out these de-motivators by buying what you need to make biking in the rain and cold less painful.


Next actions to create identity change:

Finish the sentence “I’m the kind of person who” with the identity — or identities — you’d like to embrace. 

Go to events that gather people, products, and services related to your emerging identity. 

Learn the lingo. Know who the experts are. Watch movies related to the area of change you’re interested in. 

Update your social media page. Put a new profile picture up that conveys your emerging identity.

Teach others or be a role model to galvanize your new identity. A social role is powerful. 


Supporting others in the change process:

When supporting other people in the change process, let my two maxims be your guide. #1 Help people do what they already want to do. #2 Help people feel successful.