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Laura Yuen: New leaf, new year? Don't underestimate the power of small

Laura Yuen, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Fashion Daily News

What if the secret to a better you wasn't about achieving bold, life-altering feats, but performing minuscule, low-effort habits?

Forget trying to lose 15 pounds, getting eight hours of sleep a night, or giving up alcohol in January. Think smaller. Now even smaller.

Every year my New Year's resolution is to become more organized. It's why I spend 20 hours in December researching the best daily paper planners and ask for things like a label maker for Christmas. But researchers will tell you why such a generic goal of getting organized is paving the road to failure. It's vague and boring, devoid of all prompts. Science shows that habits will stick easier when you have a precise plan that's easy to remember.

If more exercise is your goal, take a cue from BJ Fogg, a behavior scientist at Stanford University and author of "Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything." He started with a microscopic but specific goal: He did two pushups every time he made a trip to the bathroom. He literally told himself, "After I pee, I will do two pushups."

He had other mantras for separate actions, he told NPR in 2020. They sounded like this:

"After I brush my teeth, I will floss one tooth."


"After I sit down on the subway, I'll open my book and read a paragraph."

"After I turn off the TV, I'll take three calming breaths."

You can see how the story ends, right? Tiny habits formed routines that cascaded into bigger behaviors. It's not uncommon now for Fogg to bang out 50 pushups on a given day.

I was thinking more about the concept of tiny habits after reading a callout initiated by independent journalist Simone Stolzoff, who asked people on Twitter for their "personal rules" by which they've chosen to live. These rules could take a stand on anything from work-life balance to personal tidiness. They certainly aren't right for everyone, but the responses were eye-opening.


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