Tiny Habits

Brett McKay talks to Dr B J Fogg for Episode 581 of the Art of Manliness podcast. Below are my show notes for the episode. The episode discusses Tiny Habits, a book that Fogg has written.

Tiny Habits

Fogg proposes the Tiny Habits method of behavior change. He talks of habits not in terms of breaking them but in terms of untangling them. Think of behavior change the way you would untangle the mess of wires to straighten out your headphones. Changing habits is a process where you move from the easiest to the most difficult.

Fogg suggests that long lasting behavior change happens by changing really small habits as part of a routine. Imagine you want to make a tiny change. Fogg suggests identifying a routine attached to the change that you require. Inserting the habit as part of the routine and then slowly increasing the number of repetitions.

As an example, if you want to inculcate the habit of flossing your teeth, he suggests flossing just one tooth after brushing your teeth (routine). He suggests that we stay with one tooth as long as we want. He also gives us the freedom to do more when we want to. The number can go up. You can floss three teeth or just one. The over-achievement on the day you flossed three teeth acts as motivation for you to do just a little more. This turns this into a behavior change of flossing the teeth after you brush it.

The Three Elements – Motivation, Ability and Prompt

Behavior change here involves three elements – motivation, ability and prompt. Fogg defines motivation as the driving force which energizes you to certain behavior. He suggests that there is a compensatory relationship between motivation and ability. Ability here stands for you knowing how to do a certain task. He says that when it is harder to do something, the motivation needed is more. When it is easier to do something, you don’t need too much motivation. He recognized this compensatory relationship over an eight year period of study! He warns us that we over-estimate our future motivation to do certain things. Hence he warns us from depending on motivation as a way to change habits.

He also warns us from thinking of our aims in abstract terms. Losing weight, reducing stress etc are outcomes. He suggests that tweaking systems and processes will lead to these desired outputs. He believes that the habits should involve less time, less effort and little cost to implement to be successful.

Here, he brings the concept of prompts. He thinks that there are three types of prompts – personal prompt, context prompt and action prompt. He says that personal prompt involves you or someone else reminding you that you need to do a habit. Context prompt is a notification that alerts you to do a habit. An action prompt involves using a routine as a prompt. In our example above, brushing your teeth is a prompt for flossing them. He says personal and context prompts are not effective. He thinks that action prompts are the most effective way to initiate long lasting habit change.

In My Opinion…

Listening to this podcast, this seemed like a more scientific version of Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits. It also seemed similar to James Clear’s Atomic Habits but with different terminology. Saurabh also spoke in his blog about changing habits for the new year and hence I thought this might be worth sharing. I would personally, rather follow James Clear method.

I loved what he says about celebration, though. This is his value addition to the habit change journey, in my opinion. He suggests that celebrating these small habit changes with a celebration make you feel successful. He says that these emotions get attached to the habits and re-wires your brain that converts these habits into part of your life. He suggests teaching children to celebrate after their every small habit change.

Caring for Yourselves

Perhaps the greatest delusion of my life has been the belief that the world in which I was a child may have been the dark ages, but the world in which I have grown up to be an adult has to be far more enlightened and equitable than before.

Social norms and attitudes that perpetuate injustice have remained tenacious. The news remains the same. Questions that had remained unanswered when I was a child still demand answers. If I do not want my daughters to internalize that violence is the inevitable fate of women in our society, I have to find a new language to speak to them.

‘Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare,’ Audre Lorde wrote in her book of essays, A Burst Of Light. The first time I had read this sentence, it cut through my cultural conditioning like a sheath of light. It demolished the notion that putting everyone else’s needs before one’s own is a virtue to be extolled.

Natasha Badhwar, Children must triumph over their parents, Immortal for a Moment (2018)

Cixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem

Gautam Bhatia had this book in his list of books in 2016. That is how I first heard of the existence of Chinese sci-fi. This article on Bookriot reminded me of it and made me pick up the book for listening on Audible. I haven’t taken a science fiction book for a really long time.

It’s such a different version of science fiction to what I read of Asimov. It seems that things have changed so much.

The narrative goes back and forth in time and space. I loved the difference in the China-centric narrative. This is so difficult to do from an Indian perspective. It sounds so doable from the Chinese perspective.

Ronnie Screwvala's book

Dream with Your Eyes Open: An Entrepreneurial Journey by Ronnie Screwvala
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to an interview with Ronnie Screwvala on the podcast episode of The Filter Koffee podcast. Screwvala is the founder of UTV which he sold to Walt Disney. Among movies, he’s the producer of Rang De Basanti.
In the book, he shares stories about his entrepreneurial journey. He shares why he believes the next generation of entrepreneurs are the answer to most of the problems that plague India. He shares that dreaming big, not believing in luck and working hard is the key to entrepreneurs to achieve success.

View all my reviews

I would suggest listening to the episode on the Filter Koffee podcast and if you enjoy it to get the book.

Ashok K Banker answers my question

Ashok K Banker is one of my favorite authors. His Ramayana series is one of my favorites and my introduction to the genre of historical re-imagination. I was reading his books when I was interviewed for a job with the State Bank of India. Most of my interview was spent debating why I prefer Banker’s version of Ramayana to the one by Rajagopalachari.

I asked him a question on Goodreads:

Is the Epic India Library done?

Epic India Library is his attempt of retelling all epics, myths and legends from India. His answer:

No. It is not yet complete as per my original plan. At the time I formulated the plan, the category or genre of imaginative retellings of ancient Indian epics, myths and legends was almost non-existent. In the last decade or so, apparently inspired by success (according to well over 50 authors of the genre who have written to me directly or acknowledged me in interviews), a plethora of other Indian authors have risen, mining the same fertile fields. As a result, I felt that it was best left to a more diverse variety of authors to explore the same territory. The purpose I had when I began retelling the epics has been fulfilled. I have since moved on to other genres and barring a few books in continuing series, most of which are with publishers already, I am no longer writing in the genre. My current focus is on my ongoing epic fantasy series (which is inspired by but not a retelling of the Mahabharata) the Burnt Empire Saga, and on new crime thrillers and literary fiction.

It’s a great joy when one of your favorite authors answers your question.

The Guardians by John Grisham

The Guardians

The Guardians by John Grisham

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The book is about a lawyer who helps people in jail who have been wrongly convicted by the judicial process. The story is based on two partly true stories and I realised the possibilities are so many in India which has an overburdened judicial system and made me ask if we have something similar to Guardian Ministries.

I recollect watching similarly themed Malayalam movie which did not trigger similar questions in me.

The book also gave some very rare health advice: “Years ago he told me that the secret to a long healthy life is to consume as little food as possible. Exercise is important but cannot reverse the damaging effects of too many calories. I have tried to follow his advice.”

View all my reviews

The God Who Loved Motorbikes (2019)

Cover of The God Who Loved Motorbikes

I picked up the book written by Murali K Menon after seeing that the book was launched by John Abraham on September 25. The book is a Juggernaut publication and I saw that the book was available at a low cost on the day of the launch. Hence, I picked it up without giving a second thought.

The book takes on a usual motorcycle enthusiast story and stretches it into the realm beyond time and space. The enthusiast in this case is one of the small shrine gods that dot the landscape of Kollengode in Kerala. The story revolves around how the god, KK Swamy, follows his dreams of riding several motorcycles. The premise makes sense at some level. However, things get a little hazy here while considering the plot.

The story then hops several steps and we enter another story. The storyline begins quite naturally but then gets stranger and weirder as time passes. Then, things get so weird that I paused reading to think that the story has gone from a motorcycle story to a sci-fi genre. There are a few plot twists but none that surprise you too much. There is a lot going on, action wise but they are mostly just moving things forward.

When the story ends, there are many things left hanging. The plot fails to tie things up at the end. There are many loose ends. The story takes off in so many directions that I wonder what the author was thinking about while developing the plot of the story.

You could consider picking up the book to give it a read if you love this genre of motorcycle storytelling and sci-fi. It was a good way to while away time but at the end you are left asking if reading through it was a worthy investment of your time or not.