Building a Healthy Habit — Floss a Single Tooth
Stanford professor BJ Fogg has been studying habit formation and how to influence it by taking tiny steps towards a goal. In an interview with public broadcaster KQED, Fogg discusses his approach:
The strength of a habit is defined, at least the way I see it, is how much of a decision was that behavior. So if you’re deciding ‘yeah, I’m going to go to the gym today’ it’s a pretty good indication it’s not a habit. Habits are things you do without deciding.
So how should you go about helping a patient develop a healthy habit, such as regular flossing? According to Fogg, the key is to start with flossing a single tooth.
Next, find a habit you already have and do your new habit immediately after. “For me and for most people, brushing your teeth is a solid habit. So that can serve as a trigger for the new behavior you want.”
Then, reward yourself. “You declare victory. Like I am so awesome, I just flossed one tooth. And I know it sounds ridiculous. But I believe that when you reinforce yourself like that, your brain will say yeah, awesome, let’s do that.”
Reading about BJ Fogg’s approach we can’t decide if it sounds like positive reinforcement or positively a terrible idea. Share your perspective in the comments.