Nathan Tanner

Don’t Focus On Motivation to Change Your Behavior. Do This Instead.

You know building good habits is key to success but both building and ending habits can be really hard to do. BJ Fogg is an expert on behavioral change. Here’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from his book, Tiny Habits.

B = MAP. 

Behavior happens when Motivation & Ability & Prompt converge at the same moment. 

To start or stop a behavior you need all three. Motivation is your desire to do the behavior. Ability is your capacity to do the behavior. And Prompt is your cue to do the behavior. 

If you’re anything like me, you’ve focused almost exclusively on motivation. “If only I were more motivated I’d be able to change.” 

It sounds counterintuitive, but motivation is the last place we should start. The fastest way to change your behavior is to have a prompt. Two personal examples. 

1) For years I wanted to exercise more consistently but it didn’t start happening until I laid out my workout clothes the night before. Each morning those clothes were a reminder (prompt) to exercise and I immediately put them on. 

2) I knew expressing gratitude each day would lead to greater wellbeing but I was inconsistent. Once I created a daily notification (prompt) on my phone the habit was created. I was motivated and had the ability to express gratitude, I just needed a reminder.   

Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Prompt

Motivation and ability have their role in building stronger habits, but often all you need is a simple prompt to make the change.