The Biggest Book of 2020 Is All About Taking Tiny Steps

“By starting small, you set off a chain reaction that creates an explosion of change.”

B.J. Fogg and Arianna Huffington in front of Thrive’s Microstep Wall.
B.J. Fogg and Arianna Huffington in front of Thrive’s Microstep Wall.

Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything, by B.J. Fogg, was published on the final day of 2019, but I’m going to go ahead and call it the best book so far of 2020. Because at a time when, as Fogg writes, there is “a painful gap between what people want and what they actually do,” Tiny Habits is a blueprint for redefining our approach to self-improvement. The habits are tiny, but the results are big. 

“There’s no need to work toward big, ambitious goals,” he writes. “By going tiny, you can discover for yourself the changes that will change everything.”

Fogg is the founder and director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford, and his central insight is as timely as it is radical. We’re now in that annual period of flagging enthusiasm when people are realizing that maybe they’re not actually going to keep up with the enormous, you-must-change-your-life resolutions that seemed so doable on New Year’s Day. Indeed, a study from the University of Scranton found 92% of us fail to keep our New Year’s resolutions, and another found that 80% of us have already failed by the second week of February.

Over the past decade, Fogg and his research team have tested his approach to behavior change on more than 40,000 people. What they’ve learned is that most of us have been going about it all wrong: we set the bar too high, get discouraged, judge ourselves and give up.

That’s why, as much as anything, Tiny Habits is a book about joy. 

“What I knew from coaching people,” he writes, “was that it makes you happy. It’s very simple. You’re helping people change their lives, and you see the positive impact of that every day.” 

It’s why one of Fogg’s fundamental steps of behavior change is celebrating each tiny new habit, so that your brain associates it with positive feelings. 

In one of my favorite passages, he shows how our individual tiny habits can spark a positive impact beyond just ourselves:

“Habits may be the smallest units of transformation, but they’re also the most fundamental. They are the first concentric circles of change that will spiral out. Think about it. One person starts one habit that builds to two habits that builds to three habits that changes an identity that inspires a loved one who influences their peer group and changes their mindset, which spreads like wildfire and disrupts a culture of helplessness, empowering everyone and slowly changing the world. By starting small with yourself and your family, you set off a chain reaction that creates an explosion of change.” 

Of course, I love Tiny Habits even more because it so perfectly corresponds with Thrive Global’s own behavior change approach, which is all about what we call Microsteps: small, science-backed steps you can take to make immediate changes in your daily life. Tiny Habits and Microsteps may be small, but all the evidence shows they have the power to bring about big, big changes.

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