TinyHabits, Plateaus and Ratcheting

At some point BJ Fogg talks about how a habit, when properly planted, will grow on its own. He then follows up by talking about how many pushups he does now (I think this is in his TED talk).

I don’t think think this is accurate - and I think a lot of habit researchers make leaps simply because they don’t have enough data. At 321 days of recording my own bodyweight habit, I’ve stalled. 

I started with a basic two pushup habit like BJ Fogg, then it grew - I was doing a pushup progression getting into typewriter pushups, as well as burpees, bridge progressions, etc. Which was great.

But recently I gone back down to two pushups after traveling and introducing other habits. I’m back down to the basic two pushups.  This makes sense considering other sources who talk about plateaus as inevitable. A plateau requires a push to get past.

I understand what Fogg is saying - we do have an artificially created growth cycle when we pass the danger period through making deliberately small habits - it’s as though we’re chomping on the bit but we’ve been forcing ourselves to take it slow. Graphically, the TinyHabit shifts a lot of things over.

But AFTER that initial growth cycle, we need to deliberately push ourselves. Because it ain’t gonna grow on its own.

The problem comes when we introduce multiple habits - also something most habit researchers don’t have data on over long periods. Other habits that are entering a danger zone or a growth cycle will inevitably leach willpower from habits that are floundering. There’s just not enough ambient willpower to sustain growth in all fields.

At the same time the danger is dropping down to the initial TinyHabit for maintenance purposes. You want to drop down to conserve willpower but you still want to keep the habit.

I’ve done this with my pushup habit.  But the thing is, my maintenance level shouldn’t be 2 regular pushups now. It SHOULD be two TYPEWRITER pushups. Going back down to the initial TinyHabit reverses progress rather than maintaining it.

So I think a new protocol for Willpower cycling would be to ratchet TinyHabits for maintenance. At periodic points in a habit’s lifecycle a line must be drawn to determine what a TinyHabit is in each category of habit for the express purposes of keeping up the habit without reversing progress. Maintenance levels for habits have to be progressive across time.

What’s exciting (well, to me at least) is that a TinyHabit has a different graph and lifecycle than a regular habit - and this can and should be mapped out to prevent problems later down the road.