WGW 30: Tiny Habits

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #30

With 2014 being only eight days old, new year resolutions are still fresh and many people are off trying to pursue their goals (i.e., lose weight, get in shape, etc.). In lieu with that theme, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to share a video that I was recommended recently. It’s a TEDxTalk by BJ Fogg on the topic of creating real and permanent change in your life through tiny habits.


One of the things that struck me about this talk is how BJ Fogg clearly delineates between goal setting in terms of long term change and short term change. And contrary to what most people think, being highly motivated only contributes to short term change and not long term change. But of course, the question you’re probably wondering is: how does this relate to go?

I think a lot of players set out grandiose goals for themselves. The most popular examples of this are kyu players who say, “I will become a dan player this year!” And while this is a wonderful goal that many are pursuing as I write this post, I think BJ Fogg is correct in that this type of goal setting often leads to short term changes that rarely result in the goal becoming an actual reality. A simple example of this is when I tried to pursue a similar goal by overloading myself with books, problems, games, and so forth. The end result was me getting burned out and still not achieving my goal.

For those wondering why it is incorrect to frame our minds in such a fashion, the reason for this is simple: Goals like becoming a dan player is not as simple as training for a marathon. In the example of trying to run a marathon, it’s quite easy to strategize how one will achieve their desired goal. By breaking the training into distances that build up to the desired distance, one will be able to reach his/her goal. However, that is not the case for goals like “Become a dan player.”

Instead, what BJ Fogg tells us is that what we need to do is create tiny habits that contribute to the end goal. In the instance of new year resolutions, we all know that the most popular resolutions always has to do with getting healthier (whether it’s losing weight or getting in shape). So instead of grandiose goals like “I will lose 30 lbs.” or “I will have a body that looks like Khal Drogo (from Game of Thrones),” we would create habits like, “After I use the bathroom, I will do 2 pushups” or “Instead of eating donuts for breakfast 5 days a week, I will switch out one day for a bagel instead.”

So instead of starting out with a grandiose vision like “become a dan player in one year,” it is better to start out with habits that contribute to you getting stronger. An example would be, “I will be play one game a week and review it with a stronger player.” Another example might be, “I will watch one video of BadukTV a week.” Or if you’re looking for tiny habits to apply while playing, you can try, “Every time my opponent plays a move, I will check if I have any weak groups.” For those who are wondering, my first tiny habit will be, “Every time I use the restroom, I will do 10 tsumego problems!”

Slowly over time, these tiny habits will become easier and easier. Once they do, you can up the intensity (i.e., I will play two games a week) or add another tiny habit to your regimen. And then, before you know it, you’ll find that these tiny habits actually start to make your bigger goals start to become a reality. Or to put it another way:

“Plant a tiny seed in the right spot and it will grow without coaxing.” - BJ Fogg
Best of luck to everyone as you pursue your goals for 2014!