connect-dots-t-rex-countingWhen I was a kid, I used to love passing the time with books of connect the dots images/

I would take my pencil, start at #1 and draw a line to #2, #3 and so on, in numerical order, until I run out of numbers, revealing a picture of a smiling dinosaur.

If I was so inclined, I would then color in my new T-Rex.

I never failed to complete my dinosaurs, dragons, or spaceships, no matter how many numbers it took to connect.

I knew how to count, and that’s all that mattered.

Last week I read about some research by BJ Fogg, director of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University that hit home for me.

Fogg has discovered that the most effective way to make lasting change, to replace bad habits with good habits, is to set the bar ridiculously LOW.

Why does starting a new exercise regime fail, like clockwork?

Every year January rolls around and people resolve to “get in shape” so they dive headlong into a new exercise, so revved up that they give 110% to their workout, pledging to exercise every day.

Invariably, they burn out mentally, emotionally and physically; they overdo it and fall right back down to where they started.

According to Fogg, you can think too big.

A more effective, sustainable plan it so think small, what the Japanese call kaizen, small changes for continuous improvement.

For example, Fogg made himself a goal of doing 2 push-ups every time he goes into the bathroom (the place is his cue for his habit). That’s it. Anyone can do 2 push-ups.

By making such a small change, we fly under the radar of our own resistance to change.

2 push-ups is non-threatening, and easily doable. His brain relents and says,”fine, 2 push-ups, then back to the couch.”

The beauty is that once you get moving, it’s easy to keep going —positive inertia.

Fogg reports that he often does many more than his 2 push-up goal. His 2 push-up goal is a strategy to get him started, and once he gets moving, well why not crank out a few more push-ups while he’s down on the bathroom floor?

I can attest to the power of Fogg’s research in my own life.

Years ago, I stumble upon the same strategy — If I just did one thing, one little thing, then added other incremental changes, eventually they would all add up to huge change.

I had a pull-up bar in my bedroom door. Each time I went into the room, I’d do a pull-up. Yes, I started with one, but after a few weeks the numbers grew so that I had to start changing the types of pull-ups I did to keep challenging myself.

I created for myself what I called Connect the D.O.T.S.

The D.O.T.S. stands for Do One Thing Strategy, and it’s never failed me yet.

The name came from those old connect the dots games:

  1. The end is certain, you can see it just by looking at the page. You know there’s a picture in there somewhere.
  2. The completed pictures is broken up into a simple follow the numbers pattern; the path is clear, you just have to follow it.
  3. While you know the final image, you focus on your next number, or next step, that’s it, done!
  4. Celebrate your Success!

Try it and tell me if it works as well for you.