What Can One Person Do?
30 Days of Climate Action and Inspiration
New habits start small. Experts recommend introducing a new tiny habit every thirty days... like this.
Here are my grandkids learning to take their first steps. Not long after this, they were RUNNING. Now they are skipping, doing backflips and climbing trees.
They didn't know it then, but these baby steps opened up a whole new world for them. Today, they can imagine playing varsity basketball or hiking Mt. Lassen. Anything is possible.
What does this have to do with reversing global warming? Turns out, a lot.
Drawdown shows us that reversing global warming is possible, yet the required change to human behavior and systems seems massive from our vantage point today.
This presents us with a crisis of imagination. A spiritual crisis... one that can be solved with a change in habits. This requires baby steps.
What do I mean?
Today, most people are sitting on the sidelines out of overwhelm, apathy, despair, cynicism or worse. Even though we need to get connected and take action together, many cannot imagine how to do this.
Did you take 30 uninterrupted minutes to connect with yourself, nature or others yesterday?
If you did, congratulations! But, if you did not, that's okay,
Frankly, I assigned a confusing, complicated action. Was I asking you to connect with yourself? Was I asking you to connect with nature? Was I asking you to connect with others? And 30 minutes! whoa--that's a big ask.
Behavioral change expert and Stanford University Professor Tim Fogg (tinyhabits.com) says that there are three things that need to be in place to change behavior in any given moment.
1. A Trigger
If you did not take the 30 minutes, chances are one or more of the above was missing.
Trigger: Perhaps you read the email at the end of the day just before bed, so 30 minutes was out of the question - the email was an insufficient trigger for you to take this action.
Ability: Maybe you had no idea what I meant... and thus did not have the ability to do it.
Motivation: Or maybe the email was insufficient motivation--it did not seem as important to you as other things you were doing.
Professor Fogg's studies also demonstrate that there are only three ways to actually change behavior:
Option A. Have an epiphany
Option B. Change your environment (what surrounds you)
Option C. Take baby steps
Option A is possible, but rare, so let's set that aside for a moment. Option B is possible, but can be a bigger challenge and takes much more work.
That leaves Option C - Baby steps.
Why do "baby steps" work so well in changing personal behavior? Consistent long term change can happen best if we become the "type of person who does____" New habits start small. Meditate for 3 minutes today. Floss one tooth a day. Do one push-up a day. Connect with nature for 2 minutes a day.
Consistency is key. Want to begin an exercise program? Start with a ridiculously easy baby step. Walk for 2 minutes a day. right after breakfast. Do it every day. Of course, by day three, if you are like most people, you'll be walking for more than two minutes.
The "tiny habits" method demonstrates the real problem to change is inertia... If we can overcome initial inertia with what Fogg calls "a trigger" after 65 days, we'll have a new habit.
Experts recommend introducing a new tiny habit every thirty days.
A "trigger" is something you already do or something that happens regularly. Examples:
- the morning alarm goes off
- You pee
- You brush your teeth
- Your mobile phone rings
- You see a negative political post on social media
Doing this also demonstrates the power of changing the story, even in small ways. If I walk for two minutes a day, I am now "the kind of person who exercises daily." Voila!
We'll learn why working on our own habits and well-being is important to reverse global warming tomorrow.
So today, with the same goal in mind (connecting) let's try a much more specific action.
Find a trigger--let's say you just finished brushing your teeth, At that moment, take one minute to connect with yourself. Just breathe.
If you choose, make that small moment of self-connection your new tiny habit. Or select another self-care action that is important to you..
Commit to this new tiny habit for now and in a week notice what happens!
Denise Rushing is an author, blogger, and environmental designer She is passionate about human-scale solutions to global challenges and creating a more beautiful future.