Monday Morning Greetings 2024 #14 – How a Podcast Saved My Life

April 1st, 2024

Not really, but I think listening to one recently may have significantly improved my life. Here’s the story:


The non-stop flight from New Delhi to NYC is grueling. The passion of fast paced traveling and the ordeal of being confined to a less than ideal seat does not create goodness nor enlightened consciousness, to say the least. I resist the lure of the entertainment offered on the touch screen, but I needed some distraction. In desperation, I turned on the screen and looked for a kosher podcast. I found one—a wisdom one. I want to relate what I heard, but I didn’t even remember the name of the podcast, nor the person being interviewed who had impressed me. I was, however, able to find his name by searching some catchy phrase that I remembered in the title of the book he wrote, Tiny Habits. Professor B.J. Fogg has dedicated his life to the study of behavior modification, focusing on favorably developing good habits, the things we do in a regular and repeated way to improve our life. His analysis was brilliant and immediately applicable. A summary is below and then a link to his Ted Talk.[1]


B.J. Fogg has found that the most important thing in developing habits is making small commitments or tiny habits instead of proposing some significant change. He explains what he found to be the three foundations of developing a successful habit: motivation, ability, and a prompt or trigger.


Motivation is self-explanatory—the degree to which you believe or have reason to achieve a proposal. Ability is one’s capability to achieve one’s goal, and a prompt or trigger is an event that causes something to start.


B.J. Fogg discovered that, in general, the more difficult one’s commitment to implement change, the less one’s motivation is when it comes the time to do it. As a result, we rarely succeed in creating a habit when what we want to achieve is too challenging. Makes sense. How many times have we proposed some change in our life and failed because we found the task to laborious and our motivation consequently waning? Therefore, Dr. Fogg suggests that to develop a habit we should keep our motivation high by proposing easily attainable goals that facilitate success in developing a regular and repeated activity. Once the habit has been regularized, the intensity of the habit can then naturally increase.


One more thing is needed to solidify a habit: a prompt to remind one to do it. He defined a prompt as something that triggers a new behavior, which is best done by having the new habit follow an existing activity that is already being done regularly. I will now give an example from Dr. Fogg’s own life that demonstrates how brilliant and effective his technique is.


Dr. Fogg’s doctor told him that he needed to regularly exercise to maintain his health. He had been trying for years, but he set rigid goals and therefore lacked the motivation to implement them regularly. He then applied his three-fold technique to the problem. He vowed that every time after he passed water, he would do two push-ups, which gave him both the ability and motivation to succeed. The trigger was also obviously there, because going to the bathroom many times a day reminded him of his small commitment. Having been habituated to regular exercise, it was now easy to naturally increase his commitment. He now does almost two hundred push-ups a day regularly and repeatedly.


I was inspired by Dr. Fogg’s talk and practical system of behavior modification. I therefore decided to also implement his system in my own life by adding one habit a week. I started with the most important thing: reading the Bhāgavatam. It’s not that I don’t study śāstra. I am now studying and teaching Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta and writing on the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, but I felt that to further nourish my relationship with Śrīla Prabhupāda I needed to engage with the sound vibration of his purports daily. I thus decided that every day when I get up I would read for fifteen minutes. The trigger was obviously there because one rises daily, and the motivation was also there because fifteen minutes isn’t a lot. It works and I now read the Bhāgavatam every day for at least fifteen minutes, but usually more. Next week I will work on exercise, and the following week taking my vitamins, which I always seem to forget to do. I have long list of habits to implement and improve my life. It’s exciting.


And that’s how a podcast saved my life or at least improved it!


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdKUJxjn-R8


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