Orenda Week 4 Tiny Habits

In Week 3 of Orenda’s group session, students thought, reflected and shared about what their core values are. Students participated in an activity called the 6 Lives Exercise, invented by Professor Richard Shell at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. In this activity, students read about the lives of six different professionals, each of whom exemplified a different dimension of “success” in life and ranked these profiles from “most successful” to “least successful.” They shared with each other why they ranked the profiles they way they did, revealing things that are important to them.

Building on top of this activity, this week we worked with students to turn their values into actions. Week 4 of Orenda focused on helping students identify habits that they could build to create the life that they wanted to live.

Pictured left: Students listening attentively at our Week 4 session

Why you don’t need as much motivation as you thought

When I was younger I thought that I needed more motivation and self-discipline in order to achieve what I wanted. Because I saw myself as very lazy (I would procrastinate homework until the last minute, cramming in as much video game time as possible), I always thought that my lack of motivation was a huge barrier to success. In many ways that’s still true. The absence of motivation and self-discipline is likely to hurt a person’s chances at achieving their goals.

But I had never considered the possibility that there may be other ways of making myself get off the computer to do work. Ways that required little to no motivation. Does that sound impossible to you? It certainly would have to me if you had told me when I was a teenager.

And yet there is a way to become more productive, effective and deliberate with how we spend our time without relying on incredible amounts of willpower.

This is what we wanted to teach our students this week.

How do we build successful habits?

One of the most powerful forces that shape our behavior does so subconsciously. These are our habits. They exist beneath the surface of our conscious mind to influence our behaviors anddirect our mental patterns all the while taking nearly no mental effort. Bestselling books have been written on the science and patterns of habit formation and how they shape our everyday lives.

Think about it. There are a million small things that we do throughout the day, every day, without exerting any noticeable effort. Each morning I brush my teeth, shower, floss and take my vitamins. I then get dressed for work, make and eat breakfast and then record in an iPhone app my weight and how much I’ve eaten. Throughout the morning, I don’t even notice myself taking these actions; they just happen. And that’s the power of habits. They are the invisible lines of code that program many of our daily behaviors.

If we can teach students how to harness the power of habits, then we could sidestep the issue of low motivation and still end up helping students use their time wisely and productively.

Stanford Professor BJ Fogg’s research on Tiny Habits

Stanford Professor BJ Fogg gave a TEDx talk in 2012 that has since garnered nearly 1 million views on YouTube. In the talk, he breaks down the recipe behind how to build sustainable, positive habits without needing massive doses of motivation. In his talk and writing he shares this simple equation:

Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Trigger​​

If we want to build new behaviors, and we also don’t have high motivation, we can simply look for tasks that are easy to do (high ability) and are based off of an existing trigger behavior. BJ Fogg calls these tasks “Tiny Habits.”

For example if I wanted to build a new habit of doing my homework every time I came home from school, it would take me an enormous amount of motivation in order to even begin. But instead of trying to build this habit from the start, I could instead start by building the “Tiny Habit” of taking out my homework from my backpack and putting it on the table. I don’t have to start doing them, I just need to get into the routine of placing them in front of me. Afterwards, I can play video games, eat food or do whatever I want to. This action would take me nearly no time or effort.

Pictured above: Orenda co-founder and coach

Brandon Lee shares BJ Fogg’s research to students

After a week or two of building this habit, it’ll probably become ingrained in my routine. It’ll become as frictionless as brushing my teeth. That’s when we build on top of it. Now I can establish another “Tiny Habit” on top. Perhaps that means doing just the first problem on my easiest assignment. Or perhaps I now simply organize my work in the order that I want to do them in.

By slowly layering “Tiny Habits” on top of one another we can build sustainable, transformative behaviors that are each individually easy, but when taken in composite, end up dramatically transforming our lives.

This week in Orenda, each student learned BJ Fogg’s technique and came up with at least 6 different “Tiny Habits” that would help them achieve the goals they set last week. Afterwards, they picked one to focus on this coming week. Their coaches were made aware of what the students chose so that their coaches could check in and see how much progress was made during 1 on 1 meetings.

Students chose habits ranging from doing 5 push ups each day to just opening up their backpack when they arrived home. Each student committed to trying their “Tiny Habit” for one week and reporting back their progress so that their coaches can work with them to come up with plans to build on their ideas.

Next Week

During Week 4, students took their big life visions and turned them into bite-sized “Tiny Habits”they could practice. Students went from the big picture to the tactical implementation that would help them achieve their goals.

Our students deeply enjoyed our session, rating it the best session we’ve had so far. We are happy and proud to see our students learning about research and ideas that can help them achieve their goals and are excited to see where that takes them.

Next week, we will have a private invite-only session for parents, where we will be inviting a panel of young professionals and speakers to share ideas with our parents about how they can more effectively build a strong relationship with their child.


If you are interested in learning more about participating in Orenda Academy, please fill out this link: Spring 2018 Interest Form.

We are also holding a limited number of spots for Spring 2018 virtual coaching where coaches work online with students located outside of the Bay Area. Please indicate if you are interested.

You can also email us at carl@orendaacademy.com.