Healthy Habits / Life Coaching

You Can’t Have One Without the Other: The Gap and the Gain and Tiny Habits, Cultivating a culture of positivity as an antidote to negativity and pain.

Fast read: At my ripe young age of 69, I knew I wanted to popularize the perfect pairing of measuring backward and creating habit recipes as essential elements to growth and happiness. Both are immediately actionable and have the language to clarify exactly the type of choice one is making in the moment. Both are deceptively simple, powerful practices to help people feel successful. They can both be incorporated into the lives of people 2-102,  from any walk of life. What if, from this point forward, individuals, families, and communities embraced these positive change practices as a tradition, whose ripple effect would be a lasting legacy of empowerment for all? P.S. You can read this blog the Tiny Habits Way: After I make some tea, I will read one paragraph, then say “Interesting!” P.P.S. After you read this and want to have immediate access to Tiny Habit recipes, please scroll down.

Have you ever had an experience with something that you just knew you couldn’t keep to yourself? You knew it had to be shared? Author Benjamin Hardy knew he had to write a book to share Dan Sullivan’s GAP and GAIN concept outside the walls of the Strategic Coach® community. BJ Fogg had a dream that was the catalyst for him to share his ideas about behavior and Tiny Habits® with the world. I am compelled to share my belief, that I formulated in December 2021, that the practices of measuring backward and creating Tiny Habit recipes are complementary and necessary to have in one’s personal toolbox of life-enhancing strategies. First things first…

After I’m introduced to new vocabulary words, I will look them up. Then I’ll say, “I’ve just learned something new!”  Habit? The GAP? The GAIN? Tiny Habits? Celebration? Let me define them for you. 

Habit: Something that you do repeatedly without really thinking about it.

In mid-January, I sent the following three paragraphs to a few Habiteers for their consideration: From Badass books’ author, Jen Sincero:  

Procrastinating is a habit, being on time is a habit, eating well is a habit, indecision is a habit, success is a habit, being grouchy is a habit, staying broke is a habit, having crappy relationships is a habit—we carry out our behaviors on autopilot and often, unconsciously, accept them as “the way things are.” 

The good news is, when it comes to the habits that are making your life miserable, all you have to do is wake up to the fact that they are indeed merely habits, remember that you can change your habits, and then do what it takes to change them. Tah dah! Create new, positive habits.

Leave your excuses behind. Jump in the deep end and follow your fantasies.

The GAP and the GAIN: 

In 1994, Dan Sullivan, entrepreneurship expert and co-founder of Strategic Coach®, first formulated the concept of the GAP and the GAIN. The GAP is a toxic, fixed mindset that stops people from being happy and appreciating their lives. Happiness and success are reserved for your future, but never your present. You’re in the GAP every time you measure yourself or your situation against an ideal. The ideal could be in the form of a hope or expectation. It could be a comparison with something or someone else. It is human nature to be in the GAP. The antidote is to be in the GAIN, which is a growth mindset. 

You’re in the GAIN means you measure yourself backward, against where you were before.

Measuring Backward: You focus on any form of growth, progress, or gratitude. When you’re in the GAIN, you value all your experiences. GAINS—also known as wins—include all forms of progress, growth, and happiness—tangible accomplishments, experiences, relationships, lessons learned, etc. The GAIN enables you to see every experience you’ve had as a positive.

Tiny Habits®:  In 2007, Stanford behavior scientist, Dr. BJ Fogg found the key to decoding behavior; the Fogg Behavior Model, which describes how motivation, ability and prompt must come together at the same time for a behavior to occur. 

Tiny Habits method: A “Tiny Habit” is a behavior you do at least once a day, takes you less than 30 seconds, and requires little effort. Take a behavior you want to start doing, make it tiny or do a starter step. Find where it naturally fits in your life and nurture its growth. 

Tiny Habit recipes are made up of an anchor moment (something that you already do consistently and reliably), a new tiny behavior, and an instant celebration; A-B-C! After I…, I will B. Then, Celebrate! 

Celebration: A way to tell ourselves that we’ve done a good job. When we celebrate, we fire off positive emotions. Celebration helps us achieve; to go beyond the minimum requirements. It’s how we wire in behavior and make it automatic. Celebration can be physical movement, music, phrases, visualization, identity statements, or sound effects. 

Each GAIN is a celebration in and of itself. The more you do the activity of looking for GAINs, the better attitude you’ll have about yourself and others. You’ll find happiness in the here and now. You’ll feel like you’re always winning and making progress. This keeps you in a state of momentum and confidence. Each GAIN is a vote for a more resilient, happy, positive you!!

I was originally introduced to The Gap and the Gain by Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy in November of 2021, when I was in a Tiny Habits’ certified coaches’ meeting with author, BJ Fogg. His Tiny Habit recipes appear on page 84 of the aforementioned book and his testimonial appears on the jacket. One of the coaches had asked BJ if he could recommend a complementary follow-up read to Tiny Habits. BJ suggested The Gap and the Gain. He also shared with us that it is required reading for his Stanford students. 

After reading The Gap and the Gain myself, I was hooked! Luckily, I had read it right before taking on a project that BJ and the Tiny Habits team had introduced; that of creating a course for the Tiny Habits Academy. Some monetary incentives were offered to those of us who chose to create a course by the end of the month of December 2021. I was laser focused. I measured backward. I stayed in the GAIN. When I went into the GAP, I quickly pulled myself out. I can honestly say that for the first time in my life, I didn’t compare myself-or what I was creating-with others. It was liberating!

Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” (GAP) Jen Sincero, author of the Badass series of self-help books has said, “When you’re not addicted to feeling bad about yourself any more (GAP), you’ll change your habits.” (GAIN) Although President Roosevelt and Ms. Sincero never mentioned measuring backward or creating habit recipes, they most undoubtedly would have been proponents.

After reading Tiny Habits in 2020, I was drawn to how actionable and user-friendly BJ’s concepts were. All that BJ wrote about made so much sense to this personal growth hobbyist. I really took to planting new behaviors in my life via Tiny Habit recipes. BJ’s principles and values aligned with mine. At the time, I thought if I can plant seeds in the right places and increase my confidence and success momentum, anybody can.

I didn’t realize that my hobby and my career had set the stage for my success. If I was hoping to coach others in this chapter of my life, I would have to increase people’s awareness of their own value, positivity, identity, and purpose in some explicit way; Voila!,  The Gap and the Gain! The GAP and GAIN concepts lay the foundational focus and language for being able to choose positivity, purpose, and joy.

So many people are unable to move from where they are now to where they want to be because they have not been taught how to measure their progress. Over the last three years, I have met people from all walks of life and all ages who want to change the trajectory of at least one area of their lives. I have always been curious about why it takes some people so painstakingly long to move the needle. Now, I have the language to succinctly identify what is going on. 

People who exhibit a GAIN mindset revel in the simplicity and explicitness of how TH recipes are created and once created, acted upon. Because they consistently practice their recipes and celebrate, their habits become wired in quite quickly. If the anchor or the behavior aren’t working for them, they are flexible and play with ideas, troubleshooting and asking for help until they find a recipe that works for them. Their actions elicit vocabulary such as success, momentum, satisfaction, confidence, high self-esteem, enjoyment, and optimism.

When a coach observes a person who doesn’t have time, makes excuses, repeatedly forgets, or can’t figure out what’s going on to make their recipes work, they have met a person whose actions elicit feelings of failure, frustration, disappointment, guilt, and depression. It becomes clear that individuals are measuring themselves against future ideals, expectations, and comparisons. They’re in the GAP, a fixed mindset;  the belief that skills, intellect, and talents are set and unchangeable. There is an accompanying belief  that life is happening TO you, not FOR you. TH recipes will not be sustainable…yet!

We humans are so hard on ourselves! We are hard-wired to have a feeling brain that thinks! 

So many of us think things like change, confidence, and managing our emotions and stress responses should come naturally. But the truth is, we need to develop these skills just like any muscle or character trait. You can have control over your emotions by measuring backward. You learn to pause and choose to be calm, centered, and responsive (GAIN). You can’t be in two places at once. Every minute of every day, you get to choose to be in the GAP or the GAIN. Because of how we humans are hard-wired, all of us go into the GAP several times a day. However, if you consistently practice being in the GAIN, you can learn to shift your mindset and learn to convert negative experiences into lessons pretty quickly.

I have done my own field testing regarding the impact of the daily habit of writing one’s GAINS across a variety of age groups and geographical locations including the US, India, Canada, and Australia. I personally have practiced the habit of writing my GAINS for the day and three GAINS I hope to achieve the next day since December 2021. Everyone I have introduced The GAP and the GAIN to, discovers—in many cases over a period of time—the power of positivity. Little by little they come to find their happiness as a person and success momentum is dependent on what they measure themselves against. I wish I had been taught this skill growing up.

The idea for sharing nightly GAINS with three different groups of people, was born out of continuing to respond Y or N to three recipes that we had each created. I became bored of telling about our recipe progress because there was fodder for excuses and negativity around why something was done or not done, complaints about life, etc. That’s when I suggested we share nightly GAINS with each other instead of recipe responses. We would essentially create the habit of sharing GAINS. The person, or people you’re sharing your successes with could be called a success partner, an accountability partner, or a friend. The personal growth that I have witnessed from these individuals warms my heart!

As humans, we very easily forget or overlook how we’ve moved forward and what personal growth we’ve achieved. Measuring backward is about looking back at your day and taking the time to reflect on what you learned, what made you happy, an improvement you made in a relationship, that you did a habit recipe you said you’d do, that you made a healthy choice, that you took care of something be it a bill, a load of laundry, maybe you did something today that took a burden off the next day, maybe you practiced calming yourself down, etc. Each win, big or small, is important. The more you identify your daily wins, the greater opportunity you’ll find for even more!

The late psychologist and author Wayne Dyer said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” What you focus on changes the meaning you give to your life, which changes your emotions and eventually your state. Do you focus on what you have in your life? Or do you focus on what’s missing? You will either feel abundant or you feel a sense of lack, depending on what you focus on! Measuring progress and recoding your GAINS each day are powerful practices. Keep it simple, but be consistent! 

The powerful pull of our hard-wiring and our negativity bias (GAP) are always competing for attention, especially if we’ve not been taught to measure backward. The quality of your life is where you live emotionally. A true example follows.

One of my accountability partners said, after 52 days of sharing GAINS, “I guess sometimes it’s hard for me to think that I have anything worth mentioning.” I had to use a Disproving strategy to show her proof of her ability. I said, “You have shared 52×3 =156 things worth mentioning.” 

I calculated—because she’ 55—and said, ”For approximately 20,075 days before this you have not focused on daily GAINS. You’ve had a lot of practice being negative and hard on yourself. You now have 52 days of positivity to build on. 

Your new mantra could be I am a person who looks for positive things in my life (if this is something you want to be true). Then you’ll start looking for evidence of this—as you have for 52 days 💋

Big aspirations, like changing your job, cleaning your garage, writing a syllabus, are too overwhelming, but each day you might do a little something towards a goal—and that’s what you can write down as a GAIN.

The idea is to put in front of yourself who you want to be or the type of person you want to become; not who you think you should be, what others want you to be or do, but what do you want. There’s no right or wrong, but it’s becoming more aware that who you want to be and what you do with your time reflects evidence of that. Some examples are: I am a person who eats in a healthy way. I’m a person who wants a clean bedroom. You say whatever it is and you don’t have pile on a lot a lot of stuff; just one liners that will change over time. Then, as you go through your day, your brain will look for evidence of the person you say you want to be. Your brain will help you ignore the voice inside you that wants to distract you from who you say you want to be. Then, you might start incorporating TH recipes into your life to help you achieve what you say you want to do.

Hope this helps. I’m going to ask C (another success partner) for permission to share her GAINS from today just to give you more ideas. By the way, when I check in with you, C, or other people at night, I only list three gains, sometimes four. But when I write my gains in my journal at night, I might sometimes have 10 or 12, as I look for all the positive things that have happened, lessons I’ve learned, emotions I have, whatever, and write those down. I’m ending the day just releasing positivity. If something is bothering me that I’m still thinking about, I might record that at the bottom for my three gains I hope to achieve the next day. That’s where I might write to call somebody to apologize, for example. These three Gains I hope to achieve prime the pump for positivity as I sleep. I awake, filled with positivity and purpose. I never write more than three for the next day because then it becomes an overwhelming To Do list.

Another true example:

A week or so after a small accountability group started sharing GAINS instead of recording Y/N in response to whether or not we’d done our tiny behavior, one of the gals, wrote:

I can’t think of anything to share tonight. I said, I’m not being sarcastic, but you could write, 1) I woke up this morning! 2) I smelled the fresh air outside!  3) I breathed in deeply. I coached her that she didn’t need to go big or go home; that anything she had achieved or experienced that day had value.

That was 316 days ago! 

Another true example:

C, who I mentioned earlier, shared GAINS of loads of laundry and washing her hair for 7/10 months. As her confidence in herself and her feelings of success have continued to blossom, she is rewiring her brain for positivity. Her GAINS from the last three months have started to become more specific and include progress in areas of her life such as work, financial, and relationships.

Recent comments from success partner participants include:

  • I am so proud of myself for finding a way to keep track of all my bills! CH
  • I was prepared for the meeting today, stood up for myself, and asked for what I needed. CH
  • I am so grateful Val came up with our 3 grateful things a day practice. Even in the days you feel low, it creates a shift, and the light gets in. DH
  • Trying to quit worrying about other people’s opinions. Forgiving myself and having my own back is a new concept. DH
  • Worked on redirecting worries. LG
  • Things are so hard every day right now. It’s a challenge to think of GAINS, but they are there. LG

My comment to her: SO PROUD OF YOU for seeing your GAINS in the midst in chaos…like seeing the sun emerge from the clouds! You are empowering yourself—and your girls!! Fantastic!

From January 24-29, I watched master life coach Tony Robbins give of himself full out during this year’s Unshakeable Challenge. As I was planning this blog, I had an epiphany that really brings the classic combination of measuring backward and TH recipes full circle. Tony’s 3 Keys to Breakthrough are State, Story, and Strategy. Most people start looking for a Strategy—like TH recipes. Many people can’t appreciate the value of formulating recipes because Strategy is the How. 

Strategy comes after the What and the Why. The What is your mental emotional state that controls everything. You can change your State easily with music, voice, and physiology. Your Story is your beliefs; the meaning you give your experiences. It’s your Why. Change your Story, Change your life. I believe that measuring backward, looking for your GAINS each day is your State (What) and your Story (Why).

First change your State and your Story and then look for the Strategy (the TH recipes).

Measuring backward and tiny habit recipes are incredibly simple and transformative practices (GAIN). Consistency is key. Practitioners feel like we’re always winning and making progress. This keeps us in a state of success momentum, confidence, and positivity! Win-win!

Since we humans cannot be in the GAP and in the GAIN at the same time, please join me in being a role model (GAIN) for social change. Every day we are surrounded by the reality of unrest, unkindness, and upset (GAP). Each of us has a chance-every day-to pause and choose to be in the GAIN. For when we are in the GAIN, all kinds of transformations are possible and sustainable.

Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” It’s time to do better. What a befitting time to share this classic combination: measuring backward and Tiny Habit recipes!

Tiny Habit Recipes

A few of these recipes include the Celebration.

 If they do not, don’t forget to celebrate after each behavior you do!

The Miracle Habit: After I open my eyes in the morning, I will put my hands over my heart and say out loud, “What a miracle I’m still alive.” and then smile. (Contributed by Peiming Sun)

The Maui Habit: After I wake up and put my feet on the floor, I will say, It’s going to be a great day!” (Contributed by BJ Fogg)

After I wake up feeling puny, I will say, “It’s going to be a great day somehow! —BJ Fogg

After I get ready for bed, I will pull out my journal and write one GAIN for the day. 

After I write a GAIN for the day, I will write three GAINs I hope to achieve the next day.

After I look in the mirror, I will say one GAIN in my life.

After I push the microwave timer for hot water, I will move until the timer goes off. 

After I feel discouraged (GAP), I will say, “Why is this happening FOR me?” 

After I experience a loss or disappointment, I will say, “Life happens for me, not to me.”

After I react (GAP) to some person or event, I will say, “Slow down. Pause. Breathe. Ask myself, “How do I want to respond?” (GAIN)

After I feel discouraged, I will say, “I am a person whose life has design flaws, but not character flaws.

After I decide on the identity I’d like to assume, I will look for a role model who exhibits that. This could actually be a one time behavior.

After I feel I’m blocked, I will call my role model and ask for help.

After I’m feeling stuck, I will ask myself, “What would my role model do?”

I will buy myself a copy of The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy and put it out where I can see it several times a day. This is a one time behavior.

After I feel life is happening to me, I will pick up my copy of The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse.

After something negative happens (GAP), I will convert it into a lesson (GAIN).

When I am in the GAP, I will say, “I AM ANY POSITIVE IDENTITY OR PURSUIT” with volume, intensity, and movement.

After I hear myself making excuses, I will ask myself, “What is making it hard to take action?

After I go into the GAP, I will say, “Shift to the GAIN.”

More recipes will follow at a later date.