Creating Midlife Shine with Tiny Habits®

April 14, 2024

Creating Midlife Shine with Tiny Habits®

May 29, 2023

Chip’s Note: Ellen is a joy to hangout with and I appreciate that she wrote this without any prompting regarding how amazing my friend BJ Fogg is. If you have a habit that needs some attention, I think you’ll like this guest post.

In my mid-50s, I had hit the bottom of the U-Curve of Happiness. A late bloomer Boomer, I married at 39 and had my daughter at 41. Midlife joy! Yet fifteen years later I felt disconnected, sure that my “best” years were behind me, with no sense of how to alter that trajectory. Then I happened to catch a conference session where someone presented a unique new method for creating positive change. Stanford researcher BJ Fogg, PhD had designed email-based coaching for what he called Tiny Habits, “the small changes that change everything.“ 

Small + Simple + Specific + “Shine” = More Lasting Change


By the following week I was enrolled. With time, those new habit recipes gave me the sense of control and optimism to begin rising up the U-curve again. Understanding the dance between motivation and ability kept my aspirations small and specific; the celebrations of my tiny successes made me more effective at many aspects of my life. MEA didn’t yet exist, so I’d never heard of “midlife editing” but Tiny Habits empowered me to begin doing just that. 

Our brains have a built-in survival mechanism called negativity bias. We interpret change as a threat. But as we become skilled at crafting new behaviors and making them into automatic habits, we can rewire this negative reflex. Celebration - using positive emotions to create new automatic behaviors - is key. BJ Fogg has named that feeling of success “shine.” And that’s just how it feels when you can develop an effective approach towards life’s changes. Tiny Habits helped super-charge my efforts to become more adaptable and expand my sense of purpose. 

Pearl Habits

No aspect of Tiny Habits has been more powerful in my life than the Pearl Habit. Just as an oyster creates a precious object from an invading irritation, we can transform negative life events into opportunities for growth. We can ask ourselves, “What good might come of this?” I’ve learned to reframe required behavior changes following the diagnosis of an age-related condition. I see it as an opportunity to build muscle strength and to stay mindfully tiny when I consume alcohol, caffeine and salt.  

Habits Skills Lead to Identity Shifts

As we become more skilled at creating our habits, we can eventually shift even our identities. “I’m the kind of person who can _<insert aspiration here>_.” It was a relief to the late bloomer in me to hear BJ Fogg say that Tiny Habits offers an antidote to the “Go Big or Go Home” messaging that surrounds us. The ever-present call to Go Big can fill us elders with the sense that we’re slowly losing our “place in the race.“ Tiny Habits give us access to a growth mindset, to feel successful at any point in life.

After seven years of practicing Tiny Habits on my own, I decided to get certified in the method and share those skills, particularly with those of us reimagining the second half of life. It definitely serves as part of my ikigai. My favorite quote comes from a 20th Century Polish poet, who said, “Youth is the gift of nature but age is a work of art.” While we may no longer be able to take certain things for granted, Tiny Habits is a way to stay creative and spread beauty as part the extra care we need for our bodies, minds and spirits. When I think of that, I feel shine!

You can learn to create midlife shine, too! BJ Fogg will be guest faculty at MEA Santa Fe for “Tiny Habits, Massive Changes” July 15-20, 2024.

- Ellen

Ellen Khalifa works with behavior change for healthspan and wellspan. She is certified as a Tiny Habits coach, also coaching for Thrive Global,  Arianna Huffington’s well-being and behavior change platform. She also consults on behavior change content for digital wellness and AgeTech products.

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