Behavior Change: Skinny Dipping for 31 Days

by Barry Hill

behavior change

Yes, this might be a slightly odd blog post title for us, and believe it or not, we’re not just arbitrarily using it to get your attention!

Dr. BJ Fogg’s Behavior Change Design

Last month at the 4th Annual Corporate Wellness Conference, we attended a presentation given by Dr. BJ Fogg, Director, Stanford Behavior Design Lab.  He had a great way of simplifying how and why people behave and in this case, change the way they behave…hopefully for the better!

Dr. Fogg boils down the cause of a behavior change to the acronym, M.A.T.:

– Motivation

– Ability

– Trigger

“Put hot triggers in the path of motivated people.”

(So once you start reading, Inspire your FitBehaviorbetter keep those running shoes close by, so you’ll be triggered to take action!)

Keeping M.A.T. in mind, consider the “Fogg Behavior Grid”:


The colors represent a type of behavior:


Green = Do New Behavior       

Blue = Do Familiar Behavior     

Purple = Increase Behavior Intensity     



Gray = Decrease Behavior Intensity      

Black = Stop Existing Behavior


The shapes represent time/frequency:

Dot: one time

Span: period of time

Path: from now on

(More information on the grid here.)

Obviously there’s quite a bit of information here, but for this post, let’s focus on Purple Span Behaviorincrease the intensity or duration of a behavior change not forever but for a period of time.  Dr. Fogg shared a memorable example of purple span behavior.  And so we go back to the 31 days of skinny dipping!  He talks about a river near his house and the theraputetic effects he experiences skinny dipping at night.  He decides, “I’m going to increase this activity for a specific amount of time–every day in the month of July.”

He crosses off each day on the calendar after he successfully completes his goal for the day (positive reinforcement with acknowledging the daily successes–believe it or not, there’s gratification in that two-second action of crossing off that day on the calendar!).   As he reaches day 14 and 15, had he just set the goal of increasing the frequency of his skinny dipping, it’s possible he could have felt somewhat satisfied having gone successfully for a couple weeks.  HOWEVER, he’s not satisfied since he set a specific duration of 31 days of behavior change.

Though skinny dipping may not be included in your current fitness goals, though it’s great exercise and more so if you’re forced to make a run for cover, you can see how the purple span behavior is applicable.  Maybe you are currently going to the gym about twice a week.  Make a commitment to go three times a week for a month.  Maybe you want to increase your water intake…decide to drink 36oz of water before noon, everyday this week.  You get the idea!

What’s your purple span behavior plan?  Feel free to share!


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