85 - Habit-building 13: The power of a motivation ritual and how TikTok does it



There’s a TikTok commercial doing the rounds. You may have seen it. It’s called Mystery Apartment Girl.

Most ads pitch you the product. They say what it is, who it is for, when it can be used. This one does none of that. None of that matters for this ad to work.

And that’s because it isn’t interested in persuading you to change your habits. What it does better than any ad I can remember plays out in two parts.

Part 1: It brings out the why behind any habit.

The cause of habits, as James Clear says, is to satisfy basic needs. Find food, love, acceptance, certainty. These needs are common to all. They are context-independent.

The MAG commercial establishes this context-independence by answering the question: Why do humans share experiences?

How it does so elevates the commercial to the status of onboarding material for aliens looking to understand us.

Part 2: It tells you no matter how you connect with fellow humans, TikTok just makes it better.

TikTok takes you from mundane to interesting. The next time you’re tongue-tied or hustling make an impression, you only need TikTok. It can get a conversation going anywhere. It provides the activation energy for a positive change to happen.

There’s something else that has a similar effect. It’s called a motivation ritual. Think of it as a pre-habit ritual that _automatically _gets you into a desired state of mind. It is what you associate with something enjoyable, so that whenever you do it, you slip into a state of enjoyment.

James Clear outlines a simple 3-step process:

  • Find something you love doing: hugging your child, playing video games, sketching.
  • Do a small ritual before the happy habit. Take three deep breaths and smile. This creates a positive association between the ritual and the happy state.
  • Now paste that ritual to any part of your day to access that state of mind. Now _whenever _you take three deep breaths and smile, your mind relaxes. The ritual becomes the cue for your brain to switch to a happy state.

It may sound simple. That doesn’t make it any less effective. Next time you find yourself getting into a habitual negative state, do your motivation ritual. It is your cue for feeling happy.

Just like TikTok reframes the association we have about connecting with humans (it’s exciting, not daunting!), a motivation ritual does it for a bad habit (it’s easy to beat).

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