GreenPath Behaviors Preview

By the Stanford Behavior Wizard Team


An overview of GreenPath behaviors and techniques for achieving them.

GreenPath Behavior Overview

Green Path BehaviorIf you want someone to commit to a new behavior for the long term, you are seeking a Green Path Behavior.

Examples include:

  • Health: Agree to consume flax seed oil each morning, from now on.
  • Environment: Resolve to always use fluorescent light bulbs.
  • Commerce: Decide to buy a new brand of toothpaste from now on.
  • Relationships: Get married.

Green Path Behaviors imply a life change. The change can be big, like marriage. Or it can be small, like deciding to bring your own bags to grocery store. Either way, Green Path Behaviors have two challenges: commitment (agreeing to the change) and fulfillment (behaving in new ways).

In our view, the fulfillment part is much like a Blue Path Behavior (because the behavior will soon become familiar). So here we focus on the unique aspect of Green Path Behaviors: Getting people to commit to a lifelong change.

As with the 14 other behavior change types. Green Path Behaviors are the result of three elements: Motivation, Ability, and Triggers. As the Fogg Behavior Model describes, you must Trigger the behavior when the person is both Motivated and Able to perform it. The specific steps

1. Boost motivation (if needed)
2. Enhance ability by making the commitment act simple
3. Issue the trigger when #1 and #2 are in optimal states.

For example,

  1. Couple the trigger with an existing habit
  2. Increase the perceived ability (self-efficacy) by making the behavior easier to do
  3. Reduce demotivation by making the behavior more familiar
The challenge is in influencing the target audience to perform the behavior and then getting them to repeat it, from today onward. Green Path relates to forming new habits.
Example: Daily visit to a new website
If you’ve created a new website and want people to visit it each day from now on, you are seeking a Green Path behavior from your audience. This is the goal of many websites, but few succeed.
A look at how the new website succeeded in creating daily habits can be instructive: (analysis by Yin Yin Wu @ Stanford University)

Example: Daily consumption of flax seed oil
Green Path behaviors can be difficult to achieve. But they are not impossible. One key is to simplify the behavior. Consider the goal of influencing people to consume flax seed oil each day. For most people, this is a Green Behavior. That means it has unknowns. Most people will not know how to find flax seed oil in the market, or how to consume it once they have some.
You can make the behavior easier to do by explaining where flax seed oil is kept in the grocery store (it’s in the refrigerated section!) and by giving suggestions how to use this oil (pour one teaspoon over a serving of cooked vegetables). Instructions and simplification are vital for most Green Path Behaviors.
Most new habits are not achieved in one step or one intervention. They require a sequence of behaviors. Mapping out this sequence of behaviors is not so difficult. For example, in the flax seed example, one sequence might be this:
  • Write down “buy flax seed” on a shopping list
  • Buy flax seed at grocery
  • Store oil in fridge at home
  • Put 1 tsp oil on next serving of cooked vegetables
From this sequence it becomes clear that one early step is influencing people to buy flax seed oil. This sequence also gives a key insight: cooking vegetables can be the trigger for consuming flax seed oil. Note that you can form this new habit by building this connection into one’s minds — Cooking vegetables leads to removing the flax seed oil from the fridge, in preparation to apply it.

Other areas of intervention might include a wider range of how to use flax seed oil, either in video recipes or simple suggestions that come via SMS.

Beyond making the behavior simple to do, the key to Green Path Behaviors is triggering the behavior. Note that at least in this case, the key is not increasing motivation.

To review: The challenge to achieving most Green Path Behaviors is making the behavior simple to do and finding a way to trigger it.


About Resource Guides

Our Stanford team created these Resources Guides to help people working on behavior change projects. We can make it easier for you to:

1. Learn about a specific type of behavior change

2. Create solutions for achieving that behavior

In the past, most designers and researchers guessed at solutions for changing behavior. And frankly most attempts failed. Today, rather than guessing at solutions, people who use our Resource Guides will have clear guidance.

Our Stanford team will continue to improve each of the 15 Resource Guides.  We welcome your input.

BJ Fogg, Ph.D. (
Director, Persuasive Tech Lab @ Stanford University



The Behavior Guides were created in 2010 and we are no longer updating or selling them.

There is still lots of useful information in these guides. If you’re interested in obtaining a specific guide, please email us ( and let us know in which guide you’re interested and why. We may be able to share a copy with you.

We hope you’ll also benefit from our more recent behavior design projects at:

–BJ Fogg, Ph.D. (
Director, Persuasive Tech Lab @ Stanford University


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