Formally speaking, Shaping is the use of reinforcement of successive approximations of a desired behavior. Specifically, when using a shaping technique, each approximate desired behavior that is demonstrated is reinforced, while behaviors that are not approximations of the desired behavior are not reinforced.
Put simply, when working towards a larger goal, shaping breaks the larger goal into successive steps. For shaping to be most effective we need to:
1. Determine the steps required to reach a goal.
2. Work out where to start. This is often where we currently are!
3. Only move on to the next step when the current step has been achieved and is likely to remain a habit.
4. Take it slowly. Positive momentum is important!!!
5. Reward yourself (even by labeling or noticing successes).