It’s Just Habit…

Mar 01

How many times have you heard someone explain their healthy behavior—jogging after work or taking a multivitamin every morning for example—as “habit”?  Do you often wonder how your family members, peers, and coworkers form these healthy habits but you struggle to permanently adopt them as your own?

I am one of those people who is often awe struck by a friend’s diligence in going to the gym every morning, or a coworker’s ability to pass up a cupcake from the bakery below our office, no matter how appealing it may look.

When I read a review of Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What Do in Life and Business, I immediately downloaded a copy onto my kindle, hoping to get some guidance on how to create healthier habits both in my personal life, but also as a marketer working with clients to harness the power of behavior change to encourage individuals to change—or develop new—habits to live healthier lives.

In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg exposes the science behind habits; how we form them, how we can change them, and how we keep them for the long term. He exposes habits adopted by successful companies, professional athletes, and religious leaders.

After reading only a few of Duhigg’s case studies, we find commonalties between all of the stories showing us the role Duhigg’s described “Habit Loop” plays in healthy/effective behaviors. He hypothesizes that every habit works the same way triggered by a “cue”, like a time of day or daily activity, or emotion like boredom or stress. After we experience a “cue,” or trigger, he explains that we partake in a routine behavior in response. Ultimately, our routine, or our behavior, results in a “reward” completing the loop.

If we can “diagnose” our habits and find out what reward we are ultimately craving, we can assess what cues and routines are getting us there. We can then in a sense change our habits by interrupting the loop—altering it.

This book is an absolutely fantastic read especially for those of us whose business is behavior change. Knowing our audience inside and out—their location, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and income is not enough anymore. We have to look deeper into the habits of our audiences. What are their cues to conducting certain behaviors and how can we either reinforce or change their routines? How do we alter the loop of an individual or group of individuals for social good?

This entry was posted on Friday, March 1st, 2013 at 6:06 pm and is filed under Social Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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