“Researchers have figured out how to stop people from habitually overeating and biting their nails. They can explain why some of us automatically go for a jog every morning and are more productive at work, while others oversleep and procrastinate. There is a calculus, it turns out, for mastering our subconscious urges. For companies like Target, the exhaustive rendering of our conscious and unconscious patterns into data sets and algorithms has revolutionized what they know about us and, therefore, how precisely they can sell.” – How Companies Learn Your Secrets | The New York Times
Habits are important… yada, yada, yada. How many times before have you heard people talking about changing your habits and all? A million times – and that’s just in January. But when it comes to numbers, how much control does your habits have over you?
Target and other retailers send massive amounts of money on statisticians to help change your shopping habits. The New York Times article focuses on changing the shopping habits of pregnant women. Using different statistical methods to alter its customers’ shopping habits, Target grew it’s revenue from $44 billion in 2002 to $67 billion in 2010.
It’s no doubt that habits are powerful but I think we underestimate them. From what we buy to who we vote for, habits shape our subconscious, which ultimately makes us do things without ever thinking about it because they’re routine. Do you really think about driving your car down the Interstate? Or do you set the cruise control, crank up the music, and just drive? Formed over years of doing the same thing over and over, driving becomes automatic. You get lost in a conversation with a passenger and pay no attention to the buildings your passing. It’s not a bad thing – it’s just a habit.
Cultivating the right habits is the key.
The best part of that article –
“Habits aren’t destiny — they can be ignored, changed or replaced. But it’s also true that once the loop is established and a habit emerges, your brain stops fully participating in decision-making. So unless you deliberately ﬁght a habit — unless you ﬁnd new cues and rewards — the old pattern will unfold automatically.”
You are your habits. If you do something habitually that you don’t like, you have to fight to change it. Losing weight, eating healthier, writing that book, or whatever, those goals all center around the habits you have right now. You just need the right habits in place to finish them.