Did you know that your supermarket loyalty card isn’t just a nice way to give you discounts and keep your business? It’s an information gathering device, so that retailers can track your habits and sell you more stuff. These days it’s likely that your favorite stores know your habits better than you do. In this post, we’ll explore some crucial things they know that can help you. Understanding your habits is a powerful tool that can help you quit the bad ones and create the good ones.
An amazing amount of money is spent by large corporations to understand you better. They know the cues that trigger your habitual routines and the rewards you’re looking for. They know where you go, what time of day, and what for. From all the info they gather, they create a portrait of who you are as a consumer. Armed with this information, they offer you incentives that match your desires, so you’ll buy more of their products.
Interestingly, this is exactly the information that can help you if you’re trying to quit a bad habit or establish a good one. You’ll be much more successful if you understand the cues that trigger your behavior and the rewards you’re really seeking. If you understand each of these components—the cue, the behavioral routine, and the anticipated reward—you will be able to step into your habits and design them to work for you rather than against you.
Cues can be locations, times of day, emotional states, the people around you, or what you are doing. For example, you might be cued into a certain behavior, like drinking a soda, by being at work, in the afternoon, when you are a little bored or tired, alone in your office, and stuck in a tedious task.
Those cues might drive you to the break-room, at about 3 p.m. every day, to get a soda. That’s your behavioral routine. That’s your habit.
Your anticipated reward might be the sugar and caffeine high, the social interaction, or just the break from where you are and what you are doing.
Now, what if you’re trying to lose weight and that sugary pick-me-up is getting in your way? If you don’t know the factors that created this habit, it can be very hard to kick it. On the other hand, if you understand what is cuing your behavior and the rewards you are seeking, you could design a behavior that can give you same rewards, without the undesirable side-effect—in this case, the sugar, which is killing your chances of losing weight.
A good place to start is by understanding the reward that you’re after. For example, if the reward you really want is a break from sitting in your office and doing tedious work, you could take a walk outside. If what you are looking for is a little social interaction, you could ask a co-worker to take that walk with you. If you want a pick-me-up, you could have some green tea, which will do the trick, while also helping you lose the weight. If you substitute any of those behaviors when you hit your afternoon cues, you’ll get the reward you want while moving toward your weight loss goal at the same time.
When you understand a habit, you can step into it in a more conscious intentional way. You can experiment with different behaviors and rewards, so you can make better choices to give you what you truly desire.