Harness the power of habits

In this first post of 2017, I propose some actionable tips to help you implement some new and positive habits in your life, to help you achieve your ambitions for the year: brand, business and personal.

The post is inspired by my personal experiments on establishing habits and learning from “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. This book explores ‘the anatomy of habit building’ and its application, both with consumers and at a personal level.

Why habits matter

As marketers, we know how habit creation pays off with consumers, attaching your brand to a set of behaviours and routines that repeat over time. Once established, they tend to stick for the long run, meaning that consumers chose your brand almost without thinking about it. Habits are also important as they can drive changes in attitude. Despite traditional beliefs that attitudes precede habits, many human changes actually work the other way round; the habit develops the attitude. For example, I don’t like jogging, but I start doing it and suddenly start enjoying the feeling of exercising.


Whilst it is clear how powerful habits are with consumers,  my experience with marketing executives is that they tend to not leverage them to improve their personal performance as leaders

Start with the end in mind

Identify an area in which you are not satisfied or would like to achieve more. It could go from becoming a better listener, to being more effective with the use of time to becoming more fit

Identify the killer habit

Think about which specific habitual set of routines, if implemented, will help you achieve your objective. As an example, for the objective of becoming a better listener it may waiting to talk until the other person finishes speaking.

Reinforce with rewards

Any successful habit shares the same common structure, with rewards playing a key role. Let’s explain this through an example, which is aiming to go to the gym at 7AM before work (it is New Year resolution time, after all!):

  • A TRIGGER cues the behaviour. Here, it could be the alarm beeping at 6:30AM. The trigger pushes a specific SET of BEHAVIOURS, such as waking up, putting your Nikes and having a quick breakfast
  • No habit is established unless there is a clear REWARD, which could be, physical, emotional or cognitive. Back to the gym, the reward may be having breakfast reading the paper in our preferred coffee shop or the addictive, endorphin-driven feeling experienced after exercising hard
  • The more the habit is repeated the more you build a BRIDGE between the trigger and the reward. This creates a ‘craving’ to receive the reward that ensures the routine/behaviours will be performed over and over.

One habit at a time

Establishing one habit is already quite challenging. So stick to one and only one habit at a time. After you are sure this habit is part of your life, you can then move to another habit.

Take a 40-day challenge

There is a popular culture rule used by The Art of Living, who teach people how to incorporate meditation in their lives. It says that any habit needs 40 days of continuous effort to be firmly established,  without failing on a single day.

Get a partner

Yes, why not asking a friend to act as your personal mentor, checking you are executing the habit, especially during the critical first 40-days!

So, instead of over-committing to multiple New Year Resolutions you know you will never stick to, why not try picking one killer habit and sticking to it for 40 days? Who knows where it might take you?