The Power of Habit


Target If you’ve ever received an ad in the mail from Target you are experiencing an organization studying habits.  You may not have realized it by Target actually studies their customers in order to determine what to advertise and to whom to advertise. Target studies the habits of their customers, because if they can better understand the customers’ habits they can also better begin to predict which products they should advertise to those customers, because if they know which customers in which stages of their life are most likely to buy which items, then they can send advertisements that are very directed to those consumers.

One of the most valuable consumers for a company like Target to market to is pregnant women, because what Target realizes is that if they can attract a pregnant woman to begin shopping at Target, they also know is that when she has her baby she will continue to shop at Target.  And when a new mother shops at Target she does not go into Target to only buy diapers, because a new mother is busy, and so while she’s at Target she will also buy groceries. And while she’s there she may pick up a few cards for her relatives and the birthdays coming up. And while she’s passing the entertainment section, maybe she’ll pick out a movie for her and her husband to watch later. And since she’s there, maybe she’ll even buy that bathing suit that she’s been eyeing all season.  

As Target studies the habits of these pregnant women, it’s not such a simple process. It’s not as easy as Target looking at which women buy baby clothes and that means they’re pregnant. In fact, it’s much deeper, because not only do pregnant women buy baby clothes.  So do grandmothers, aunts, uncles, or people going to baby showers. So baby clothes could be an indicator to Target that a woman is pregnant, but it could also be an indicator that somebody is just going to a baby shower. Instead, Target looks for other things. For example, expectant mothers buy a significant amount of lotion. Now, many people going to Target will buy lotion, but pregnant women buy an unusually large amount of it and it’s always scent free. Sometime in the first 20 weeks of their pregnancy pregnant women will load up on scent free lotion. Now, many people buy things like vitamins at Target, but pregnant women will load up on vitamins, magnesium, calcium, and zinc sometime in the early stages of their pregnancy. So if Target, as they study the habits of their customers, notices somebody buying something like soap and cotton balls it may mean nothing; but if that soap is scent free soap and in addition to the cotton balls they are loading up on washcloths and this has happened months after buying scent free lotion and vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, this indicates to Target that not only is this woman pregnant, but she is approaching her due date. All from studying the habits of Target’s shoppers they can not only know if a woman is pregnant, but they can also predict when she is going to have her baby.

*this insight and more like it can be found in the book The Power of Habit.

Humans are creatures of habit.

We have habits that we routinely go through each and every morning. Businesses study our habits so they can increase their bottom line. A company like Google is the internet giant they are, not because of their great search engine, but because of the amount of information they have about our internet habits.  When I go to restaurants I order the same food that I order every time I go to that restaurant.  Why? Because I'm a creature of habit.

Habits can be both incredibly helpful and dangerously destructive. They can help us deepen our relationship with our spouse, with our family. They can help us take care of our bodies, our physical, our mental, our social well being. They can even help us deepen and grow in our understanding of the scriptures.  We can form habits around the study of scripture, disciplining ourselves to be in the word - to read and memorize scriptures.  We can form habits around our prayer life and around family devotions.  Habits are an important part of our life.  At the same time, habits can also be harmful. Our habits can destroy relationships. Our habits can harm us physically and mentally and socially, and our habits can even drive a wedge between us and God.

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