Campaign Mistakes - Shake the Bad Habits

by Elena Veatch

campaign mistakes

Campaign Mistakes: If There’s a Will, There’s a Way to Avoid Them

Campaign mistakes force folks to learn and adapt – in a perfect world. In reality, plenty of campaigns fail to reflect on their flaws before gearing up for their next fight; they recognize that a problem exists, but don’t always take the time to address the bad habits that cause them to keep repeating their mistakes.

We’re creatures of habit who cling to our instincts and institutional rituals, even when we know we could be more efficient if we changed our ways. It’s hard to shake old habits and to embrace new ones, but it’s worth toiling through the process to avoid making the same campaign mistakes again. Below are a few tips to help make that happen.

Know what needs to change.  The first step to banishing an unwanted habit is to acknowledge that something needs to change. Whether your bad habit is setting too many advocacy goals or always giving up on call time too quickly, be honest with yourself that you’d be more effective if you made a change.

Commit to changing.  Habits are rooted in the choices we make. No matter how ingrained a bad one feels, you can ax it – but it takes time and deliberate practice to be effective in doing so. Make sure you’ve bought into the end goal – otherwise, it’ll be easy to sink back into the comfort of old routines.

Rewire.  Habits are routinized responses to cues. Look for the cues that tempt you to automatically yield to your bad habit and find ways to condition your brain to respond differently. If you’re a candidate struggling to commit to regular call time, maybe dialing and waiting for someone to pick up is a cue that prompts anxiety or frustration, making it easy to give up for the day. In an instance like this, you can have someone else do the dialing for you. Or, you can follow the Franken Way. Al Franken hated call time when he was first running for the Senate until he rebranded the process as “Call Time: The Musical.” Franken and his call time manager turned every call scenario into songs that they’d sing before or after any call, helping Franken find fun in the discomfort of asking for money every day. You don’t have to write a musical to quash your bad habit (unless you want to); you can just experiment by introducing new cues to prime the responses you want to make routine.

Reward yourself.  We indulge bad habits because our brains associate our habitual responses to cues with a reward (often the feeling of comfort). Be sure to reward your commitment to a new routine – not just because you deserve a treat for going through this taxing process, but because strategically timed rewards actually help turn a new behavior into a habit that sticks.  

*To learn more, check out Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit.