A New Culture of Self-Improvement


Everyone wants to be better – smarter, faster, healthier, happier. Getting there is another matter. Life is full of temptations to scupper good intentions, and there are more now than ever before. Canvas8 explore new techniques and tools that are promising to break aspirations into everyday nudges, making long-term goals more achievable.


A new culture of self-improvement is hitting the mainstream. In an age of increased personal responsibility, people are feeling more in charge of their own destiny. With enough determination and the right approach, they feel anything can be mastered. Sure, it might take 10,000 hours to get there (according to author Malcolm Gladwell), but it is possible. 

That said, when pizzas can be ordered with emojis and television can be binged on for hours, bettering yourself has never felt more difficult. Once-a-year resolutions no longer cut it. Consumers need year-round support, and smartphones and wearables are emerging as habit-forming technologies – the perfect channel to deliver personalised nudges.

Once passive brands are actively engaging with their customers' aspirations, making them feel more achievable. It's a virtuous circle; those transforming ambitious consumers are creative evangelists who are keen to spread their success. In doing so, they're aligning with a new progressive attitude; the Rolex says you've arrived, the Apple Watch says you're arriving.



In numbers

What's causing it?

Personal responsibility 
In a highly individualistic culture, we have more personal freedoms now than ever, but we tend to moderate these with heightened personal responsibility. Today, the belief that only you can improve your life is mainstream. Globally, 78% of people believe each and every individual should be responsible for taking care of themselves.

Habit-forming technologies 
Self-improvement used to be locked up in books. Smartphones – carried with most Americans for 22 hours of the day – and wearable devices are facilitating new possibilities for direct, continuous, quantified and personalised support. Before, it simply wasn't possible to deliver timely notifications that nudge consumers towards their goals. Today it's widespread. Expert Nir Eyal has called this the rise of 'habit forming technologies', and it represents a powerful opportunity to combine personal technologies, data tracking and behaviour change programmes, helping people measure and manage their lives. As the adage goes, 'you cant manage what you cant measure'.

Who is it impacting?

All ages 
The desire for self-improvement isn't determined by demographics; it's attitudinally prevalent across most ages. Studies show there isn't much change between a 25-year-old and a 50-year-old in terms of tracking health. But when it comes to wearables, those in their 30s are most keen, likely due to the shifting priorities that come with settling down.

Goal-orientated consumers 
As many as 70% of people track their health (in the UK and US), but most do it in their heads. While obsessive monitoring might just be for the worried well, every consumer has goals – whether fitting into a wedding dress or saving for a house – and welcome smarter ways to achieve them.

Ambitious influencers 
Seeing 'before and after' success stories helps, and individuals like quantified selfers (a 50,000+ strong group) and other outliers (like Timothy Ferriss) offer a stream of powerful narratives. These innately ambitious influencers are demystifying achievement, testing new techniques, and sharing results for others to follow.


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  • Enhancement Junkies
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  • Agony Aunts 
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  • Silent Focus
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  • Senior Hobbyists
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  • Sweet Dreams
    As studies reveal the importance of sleep to overall health, companies are encouraging better sleep in the name of productivity (2017)
  • On the Pulse
    Just 13% of Gen Yers feel comfortable managing their health, but Tonic is a platform helping to engage young people with healthcare news (2017)
  • Sweet Tooth
    Why should being healthy feel like a sacrifice? UnReal is an ‘unjunked’ food company offering low-calorie confectionery with all of the flavour (2016)
  • More Moderate
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  • Exercise on Steroids
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View the original Canvas8 article here.

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