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How Keystone Habits Can Transform Your Life

Have you ever sat down to write out a list of your goals and felt completely overwhelmed? You may have been asking yourself, how can I get from here to there? How will I ever have enough time to accomplish all of these things with everything else that is already on my plate? You remember that not everything can be accomplished in a day and so you try to sort out how you can take small steps on each one of your goals in a way that is manageable. While this strategy can and has been effective for many people, there is another less talked about layer of goal-oriented behavior that one can utilize in order to manifest success, and that is implementing the concept of Keystone Habits.


In "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business" author Charles Duhigg defines keystone habits as "small changes or habits that people introduce into their daily routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives." Duhigg terms "keystone habits" in order to symbolize its likeness to a keystone which, in masonry, would naturally be the center stone responsible for locking the entire structure together. In this way, keystone habits are essential building blocks to larger goals, habits, and patterns of success.

Keystone Habits also need to meet certain requirements in order to set them aside from habits that wouldn't be considered as a part of this category. One requirement of a Keystone Habit is that it is simple. If a habit is not simple it will likely not be accomplished on a daily or regular basis, meaning it would not qualify as a Keystone Habit. This is why so many people fail when going on restrictive diets to lose weight. It is not simple. You find yourself out with friends at a restaurant and there is nothing on the menu that you can eat. You choose to order something to eat anyways as you are hungry and you don't want to be the only weird person not ordering food. If, on the other hand, you made it a habit to only drink water as a beverage you would find it a lot easier to stick to this rule even in situations outside of your normal day-to-day routine.

By choosing to only drink water as your beverage of choice, you are also engaging several other components that make up a Keystone Habit. When we drink water we have more energy and generally feel better. By drinking more water and cutting out other beverage choices, we are also able to increase our chances of losing weight by cutting out calories and providing ourselves with more energy. This, in turn, may likely motivate us to implement exercise into our daily routines. Additionally, we may lose weight by ridding ourselves of extra water retention, which is known to cause weight gain, as we might have been dehydrated (most people are). This positive feedback loop of feeling more energized while simultaneously losing weight and accomplishing a daily goal can provide instant gratification which will keep you coming back for more, another component of successful Keystone Habits.

Another example that shows how Duhigg's Keystone Habits might be utilized is of a mother who has a goal of writing and publishing a book. Writing a book is a huge task that doesn't happen overnight. As a busy mom of a young child with many responsibilities and daily to-do lists, it can be hard to find time to prioritize this larger goal. It is no secret that successful writers are often avid readers themselves. Therefore, setting a weekly goal to read might be an excellent and simple Keystone Habit to help manifest this much larger goal. This simple habit might inspire this mom to read more often throughout the week as she gets immersed in the stories that she is reading. As she reads more, she might get inspired with more ideas to write about. As she writes more, she improves her craft and makes more time to work on her book. In this way, her small habit of setting a time and place to read once per week ripples out into her life in a way that blossoms the creative energy she is trying to inspire. If, on the other hand, this mom had made a goal to read from a book every day, she may have not accomplished it. Busy mothers' day to days often look different given the nature of their lives and so choosing just one day per week would allow for more consistency and freedom.

As you might have observed, Keystone Habits have a sort of domino effect on the participant. Domino effects can work in both ways - both positive and negative. There have certainly been times in most people's lives where they have found themselves in a negative domino effect. Someone might be overweight. This excess weight would lead them to be tired. Low energy levels would make it inherently more difficult to prioritize or motivate exercise. In fact, it would most likely make it difficult to find the energy to do a lot of things. It might lead the overweight person to crave more carbs and less whole fresh foods that would leave their body feeling less energized, rather than more. Additionally, being overweight would likely make lead to lower levels of self-esteem and negative forming thought patterns that would further set them back in their journey of reaching their goals. In this loop of constant deprivation and otherwise exhaustion, this person would likely find that many things in their life were not going well. This creates an overwhelming environment where it is hard to see how to get out of negative patterns.

Mindset can be a huge motivator or demotivator for habit-forming activities. In the example shared above, the overweight person might find their lives transformed by making small Keystone Habit changes. This person could start writing positive notes about themselves around their house. They could start to focus on what they were grateful for rather than what they were overwhelmed about. As they noticed their mind drifting to all of the insurmountable tasks they felt they had on their plate including excess weight, low energy, and self-esteem, they could do just one simple thing to help pull themselves out of their negative downward spiral.

Over time, this simple decision to shift thoughts from negative, stressed, and overwhelmed to grateful, complimenting, and happy would enable someone to pursue more positive daily habits - Keystone Habits. This mindfulness technique is simple as it doesn't require anything other than to stop negative thoughts and words in their tracks and change their trajectory. As a busy person, this is something that can feel really doable and manageable with high-yielding results. No supplies are needed in order to accomplish this task, nor much time, simply intention and follow-through.

By thinking about habits in this deeper form, we are able to reflect on small changes that we might make that could yield giant returns. What would it mean for your life if you started waking up 10 minutes earlier each day? Or if you walked every morning? What would it mean if you scheduled weekly intimacy with your partner? Or took 1 hour each week to work on starting a business? If you made simple changes that were manageable, addictive (the positive kind that is), and empowering, what sort of domino effect would you see in your life? Where would you be in one year, or five, or ten?

You also might consider looking at your goals and working backward. If you want to run a marathon you might think that the only small habit you need to work on in order to accomplish this goal is to practice your exercises every day. If you dig deeper in this scenario, you can ask yourself, "what will enable me to exercise every day?" If you know that you have certain other priorities that need to get accomplished prior to this activity, then you might ask yourself how you could better set yourself up for success in order to get these activities done so that you can work on your goal of daily exercise. This might look like meal prepping a couple of times per week to save more time on your busier days. This could also be going to bed earlier each day so that you have more wakeful hours to accomplish activities. The key is to think outside of the box and to look at the deeper underlying factors that need to be supported in order for you to reach your goals. Keystone Habits are the roots in the ecosystem that make up you and accomplished goals are blossoming flowers that stand on tall and sturdy branches.

Success isn't born overnight. Success is born over time and built on foundations of positive Keystone Habits that transform people's lives. Charles Duhigg has a net worth of over $5 million at just 47 years old as of 2021 from the success of his career and his ability to form life-changing habits that remain consistent over time. What Keystone Habits will you implement today to change the fate of your tomorrow?


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Calm.Peaceful.Inspired

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