Keystone habits are effective because they are small enough not to be threatening.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”
Habits are what introduces a man before he gets a chance to introduce himself.
Research on this subject states that doing something repeatedly for at least 21-days makes it a habit – for example – if I have never smoked before, and I decided to light my first stick of cigarette – it would only take 21-days for me to become a cigarette addict.
There are many routines we can get addicted to – on purpose – and other areas of our lives begin to transform for good. These routines might seem burdensome at first, but after a while, the transformation they make becomes evident for all to see. So what are keystone habits, and how can they improve our lives?
What Are Keystone Habits?
In simple terms, keystone habits are “small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally affect other aspects of their lives.” This definition is based on the book written by Charles Duhigg titled, The Power of Habits.
Keystone habits are highly essential if you will ever make certain adjustments and improvements in critical areas of your life.
The term “keystone” is derived from medieval architecture. A keystone is a wedge-shaped block of stone fixed at the top-center of an arch that locks all the other stones in place. Removing the keystone from its strategic position will have a destabilizing effect on the other stones due to their connections.
This same principle applies to the human psyche.
10 Keystone Habits to Improve the Critical Areas of Your Life:
Making Your Bed First Thing in the Morning
Some parents are fond of telling their kids to make their bed anytime they wake up in the morning without knowing the long-term impact it will have on the kids, and the parents as well – if only they choose to practice what they preach.
According to a Psychology Today report, people who imbibe the habit of waking up in the morning and then preparing their bed are usually good at budgeting, have a good sense of well-being, and are generally very productive.
The report also suggests that they are likely to own a home, be at peace with their jobs, develop a good exercise routine, and even feel well-rested.
So anytime you tell kids to make their bed when they wake up, you are spurring them into certain aspects of life they will come to appreciate later, and if you are a parent – how about you start practicing what you preach? It’s not too late, you know.
Having an Exercise Routine
Anyone who has eating issues should develop or use an exercise routine and see how their eating habits improve overtime. The Association for Applied Sport Psychology has linked people who developed the habit of exercising regularly with having fewer mood swings, confidence, and improved sleep – and we all know that people who are exercising are very productive at work – a productive person will be patient too, so you see the connection right?
You can start by taking early morning or evening walks. Or even running if you are up to it. You can use smartwatches to track your progress daily and watch how certain areas of your life transform for the better.
Eating Together as a Family
If you are the kind of family that sends dinner to the kid’s room more often than you sit together to eat as a family, then know that you are missing out on one of the significant impacts of eating together. According to Duhigg, a family who eats together is almost sure to raise kids with top-notch homework skills, reasonable emotional control, better grades, and are generally more confident than their peers that don’t eat together.
Aside from these benefits listed by Duhigg, parents can easily make quick and early adjustments to lousy eating habits and table manners that are unlikely to get spotted when kids eat on their own.
Having a Track Record of What You Eat
There is no better way to lose bodyweight than tracking what you eat. A 2009 study by the National Institute of Health found that participants who had a food journal that accounted for their food intake lost two times their weight compared to those that kept no record.
Having a personalized food journal will help you diligently focus on monitoring your food intake, which shouldn’t be a problem, thanks to the innovation in technology we now have.
When you keep records, you get inspired to do more, which also boosts your confidence and self-esteem in the long run.
Meditation and Affirmations
Whether you are religious or not, developing a daily meditation routine has been proven to reduce blood pressure and stress. It also has significant positive effects on the immune system in general.
Waking up in the morning and speaking positive affirmations to yourself before going about any other activity will help you start your day with a bang while increasing your memory capacity.
Developing a Strong Willpower
According to Duhigg in his book “The Power of Habits,” many studies have shown that “willpower is the most important keystone habit for individuals and continued success.”
This is the case with one of the greatest debates of all time in the world of soccer. Between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, asides from their goal-scoring exploits, many people believe that Cristiano Ronaldo wouldn’t be in the conversation of the world’s greatest soccer player if he wasn’t a diligent, hard-worker backed with strong willpower to succeed. Also, Messi wouldn’t be as good as he is if he only banked on his talent.
This makes the saying “hard-work will beat talent if talent refuses to work hard” ring true.
Having a Daily Goal Checklist
The good thing about having a daily goal checklist, aside from the focus it gives you during the entirety of the day, is the chance to also improve on other positive keystone habits such as meditation and exercise.
A daily goal checklist also helps you be more accountable for your day, which can also boost your brain’s recall ability in the long run.
You should also note that almost 40% of what you actually do is not based on your decision, but your habits – so the chance of you accomplishing your daily task will depend largely on your habits and not your ability to fully accomplish them.
Many of us will have to agree with this one. When we dress better, we tend to walk with an air of confidence that would have been severely lacking if we were dressed otherwise.
There are lots of things we can’t accomplish when we are short on confidence. For instance, it would be more challenging to address an audience dressed poorly. On the other hand, dressing sharply and looking good will often attract appreciative feedback from others, which will boost your confidence in turn. This will enable you to pull off the presentation with less stress.
People would treat anyone with great respect if they were dressed decently and smartly. Learning to dress for an occasion will also give you the highest chance of getting the best out of what the event offers than someone who didn’t.
Do you wish to get the best out of your day? Then apart from making your bed, meditating, going for exercise, and other excellent keystone habits you are building, how about dressing smart to match up with the perfect day you already have planned for yourself?
Being Grateful and Thankful
One keystone habit we should all choose to build is gratitude. Gratitude is essential if you wish to have a peaceful and relaxed life. Some of us often focus on the things we couldn’t get done during the day and forget other worthwhile achievements we made.
Also, practice saying thank you for the services rendered to you. This will make you appreciate the effort of those you come in contact with daily while increasing and improving the positive energy around you in the process.
Having a Stable Sleep Routine
I know some workaholics might not agree with me on this one, but improving your sleeping habit is critical to having a clear sense of purpose and maximum relaxation when you wake up.
When you have a programmed sleep routine, you end up having control over an aspect of life most people struggle with – quality sleep.
Aside from the numerous health benefits, having about 7 to 8 hours of high-quality sleep is also very beneficial to how productive you end up becoming during the day’s active hours – do not take this for granted.
How Long Does it Take to Develop Some of These Keystone Habits?
As I stated in this article, a habit can be developed if done consistently for 21 days, but the habit becomes a large part of who you are if continued with for another 90 days – this is known as the 21/90 rule.
If you remain committed to being more productive in life, this shouldn’t be a problem. You mustn’t wait till tomorrow to put your life back on track using the 21/90 rule; how about you start right now?
My Last Notes on Keystone Habits
Just like Gandhi said, our habits will end up shaping our destiny whether we like them or not. Keystone habits are effective because they are small enough not to be threatening. They engender change ever so slightly that the usually resistant ego doesn’t notice. These habits are the catalyst for change and are continually reinforced by accumulation. They create a foundation for building other helpful habits later on.