Keystone habits have a ripple effect that can create big change in your life.
When was the last time you skipped brushing your teeth before you went to to bed? Or doing your morning meditation? Or taking a break from work on the computer?
What happened leading up to skipping your usual habit? And how did the rest of your day go afterwards?
We’ve all been there. Life gets busy, you get caught up in the moment and before you know it you’ve forgotten to do those self-care habits that you know keep you feeling healthy and sane.
I know I’m totally guilty of waking up late and skipping my morning yoga or staying up too late drinking wine and watching just one more Netflix show.
Sometimes it’s no big deal, but sometimes it throws me off for days.
Because if I wake up late and don’t do my morning self-care, I jump right into the busy-ness of the day with much less self-awareness. So, then what happens? I forget to follow my daily priorities, I get reactive to emails and texts, I forget to take breaks and overwork and I mindlessly put food in my mouth as I rush to get the next thing done.
As you can imagine, this kind of day ends with me feeling exhausted. So then I get lazy with dinner and plant myself in front of the tv with a glass of wine. And then what happens? I stay up too late again watching Netflix shows and the whole cycle repeats the next day.
Thankfully, this rarely happens anymore. But it used to be my every day.
When you find yourself in a pattern like this one of the most useful questions to ask yourself is what got you off track? And, likewise, what is the most powerful shift you can make to get back on track?
In my example above, the problem revolves around not having enough time in the morning to prepare myself for the day ahead. So, I need to get up earlier, which means I need to go to bed earlier.
So, if I focus on strengthening the habit of an early bed time, that will create the conditions for me to wake up earlier and, thus, allow for lots of other healthy habits to happen, resulting in a more focused & productive day and in me showing up as a better human being for myself and my family.
This is what Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, calls a keystone habit.
A keystone habit is a habit that has an effect much larger than the actual actions of the habit itself, often in ways that aren’t directly connected (i.e. positive side-effects).
In other words, a single keystone habit has the potential to radically shift your life.
Common keystone habits include exercise, eating appropriately for your body type, meditation, processing your emotions instead of stuffing them in, etc. These actions, when practiced regularly, can create much larger ripple effects in your life.
Consistent practice is the key here. You don’t need to be the best, or even very good at it. You just need to do it because repetition strengthens the actions that you repeat.
So, if you want to make something a habit, you need to do it as many times as it takes to become automatic. This takes a minimum of 21 days, but expect more like 40 days to really ingrain something new.
Also, until it becomes automatic, it’s going to take some effort. You might even feel uncomfortable at first. This is the reason most people quit after a few days but being uncomfortable is actually a good sign! It means you’re stepping out of your automatic behavior and asking your brain to work a little harder to build a new habit. But no fear, this will pass! Over time, it will get easier and soon your new habit will be automatic.
- What are your positive keystone habits? I.e. what are the key actions that you take that contribute to you feeling your best and having a great day? Make a list or a mind map. If you’re not sure, track your habits for a week or two using a notebook or spreadsheet like my Daily Tracking Sheet.
- What are your destructive keystone habits? I.e. what are the actions or circumstances that cause a domino effect of negativity that results in you feeling run down and yucky? Make a list or a mind map.
- Extra credit If you’re ready to make a change, identify one of your destructive keystone habits that you want to work on. Plan a start date when you’ll begin tackling it and use a tracking system (like my Daily Tracking Sheet) to follow your progress.
As always, let me know what you discover!
Have a great week,