Currently I am working through the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I have heard so many great things about this book and so far, I am very impressed. I feel as though many organizations should promote the reading of this book to improve the lives of their members or employees as well as build up the organization.

What Is a Keystone Habit?

Keystone habits are those habits which give us “small wins.” These small wins help nourish an environment in which it is easier for other similar habits to blossom. Through the flourishing of these habits, a culture is created in which values are attached. These values ultimately lead to easier decision making, reducing the usage of willpower for mundane decisions, saving it for when it really matters.

Examples of Keystone Habits

A keystone is the final piece placed during construction, locking all other pieces into their position. The interesting thing about keystones is that although the structure they support cannot stand without them, the keystone itself bears the lightest load.

Similarly, keystone habits—although crucial in enacting and maintain real change—are usually relatively simple to implement and not that difficult to maintain. For example, studies have shown that simply tracking your dietary intake can have a significant impact on weight-loss.

Food Journaling

In Theory

The theory is that by tracking your food, you become more aware of what you consume. By simply adhering to this goal you obtain small wins (e.g. tracked food for 30 days). This then leads to adjustments in diet and increased activity. Finally, this leads to a mindset of health consciousness that ultimately leads to easier decision making when it comes to one’s diet and exercise.

In Practice

I’ve personally succumb to this self-inflicted mind-trick in December of 2015. Weighing approximately 235-lbs I decided to make a change, slowly, but surely. Knowing that “dieting” is a false system that leads to your weight yo-yoing, I looked to science and math and determined calorie counting is the only sure fire way to lose weight. Don’t worry about what I eat, simply count the calories and stay below the limit.

Since that time, I have lost over 40-lbs and have never gone back above 200-lbs. This is because of a shift in mindset. I began seeing calories when looking at food and made better choices. Instead of going to bed hungry, I found foods that filled me without adding too many calories. Eventually this lead to me joining a martial arts studio and now I’m healthier than I was in high school.

Making Your Bed Every Morning

In Theory

I remember first hearing this habit from Admiral McRaven in his commencement speech to the University of Texas at Austin Class of 2014. The idea is that by starting your day out with a completed task you will gain a sense of pride and the encouragement to complete another. Charles Duhigg agreed with this idea in that he found those who made their beds to be more productive.

In Practice

I have not yet tested this theory out, but I believe this is the next habit for me to create. I will have to get back to you on how it turns out. If it turns out well, I will definitely have changed my mind on this topic.

How to Implement Change

When working towards making a drastic change in your life, it’s critical to implement a keystone habit. Rather than taking drastic steps to make change (which often lead to relapse) it’s best to start with a small change, but a crucial one. Much like that of a keystone to a masonry arch, this habit may bear a small load but is necessary in supporting the other habits together. So start by making a small change in your life. If you’re curious about what other keystone habits you could use to affect specific areas of your life, check out Business Insider’s article on the topic.

More on the Subject

For my review on The Power of Habit, check out this article.

2 thoughts on “The Power of a Keystone Habit

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