Did you want to start a diet, but never could stick with it for more than a few days? Or maybe you’ve been working towards finding a healthier lifestyle by going to the gym three times a week, but as soon as something comes up at work you end up skipping your workout.
We all wish we could be much more productive in our daily lives. However, most of us simply don’t know how to make that change. Most of us will try and fail multiple times before finally getting it right if we do manage to create a new habit after much effort.
There is an answer: the concept of keystone habits. And here’s what it can do for you.
The idea behind keystone habits is that they have a multiplying effect. They create structures that you can build upon, and they help create many additional good habits.
Keystone habits might include something like going to the gym in the morning. This might not be a habit in itself for some people, but by going to the gym in the morning it creates an environment where one feels more energetic during their day, which encourages you to eat better, too.
This way keystone habits encourage other changes that eventually add up into a major lifestyle change – a positive feedback loop. In my experience, it takes about three weeks before a new habit becomes automatic enough that I only have to put minor conscious effort into maintaining it when there’s been sufficient repetition of it
Why Is Building Keystone Habits Hard At First
You will try and fail but eventually, you’ll get there. We all have the capacity to change, it’s a question of when. And three weeks is a very short period of time in comparison to how long deliberate practice takes for many activities – years, decades.
In my experience, keystone habits are more powerful if they’re already part of your basic structure before starting with any major life changes. If you don’t have them yet then adding them, later on, can be useful too, but probably not as much as getting into the habit from the start would be. Here’s why: think about what happens when we try and start exercising regularly for example – we give up pretty easily because we aren’t used to it.
We don’t feel like we’re getting much benefit from it because there’s no context for it in our lives, and we end up losing motivation to do it (and usually end up not doing it).
By building keystone habits into your life beforehand, you create an environment where healthy changes can happen more easily. And this is what you really want: a positive feedback loop that encourages healthy lifestyle changes as opposed to an uphill struggle. In the long term, it will be way easier this way!
How to Create Your Keystone Habits
There are two important factors involved with creating new habits: frequency and intensity. As part of your daily routine, something needs to have a high enough frequency – e.g., once a day – and it needs to be intense enough that it is a challenge for you
For example, going on a 5-mile run at least once a week and doing pushups every day would be more likely to become keystone habits than an hour of cardio and weight training every other week.
Keystone habits like hitting the gym every day may not be possible or appropriate for everyone. For some people, they know they will only go if someone else comes with them; this is also effective as long as there’s still intent behind it (an idea of taking action). Other people might go but only do light stretches because yoga isn’t their thing. If your daily habit does not provide you with enough intensity then auxiliary exercises can be useful in order to achieve the right intensity.
It’s also important that you start small and give yourself time to adjust, rather than trying to change everything at once. This way it becomes easier because you’re not overwhelmed with things that feel unnatural, you can work your way up gradually instead.
The main idea is just to make sure you get something done every day of sufficient intensity – this is enough for some people may be quite a lot more than others need, however, daily habits are always going to be the most effective ones.
Keystone Habits Examples
It sounds great so far, but what are some keystone habits that people already have?
Exercise is the classic one, of course. If you exercise even just a few times each week, it makes other things easier: weight control and healthy eating in particular. Exercising daily and with intensity (e.g., weight training) is more likely to lead to this steady decline in other destructive behaviors like smoking or alcohol addiction, for example.
From my experience working with others and myself, meditation has been an awesome tool for creating new habits gradually over time – such as exercise and healthy eating (and even losing weight!). It does help quite a bit if you meditate every day but even doing it once a week can be enough to bring your attention back into your body when you’re feeling lost and overwhelmed.
This is a very effective first step to build your self-awareness so you can learn how to deal with those feelings more effectively later on.
In the long term, daily habits have been shown to be especially powerful for personal development because they create a self-reinforcing loop where we start doing things automatically without having to think about them. And it all starts with something so simple that requires little effort but means so much when it becomes part of our lives over time: making progress every single day in some small way. If you want to get ahead in life then I know what you need!
Here is a list of 10 easy to start keystone habits that are universal and can make anyone’s life better:
You don’t need to be a zen master to meditate and the benefits of this practice go far beyond just relaxation. Meditation provides a simple way to bring your mind back into focus and you can develop it as an essential skill for dealing with stress, anxiety, emotional overwhelm, and more. The great thing is that you can learn to focus your attention on any object and it’s a simple habit that begins to pay dividends immediately.
Keeping a journal
If there’s one thing I know about business then it’s this: people who keep journals have an easier time achieving their goals, no matter how big or small. One of the most popular journaling techniques is called the “morning pages” method, where you write three long-hand pages every morning. There are many other journals out there that can help you improve your life but this simple tool is one of the most effective keystone habits because it’s like taking a time machine to visit yourself in the future. You simply want to write down your thoughts without editing them and this frees up your mind from thinking about the same things all day long. Starting to meditate each day is very simple, but it’s also an easy habit to drop. Meditation makes your brain more resilient and you can learn how to be in the present moment by focusing on one thing at a time. This helps get rid of stress and worry that unnecessarily diminishes your energy, focus, and happiness. The benefits of meditation are so great that the details aren’t important: whether you sit in a chair or on the floor is up to you, if it’s done with your eyes closed or slightly open is also up to you.
This is a no-brainer for most people but you can’t just go on a run or lift weights once a week and expect these benefits to come rushing in. What’s important is to make regular exercise a part of your routine and the best way to do that is by exercising daily or almost every day. You’ll notice that you have more energy, are less anxious, sleep better, feel happier about yourself, express yourself with confidence, and become much more productive in work as well as life because you’re simply living healthier.
Listening to a book recording while you commute/do simple chores around the house – is one of my favorite keystone habits. This way I can use any dead time during the day for learning and getting smarter, plus it makes the time fly by much faster.
I find it interesting how much time people have when commuting daily but they don’t use it to learn something new. Audiobooks are one of the best ways to start learning new things and you can even switch it up and read a physical book if that’s your thing. This is what I personally do and the information I convey in this post was based on what I learned from reading books, attending seminars/webinars, listening to podcasts, and more.
You don’t need to be rich to save money but it does take planning and discipline because saving money isn’t always easy. One of the best habits to have is to set up a direct deposit from your paycheck so that you save a certain amount each month. Having a savings account not only makes you financially responsible but also gives you a sense of security and peace of mind, plus it helps you avoid debt which can be even more dangerous than usual in some cases.
These have been associated with all sorts of benefits from strengthening immunity to acting as an antidepressant. To make your own self-experimentation more accurate, try alternating between hot and cold showers every other day for 1 week each. You will be surprised at what you discover!
Write down 3 things you are grateful for
This keystone habit is different from the others because it takes only one minute to complete. But it is so small in size that you may think there’s no reason to do it.
The act of writing down 3 things you are grateful for each day changes your perspective on life, makes you happier, reduces anxiety, strengthens self-regulation, and boosts self-esteem. The reason it succeeds at all of these things is that it makes your brain more resilient. Gratitude helps you become more optimistic, which reduces worry and stress, which in turn makes it easier to be more productive.
Writing down 3 things you are grateful for each day requires self-reflection and discipline, but this keystone habit is scientifically proven to make you happier.
Jump out of bed as soon as the alarm clock rings
This is one habit that I struggled to create for a long time but now I have no complaints. I found out that it helps you beat procrastination by making your mornings easier, which makes it desirable for other habits to form.
For instance, if you beat procrastination by waking up early, eating a healthy breakfast will make it easier to wake up in the morning. This makes it easier to do work which makes it easier to eat healthy because you don’t feel like cooking and you’re probably hungry (which makes it easier to save money because you would rather eat at home than order expensive take-out).
There are many things you can achieve by beating procrastination and establishing this keystone habit.
It can help you create healthy eating habits, get more work done, and change your life in many positive ways.
Eat a healthy breakfast every day
This habit is one that I’m guilty of breaking all the time. This is especially bad when I’m in a hurry to get to work which results in either eating junk food or skipping breakfast.
This keystone habit can give you more energy and mental clarity throughout the day, it makes it easier to eat healthy because you will crave healthier food after a few weeks of eating a healthy breakfast every morning, and it helps you save money because eating out is expensive.
Make your bed first thing in the morning
This is a surprisingly easy habit to create and it requires almost no effort. This keystone habit will make your room look neater which in turn makes you feel neater which helps you make better decisions throughout the day.
Keystone habits are an extremely powerful tool if used correctly; they help create good habits while discouraging bad ones by enabling lifestyle changes that support these new routines. They can help improve your life more quickly but only if you start small and move at a pace that’s suitable to your current situation.
Once, you’ve got keystone habits in place though, the possibilities are endless!