Jan. 11, 2021

Discovering My Keystone Habit

What are Keystone Habits?

Honestly, I didn’t even know that keystone habits existed until I read the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. While reading that book, I had that ah-ha moment when I realized what I had been doing for the past few years revolved around certain foundational habits that I started, which led to many other small but significant life changes. These incremental changes added together resulted in overall improvements in my personal health, finances, and wellness.

Keystone habits are routines we build into our day to day that impacts all other aspects of our lives. The problem with keystone habits is that they are not inherently good and don’t always lead to positive changes. So be careful and choose wisely! Some examples of keystone habits are exercise, meditation, and sleep. When we can identify and implement a few keystone habits that work for us, the rest of our life appears to fall into place more easily. It may take some time and some trial and error to find your keystone. I don’t think it is something that can be forced or rushed. Just because something works for me doesn’t mean it will work for you.

My Keystone Habit & How I Discovered It

The short version of this story is that I got lucky. I was not intentionally searching for a magical habit that would make my life better, but I knew I was looking to change my life, and I wanted to feel better. I started paying more attention to my day to day choices and how they made me feel. When did I feel good about myself, and when did I not? I started to make more intentional and thoughtful choices so that I could better attach choices and outcomes. This mindful decision making is definitely a keystone habit for me, but it is hard to quantify. It did lead to what became my ultimate keystone habit: Waking Up at 4 am.

Starting & Ending My Day With Purpose

My daily routine now includes a lot of habits that improve my life. Every morning I meditate, read, breathe, clean the house, and check my financial picture. Additionally, I track my food intake and exercise daily. These habits result from a decision I made a while back to start going to bed at 9 pm and waking up at 4 am. This ONE decision has had a more significant impact on my life than any other. When I do this and do it every day, all of my other good habits fall into place. On the rare occasion that I do not do this, I find that it dramatically affects my energy and productivity for that day.

Before starting this keystone habit, I had trouble staying disciplined with any other desired good habits. I was always tired and my mornings felt rushed. At night I would spend the last 1-2 hours of my day mindlessly scrolling through social medial, watching shows I wasn’t even interested in, and dozing in and out of sleep on the couch only to wake up, stumble upstairs, and go to bed. I would dread the rush and panic of the morning to come. After waking up abruptly to the morning alarm clock and then stealing a few more minutes of sleep from my already rushed routine, I would scurry around the house, getting ready to get out of the door and off to work. I always felt rushed and anxious, which lead directly to my workday.

That has all changed now. When 9 pm hits, I head to bed, no matter what. I now know that nighttime me can not sabotage morning me. Morning me likes the way he feels too much to allow that to happen! I fall asleep within 10 minutes of my head hitting the pillow. That never happened before. I look forward to the morning now knowing that I am going to have time and with that time and will get to read and learn, relax through meditation and breathing, and get caught up and life’s to-do’s while still being able to watch a little TV and have some freshly brewed morning coffee. By the time I leave for work, I have physically and mentally put myself in a position to give my workplace and family the best for that day.

That’s Great, Now What?

This is a question I have learned to ask myself daily with many facets of my life. By asking this question, I can keep moving forward and learning more. As it pertains to my keystone habits, I believe that what is next is to explore having or identifying multiple keystones. I do not think you can only have one. In fact, I think most people have multiple, including myself. What are they, and what makes some more transcendent than others? How do I build more positive habits and get rid of some bad habits I no longer want? Can mindset be a habit? Please share your thoughts on these questions and more in the comments section below. Please help our community form better habits.

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