Have you ever wanted to start up a new habit or break a bad one, but found it difficult to maintain a steady streak? This happens to a lot of us, but once those habits are set in place, it can be difficult to stop you from slowing climbing your way up the figurative mountain to achieving your goals. Understanding the concept of a keystone habit and learning how to use this information will help you control your actions and prime your mind for a day full of positivity and productivity.
What is a keystone habit?
I am sure you have heard the cliché, “one good thing leads to another,” so the concept of the keystone habit should be nothing new; I am just helping to jog your memory and utilize the information you already know to your benefit.
Think of a keystone habit as the foundation for an array of associated habits, good or bad. A keystone habit primes your mind to think of an associated list of activates whenever completing the keystone habit; like a person who always needs to have dessert after dinner.
I first learned of the concept of the keystone habit from Charles Duhigg’s the Power of Habit. A keystone habit is at the base of a string of habits that are triggered at the same time as the keystone habit. These habits can be bad habits, such as smoking or eating candy, or good habits, like running and stretching.
For example, if a person wakes up and has the habit of thinking negative thoughts, he or she will unknowingly go throughout their days seeking negativity. On the other hand, thinking something positive in the mornings primes an individual’s mind to seek positivity throughout his or her days. This is how a keystone habit works. When committing to a keystone habit, a person will seek other ways to improve his or her life based on completing or avoiding positive or negative habits. We obviously cannot plan for the misfortunes that we may fall into, but we can control the way we receive and handle the situations we find ourselves in.
Working with Bad and Good Habits
A keystone habit works as the major triggering method beginning a chain of events. As an ex-cigarette smoker, I recall smoking cigarettes as the keystone habit that sparked a chain of bad habits that I had to complete every time I lit up. For example, whenever I smoked a cigarette, I needed something sweet to drink, usually an iced coffee, to neutralize the poor aftertaste left in my mouth from the cigarette. I also didn’t want to work out, play basketball, or do anything that would involve exerting to much energy to cause me to pant. Therefore, smoking also increased my waistline. Not only did kicking the habit help me get fit, I also saved a lot of money from all the iced-coffee I didn’t drink and cigarettes I no longer smoked.
On the end of the spectrum, when I started running, it helped to build several associating habits that went along with healthy living, such as drinking smoothies after workouts, eating more fruits and vegetables, and eventually going vegan. Now, I lift weights, swim, play basketball, bike, and do all sorts of activities all because I used running as a foundational habit that jumpstarted a whole string of healthy habits.
Recent Accomplishments with Yoga and Lemon Water
A keystone habit I recently implemented into my routine is the practice of yoga for ten minutes right when I wake up. Every morning, I hop out of bed at 5 AM and meditate for five minutes. Then I go straight into a ten-minute yoga session focusing mostly on limbering my legs and abdomen—my goal is to eventually get the splits. After yoga, I go downstairs to make myself a 1000ml (correction from my last post) of warm lemon water and a bowl of oat meal topped with brown sugar, cinnamon, chia seeds and flax seeds. While that cooks, I complete 50 push ups to finish that short string of habits.
I first started with making sure I completed ten minutes of yoga every morning. Then, I slowly started building other habits on top of it: I added meditation, then oat meal, then lemon water, and then pushups. Now I have a stead string of habits that I have already produced results. After 47 days of yoga every day, I can honestly say the benefits will surprise you.
You can do something like this too. It’s easy. And it doesn’t have to be yoga. It can be something as simple as writing for ten minutes every day, reciting self-affirmations in the morning, or even taking five minutes to make yourself a cup of tea. While a small menial task today may seem insignificant, as you complete these task day after day and your habits snowball, you’ll soon find yourself a master of your disciplines.