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What Are Keystone Habits and the 7 Most Common Examples

keystone habits

So what are keystone habits? The word keystone means a central principle or system. And when we talk about a keystone habit, it means a central habit that affects or governs some other habits.

Keystone habits are important because when you developed a good keystone habit, it will affect other areas of your life. It is just like a chain effect that produces a number of positive outcomes.

On the other hand, if you developed negative keystone habits, your life will be greatly affected and it will lead to many other negative outcomes in your life.

For example, if you become an alcoholic and you get drunk almost every night, guess what, this habit will affect many other areas of your life.

  • You may wake up late every day feeling groggy.
  • You feel tired and exhausted because you don’t get a good sleep at night.
  • You burn a hole on your credit card because you overspend on alcohol.
  • Your relationships with your lover and family members suffered.
  • You find it difficult to focus on your work during the day.

The above are just some of the examples of the effect of a negative keystone habit.

This is why keystone habits are important. When developing the right habits, they will give a positive impact on all other areas of your life.

I first learned about the keystone habits from Charles Duhigg, the famous and best-selling author of The Power of Habit.

Duhigg says in his book that keystone habits don’t create a direct cause-and-effect relationship, but they can spark chain reactions and help you develop other good habits.

And according to Duhigg, there are 3 things that good keystone habits can do for you:

1. First, they extend the small senses of victory.

When you perform a keystone habit, it gives you a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. This is the kind of small wins that you need to build a successful day.

Just like the habit of exercise. After your exercise session, you feel good. You feel that you have accomplished something. This is the kind of small sense of victory that you need as the foundation to develop other good habits.

2. Second, keystone habits are the ground where other good habits are developed.

Sometimes, it may be difficult to build a habit without any support or a positive environment. And your keystone habit can serve as the ground to grow other good habits.

Again, take exercise as an example. When you exercise, you tend to drink more water, you feel healthier, more likely to take vitamins and supplements, and you become more health conscious.

And yes, exercise is a keystone habit.

When you make exercise as your routine, you will notice that other areas of your life will improve. You feel healthier. You have better energy. You drink more water and keep your body hydrated. You are able to focus better at work. Etc.

3. Third, they give you more energy, confidence, and grow your momentum to achieve higher success.

Duhigg says that keystone habits able to build your momentum and maintain your momentum as you go through your daily life.

When you see that you are making progress in one area of your life, especially with your keystone habit, you feel good and this creates more momentum for you to go further.

How Keystone Habits Can Affect Your Life and Success

Just take keystone habits as the pillars that support your house. Without the pillars, the house will collapse. And your keystone habits are the pillars of your daily routine.

Without them, you cannot proceed, maintain, or grow other habits from your daily routine.

Just imagine that you want to develop a good habit of working productively and on time. You plan to reach your office by 8AM in the morning every workday and you set inspiring goals in your profession.

Now, what if you have developed a bad keystone habit like you always sleep late to play computer games? What do you think will happen?

This negative keystone habit will affect your other areas and your plan of developing a productive work habit will fail.

For instance, you wake up late. You feel stressed and you go to work without a proper breakfast. And because you don’t have enough sleep, you find it extremely difficult to focus on your work.

By the end of the month, you fail to reach your career goal. Does this sound familiar?

And can you see the power of keystone habits now?

Therefore, learn to adopt the good and positive keystone habits right now. They can change your life and help you achieve the success you want.

The 7 Examples of Good Keystone Habits

There is no doubt that if you want to change your life, you must change what you do daily. And this starts with your habits. Always remember these wise words from Aristotle:

What you do on a daily basis has a more powerful impact than what you do once in a while.

In fact, most successes are achieved through good daily practices. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant are the best basketball players because they commit to practicing and improving their basketball skills daily.

They train every single day to get to where they are now.

The same goes for famous authors like Haruki Murakami and Ernest Hemingway.

Murakami starts his day as early as 4AM and writes for 5 to 6 hours straight. He maintains this routine for months until he accomplished the work he desires.

Hemingway says that when he is working on a book, he writes every morning as soon after first light as possible.

You can read about the writing habits of these great writers from this article.

Thus, develop a keystone habit that will transform your life over the long-term. Here are 7 common keystone habits that you should consider to adopt:

1. Commit to 30 minutes of exercise every day

Exercise is one of the most beneficial and impactful keystone habits that everyone should adopt. We all know that exercise is good for our health, but often times, we fail to see how it can positively affect other areas of our lives too.

When you exercise on a regular basis, you maintain a healthy body. You will have higher energy level and stronger willpower. Exercise also helps remove stress and rejuvenate your soul.

Overall, excise can make you a better person and boost your wellbeing.

You build a stronger momentum when you exercise. You then become less likely to indulge in other bad habits like smoking and drinking.

As a start, you don’t have to commit to a full workout session as your daily routine. You can always start slow.

For example, you can start out by taking a 10 minutes’ walk every morning. And then slowly increase the pace.

You can also start 2 or 3 workout sessions each week. When you get used to your new habit, you can then raise the bar and do more it more often.

Ideally, you want to exercise and move your body for at least 30 minutes each day.

It doesn’t need to be intense, but moving your body and living an active lifestyle is a great way that can lead you to live a more successful life.

Suggested reading: 15 Habits to Maintain (and Improve) Your Daily Workout Routine

2. Plan your days, weeks, months, and even years

Never ever underestimate the power of planning. The saying, “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, is absolutely right.

If you want to live a more successful life and achieve great results, you must make daily planning your keystone habit.

Many of us set goals, but that’s all that we do. We don’t really review them on a daily basis, we don’t envision the results that we want. And we don’t even track our progress.

My friend, this is ultimately why most people fail to reach their goals.

Make planning part of your daily routine. You must consciously focus and pay attention to what you want.

Don’t just set a goal and then forget about it. And after 3 months later, only to discover that you are way behind your goals.

Simply put, when you set a goal, you must be serious about achieving it. More importantly, you must be absolutely committed to doing the work.

Don’t just set goals for the sake of doing it. Make setting goals your keystone habit. Plan each day and come up with a list of what you need to do each day to get there.

You can also have weekly, monthly, quarterly, and even yearly milestones to hit.

When you plan, you consciously tell your mind what you need to get done.

Plus, you become clear with what you need to do to produce the results you want.

I love this quote from Larry Winget:

Thus, make it your daily habit to plan from today on.

3. Live an organized life

Organizing your life can be as simple as starting by making your bed every morning.

Some people don’t have the habit of making their bed in the morning. They thought that they are going to mess it again at night, so why waste time making the bed, right?

This is not how it works. According to Duhigg, people who make their beds each morning are more passionate about their jobs and also feel well rested.

When you make your bed each morning, you are creating the first small win in your day. You can then start your day great. You organize your bed and you feel good.

This allows you to build up momentum to achieve other tasks throughout the day.

And even when you get back home feeling tired and defeated at the end of the day, you arrive at a bed that has been nicely made. That you made.

This is why living an organized life an important keystone habit.

If you want to be more productive and get more things done, live an organized life.

That said, spend some time to organize your workplace before you leave your office each day. And use your weekend to clear up the mess and re-organize your home.

There is a connection between physical things around you and your mental world. Physical clutter causes mental weight.

This is what an article from ClutterFreeNow.com says:

“Even stuff that can’t be seen takes up space in our minds, causing us to fret, feel beholden, or just feel heavy. It’s easy to come by stuff in our culture, and easy to store stuff that has outlived its purpose, or is broken, or is a painful reminder of the past. Even if you live in a big house and have lots of closets, holding on to stuff is a mental burden.”

Hence, make it a habit to declutter and organize your surrounding and environment. This allows you to live a better life, both physically and mentally.

4. Practice daily gratitude

Feeling grateful is one of the most life-changing emotions that one can experience. While everyone wants to have things, but not all of us appreciate what we already have.

I suggest you read this article from BusinessInsider about an interview done by Tony Robbins with John Templeton.

When Tony Robbins asked Sir Templeton what is the secret to wealth, guess what he answered?

Sir Templeton said, “Gratitude”. And he went on to say:

“Because if you have a billion dollars, and every day you live pissed off and frustrated, the quality of your life is called pissed off and frustrated. But if you have next to nothing, and are grateful for whatever it is you have, you’re the richest person that you’re going to know. It doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got if you don’t have gratitude.”

Can you see it now? Expressing your gratitude can affect other areas of your life.

Like what Sir Templeton said, even if you have next to nothing, but you are grateful for whatever that you have, you will live a rich and happy life.

Gratitude is a mindset, a feeling that makes us feel grateful and satisfied.

Most people don’t practice living in gratefulness, but when you do, it can change your life.

We tend to operate from a busy life and living in scarcity. We forget to see the abundance that we already have all around us.

Like what Oprah Winfrey said:

Therefore, the more you appreciate and feel grateful for what you have, the more you will have.

So take about 5, 10, or 15 minutes each day to express your gratefulness with what you have.

You can write them down, feel them, and whenever someone gives you a hand, don’t forget to say “Thank you”.

5. Learn something new

Learning a skill can totally change your life forever.

For example, if you learn how to cook, you can cook yourself lunches and dinners. This keystone habit will change your life and impact what the outcomes that you receive.

When you discover a new way or method to do things, you greatly increase your chances of hitting your goals.

The sad fact is that most people settled for the status quo. They choose to do things according to their routine and never want to learn something new.

If you make it a habit to read a book or two in a month, you will have read at least 12 books in a year. Do you think this habit will change your life? Well, most likely, right?

What if you continue this habit for the next 10 years? You will have read at least 120 books. Now, does this sounds life-changing? Absolutely.

This is I read books every day. On average, I read a book a month. Currently, I’m reading Thrive by Arianna Huffington.

And after this book, I’m going to read Start With Why by Simon Sinek.

Reading these books not only drive me, but also strengthen my beliefs that I can achieve my goals and live a successful life.

So make learning your keystone habit.

You can start by making it your habit to read for 30 minutes a day. Or you can attend classes during the weekend to learn a new skill, like playing the guitars.

Recommended reading: 11 Benefits to Learning Something New

6. Get enough sleep

This is another crucial keystone habit you should adopt.

I know it may not be easy for you to accept the idea of getting at least 7 hours of sleep a day. But sleeping is one of the main factors that can influence your success in whatever you do in life.

Imagine going through a day without taking much sleep. How do you feel? Sleepy and tired, right?

And how will that impact your life? For instance, you feel difficult to focus. You become easily distracted because your willpower is low. And it will be difficult if you want to produce outstanding work.

I notice that whenever I have enough sleep, I’m able to focus and write articles in a much better way.

And whenever I’m not getting enough sleep, I feel tired and sleepy easily.

It will be challenging for me to stay focused in the long run.

In short, the lack of sleep decreases my productivity.

And yes, you get fewer things done with lack of sleep. When you get enough sleep that your body requires, you become energetic and able to tackle your work.

Here’s a must-read article: The Effect of Sleep on Productivity, and How to Improve Both

A report from National Sleep Foundation discovered that low-quality or insufficient sleep interferes with their daily life at least once a week.

So don’t let your sleep becomes a roadblock that stops you from achieving outstanding success in life.

If you want to be more productive, creative, and able to get more things done, get more sleep.

Make getting enough sleep your keystone habit. And other areas of your life will change for the better.

7. Saving money

Saving money is another good keystone habit that you can consider to adopt.

In this world where instant pleasure is all around us, people don’t save anymore. Do you know that your ability to delay gratification can determine your success in life?

And saving money is a good way to practice yourself to delay gratification.

When you save money, you know that you have enough money for whatever emergency you may face in future.

This gives you a sense of security and allows you to venture into a new opportunity when you want.

People are feeling stressful when they focus on lack and having not enough. But when you have money in the bank, it makes you feel calm and at peace.

You are more mentally prepared for whatever that is coming because you know that you have the ability to cope with it.

Imagine you don’t have any money left and you have bills and a house mortgage to pay, how will that make you feel?

Not good, right?

This is why saving is good as a habit.

This article from Psychology Today shares the 4 steps to cultivate the habit of saving money. You should read it.

It doesn’t matter how much you save. The key is to develop the habit so that you are able to practice your mental power to delay gratification.

Plus, when you have saved enough money, it makes you feel comfortable and confident. You know that you have money to invest, to buy a new house, to change your old car, and get involved in other opportunities.

Thus, kick-start your saving habit today.

It is a good keystone habit that every one of us should adopt.

Conclusion

Now that you understand what are keystone habits, how they impact your life, and the 7 examples I shared with you above.

What you need to do right now is to make a decision to adopt a keystone habit to your daily life.

You don’t have to do start by adopting all 7 of them. Just start with one and grow slowly from there.

The key is to make these habits your daily routine.

  1. Exercise 30 minutes
  2. Plan your day forward
  3. Live an organized life
  4. Feeling grateful
  5. Learn something new
  6. Have enough sleep
  7. Save a portion of your money

So, how do you think your life will change if you make the above list your daily habits?

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About Shawn Lim

I'm a blogger, writer, and also an internet entrepreneur. If you want to learn more about me, kindly go to the About page. By the way, have you downloaded your FREE copy of Active Goal Setting? Don't forget to do so. :)

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8 Replies

  1. fewdays mwelwa

    hi Shawn, it’s a good article thanks man ,& notify me always.

  2. fewdays mwelwa

    oh Shawn I need another copy of Active Goal Setting, the 1st one came in wrong format,by the way I am using my mobile phone.

    1. Shawn Lim

      Hello, well, let me try to email that to you. 🙂

  3. Geoff Savy

    Hey Shawn – this is another quality article my friend. Enjoyed much!

    1. Shawn Lim

      Hello, I’m absolutely thrilled to hear that. Remember to share this article. Cheers. 🙂

  4. Leila

    always learning so much from whatever you share – deeply appreciated 🙂

    1. Shawn Lim

      Hello Leila, glad to hear that.. 🙂

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