May 20, 2023

Keystone Habits That Can Transform Your Life

Putting the most important keystone piece in The St. Louis Arch, 1965. My hometown. 

Putting the most important keystone piece in The St. Louis Arch, 1965. My hometown.


The def. of “keystone” – the connecting center of two arcs.

Keystone Habits That Can Transform Your Life

Some habits are more important than others — they have the power to transform your life.

Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” calls these “keystone habits.” They are correlated with other good habits. For example, regular exercise often goes hand-in-hand with better eating habits.

Keystone habits don’t create a direct cause-and-effect relationship, but they can spark “chain reactions that help other good habits take hold,” Duhigg writes.

At the top of the “keystone” habit list…Exercise! 

According to studies, when we exercise habitually, we start eating more healthfully and feeling good. Duhrig adds that people who exercise have increased patience, less stress, and are more productive at work. 

The Association for Applied Sport Psychology reports that exercise is correlated with better mood, less stress, more confidence, and better sleep. 

For many people, when they start exercising, they stop using their credit cards quite so often. 

They procrastinate less at work. They do their dishes earlier in the day. It seems to be evidence that for many people, exercise is a keystone habit. Once you start to change your exercise habits, it sets off a chain reaction that changes other habits as well.

Why are keystone habits so powerful? They change how we see ourselves which continues in a chain reaction of positive life changes. 

Duhrig’s other keystone habits:

Having family dinners – Families who habitually eat dinner together seem to raise children with better homework skills, higher grades, greater emotional control, and more confidence.” 

Making our bed every morning – Making our bed is correlated with increased productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and better budgeting skills, Duhigg writes. “Bed makers are also more likely to like their jobs, own a home, exercise regularly, and feel well rested.

Tracking what we eat –  Duhigg cites a 2009 study by the National Institutes of Health in which participants with food journals lost twice as much weight as those without. Journaling helps people identify negative routines in their eating habits, and re-create a better structure to succeed.

Having strong willpower – Studies show that willpower is the single most important keystone habit for individual success. Duhrig cites a 2005 University of Pennsylvania study that says students with high self-discipline perform better than those with a high IQ. They had fewer absences and spent less time watching television and more hours on homework.

Planning out our days – Sitting down for a few minutes and developing a detailed plan for the rest of the day, or the next day, can help us highlight and focus on the most important tasks.

And in the best-case scenario, we can use this keystone habit to set aside time for other good habits, like Mojoing! 

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