A keystone habit is a habit that when introduced into your daily routine informs and influences other aspects of your life, creating a cascading effect of small behavior changes.
It is said we make around 35,000 decisions a day and that over 40% of these are made on autopilot informed by our subconscious. Habits inform what we put in our bodies, how we prioritize our time, who we hang out with, to what we consume for information. If when we look back at our lives and we observe that we have many unfulfilled goals and dreams, it is likely the unconscious cravings of our habits that are derailing our best efforts to succeed.
Our brains are amazing biological supercomputers that are constantly trying to process the almost infinite amount of information coming in through our five senses. To stop us from being in a constant state of overwhelm, patterns of stimulus that move us towards a reward are stored deep in our brains (basal ganglia) in the form of a habit. Neither good nor bad, a habit is just the quickest path to the reward we are seeking, thus utilizing minimal mental bandwidth so we can focus on what is in front of us and not die, lucky for us.
Our brain's ability to simplify complex information into unconscious patterns keeps us alive and well. At the same time, this reward-seeking machine is having us reaching for chocolate cake and turning on Netflix instead of the healthy food and exercise that we need to thrive. This is where the magic pull of keystone habits can help inform our subconscious programming and influence small changes with much less effort.
Keystone habits can take many forms, some examples are; yoga, mediation, walking, journaling, reading, running, healthy food, routines, daily goals, to name a few, for me it turns out one of my keystone habit changes was taking up running as a sport.
Running gave me many ways to access the feeling good “rewards” my unconscious mind was searching for. Here are some positive byproducts of running that helped override some bad behaviors and lock in this new habit for me:
The Like-minded connection from my running group folks
Boosted my self-esteem by setting and achieving goals
Promoted positive body chemistry (feel-good hormones)
Got my competitive juices flowing by signing up for various races
Spend more time running and connecting with my daughter
More time in nature, giving me a sense of peace and universal connection
Here are some of the new habits that emerged from taking up running:
Started waking up earlier in the morning to train
Increased by daily water intake significantly
Improved my diet with a focus on healthy whole foods
Started going to the gym to achieve more balanced strength
Spend more of my leisure time in active pursuits
“Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character” – Stephen Covey
By changing a key habit, in my case running, I was able to have many small wins that added up exponential positive change informing many other aspects of my life. With each small behavior change, I opened the door of my subconscious a crack to invite in another healthy behavior thus building habit change momentum.
New habits formed from the original keystone become keystone habits in their own right and influence even more positive change. This creates a subconscious ripple effect of healthy habits that can touch every area of your life.
Old habits never go away, but the new healthy ones will crowd out the old and take over producing radical positive change that will last a lifetime.
Small wins are the fuel of transformational change. With this in mind what new keystone habit are you willing to take on? We can help.
David W Fyfe
Business Consultant and Trainer