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The one habit that makes it easier to achieve your goals

Whenever we plan a vacation, there are usually different routes to the final destination.

Some routes have a longer journey time, but could also be more convenient — and vice versa.

Typically, we choose the most convenient and efficient route, that helps to make the rest of the vacation easier.

Likewise, you could also use similar ‘routes’ to make it easier to achieve your goals and transform your life.

These are “Keystone Habits” — habits that create a domino effect leading to new actions, behaviors and habits.

Instead of trying to achieve all your goals at once — leading to burnout and failure — why not create your own “keystone habits” to get more done by doing less?

Let’s discuss more on how to do this.

What are ‘Keystone Habits’?

The idea of keystone habits was first introduced in Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit.

According to Duhigg:

Keystone habits are “small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.”

Keystone habits create a domino effect that changes every area of your life.

Let me give you some examples of keystone habits.

1. Exercise

Studies have shown that people who regularly exercise (3 or more times a week) tend to eat healthier, consume less alcohol, smoke less, be more productive at their work and sleep better — than those who don’t. [1]

I have personally experienced this effect time and time again.

My healthiest and most productive weeks also happen to be the same weeks where I didn’t miss a single workout.

On these weeks, I have high levels of discipline and self-control to avoid procrastination, resist social media distractions and temptations to eat unhealthy foods.

Conversely, the weeks where I skip my workouts are usually my least productive.

I have a much harder time getting out of bed to do anything productive with less self-control to avoid making bad decisions.

2. Sleep

Getting a good night of sleep isn’t only for the kids.

Your quality of sleep could also have a profound impact on your productivity and happiness.

Plus, people who sleep poorly struggle to learn more, retain information and make better decisions.

According to a report from the Harvard Medical School:

“When we are sleep deprived, our focus, attention, and vigilance drift, making it more difficult to receive information. Without adequate sleep and rest, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, and we lose our ability to access previously learned information.”

3. Journaling

Keeping a personal journal could also help you improve your writing, reduce stress and boost your creativity.

For example, if you’ve recently been through an emotional turmoil, journaling could help you release these emotions and reduce your stress levels. [2]

These are just a few examples of keystone habits that could transform every area of your life.

How to identify your Keystone Habits

There are three simple characteristics of keystone habits that set them apart from the rest:

  • Keystone habits make it easier to start new habits.
  • Keystone habits are small enough to avoid overwhelm and build your confidence.
  • Keystone habits make positive behaviors addictive.

Identify your own keystone habits that meet these criteria and suit your lifestyle.

If you’re still struggling to think of suitable examples, here are some more…

  • Making your bed in the morning
  • Cleaning your room
  • Praying
  • Donating money to a charity every month
  • Spending quality time with your friends and family
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Drawing, writing or painting

These examples should help make it easier for you to identify your keystone habits.

Once you’ve chosen your keystone habits, there are several strategies that can help make it easier to stick to them over the long-term.

These include — starting smalldesigning your environment for success and scheduling your habits.

Transform your life using Keystone Habits

Keystone habits hold together all the habits in your life — much like, the pillars of a bridge.

Without them, everything seems to fall apart. But, with their support, everything seems to fall into place easier and more efficiently.

Take that first step in building the pillars that support your bridge (your goals) by creating your keystone habits today.

Mayo Oshin writes at MayoOshin.com, where he shares practical self-improvement ideas and proven science for better health, productivity and creativity. To get practical ideas on how to stop procrastinating and build healthy habits, you can join his free weekly newsletter here.

A version of this article originally appeared at mayooshin.com as “Keystone Habits: The One Habit that Makes It Easier To Achieve Your Goals.”

Footnotes

  1. study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that college students who exercised regularly reported a significant decreases in perceived stress, emotional distress, smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption, and an increase in healthy eating, emotional control, maintenance of household chores, attendance to commitments, monitoring of spending and an improvement in study habits.
  2. See also the work of Dr. James W. Pennebaker, chair of the psychology department at the University of Texas, research on the health benefits of expressive writing.

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