The Most Important Habits You Can Build

26.06.2017 |

Episode #4 of the course How to change any habit by John Fawkes


Yesterday, you learned how habits work and selected the bad habit you’re going to eliminate over the next week. Today, you’re going to pick the positive habit you’ll be building during this course.

However, not all habits are created equal. While all habits have an impact on your life, in most cases, that impact is limited to one specific area. You change one habit, and that’s one improvement in your life. But there are some whose impact is much broader; these are called keystone habits.


Keystone Habits: The Habits behind Your Habits

What makes keystone habits so important is that each of them affects several of your other habits. When you change a keystone habit, other habits may also change with very little effort on your part—perhaps even automatically.

If you have a bad keystone habit that you follow, it can wreak havoc on your life. On the other hand, positive keystone habits can have cascading effects that dramatically improve your life.

Here’s an example: spending more time walking and standing throughout the day. When you do this, you burn more calories and lose weight, while giving your legs a little exercise. You’re also more alert and likely more productive when you’re on your feet (I’m standing up as I type this). Your mood improves, especially if you go for walks in the sun. You sleep better. And finally, you’ll shed some excess fat.

Another example: watching TV late at night. This can displace more productive activities like reading, and it makes it harder to sleep at night. Lack of sleep means you have low energy the next day. It impacts your mood. You become less productive. Your willpower gets lower, so you make poor health choices. You’re more likely to get sick.


How to Identify a Keystone Habit

It usually isn’t immediately obvious which of your habits are keystone habits; to figure that out, you need to do a little digging.

Write down every area of your life that you’d like to improve. For the sake of argument, let’s say you want to save more money, be more productive, be less stressed out, and be healthier.

Now, look for things in your life that lie at the intersection of two or more of those areas. For instance, cooking instead of eating out both saves money and makes you healthier, and being healthier might indirectly make you more productive. Keeping your home clean would cut out one source of stress and make it easier to be productive at home.

Next, look for habits that lie at the intersection of the habits you just identified—in this case, cooking at home and keeping your home organized. At this point, it’s pretty obvious what would link the two—keeping your kitchen clean and organized. So, taking care of your kitchen is a keystone habit.

You may notice all these examples involve staying healthy, staying organized, or both. As a general rule, most keystone habits fall into one of these two categories.


Exercise: Select Your First Keystone Habit

Use the technique you just learned. Select three to five areas of your life you’d like to improve. At least two of them should relate in some way to the goal you chose in Lesson 1.

Identify two or three habits that each impact two or more of those areas of your life. Then, identify a positive keystone habit that would have a positive impact on each of those habits—making them easier to do if they’re positive habits or easier not to do if they’re negative habits.

Tomorrow, you’re going to start building that positive keystone habit.


Recommended book

Habit Stacking: 127 Small Changes to Improve Your Health, Wealth, and Happiness by S.J. Scott


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