Many people have trouble building new healthy habits. There are a variety of reasons people fail to achieve their goals but a big one may be that people are lacking when it comes to the keystone habits.
In this post we will cover the 10 keystone habits you should strive to adopt in order to become happier, healthier, and more productive in life.
What Is A Keystone Habit?
Charles Duhigg was the first to describe keystone habits in his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business.
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.”
Essentially, the keystone habits are basic fundamental habits that pave the way for a healthy, happy, and successful life."Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals." -Jim Rohn Click To Tweet
By mastering the basic keystone habits, it will be much easier to tackle bigger challenges.
You can think of keystone habits like the foundation of a house. If you have a strong foundation, you can build a big, beautiful house that will stand the test of time. But if you have a poor foundation, it will be hard to build upon, and the resulting house will likely crumble."Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. You've got to get the fundamentals down because otherwise the fancy stuff isn't going to work." -Randy Pausch Click To Tweet
Some of the “fancy stuff” that is easier to accomplish when the fundamental keystone habits are in place are:
- Building a fitness habit you can stick to.
- Adopting life long healthy eating patterns.
- Building a massively successful career or business.
- Making time for travel or hobbies.
I have separated the 10 keystone habits into three key areas: health, productivity, and mindset.
However, I think it’s important to note that these categories are not mutually exclusive – they are all interwoven.
Keystone Habits For Health
Getting Enough Sleep
It is generally agreed upon that adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night in order to function properly.
Yet, in an effort to boost productivity, many people will try to cut out sleep. This may work in the short-term (like pulling an all nighter to finish a project), but as a long-term strategy, it is more harmful than helpful.
Short-term sleep deprivation can lead to memory loss, trouble concentrating, and moodiness – none of which are helpful if you’re trying to be more productive.
But the long term-effects of sleep deprivation are even more alarming, and, according to Web MD, can include: weight gain, loss of sex drive, accelerated aging, and increased risk of: accidents, heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.
So if you want to get ahead in life, make sure you’re taking care of your body and getting those Z’s!
Not drinking enough water can lead to decreased performance, both physically and mentally.
Dehydration can cause the following symptoms, according to Medical News Today: headaches, inability to concentrate, tiredness and fatigue, muscle weakness, muscle cramping, and can impair function of the heart, kidney, and digestive system.
Those that are chronically dehydrated may also have increased risk of certain diseases including some cancers.
By drinking enough water throughout the day, both your mind and body function at their best so you can concentrate at work, and tackle your workouts.
Managing Stress Levels
It is often said that “stress is the new smoking.” According to a study, being chronically stressed out is as bad for your health as smoking 5 cigarettes per day!
For this reason, it’s incredibly important to be able to manage your stress levels. There are many different ways to decrease stress, but everyone is a little different, so take some time to figure out what works well for you.
Here are some ideas for managing day-to-day stress:
- Take a nature walk.
- Put on your favorite tunes and dance!
- Take a bubble bath.
- Do some yoga.
- Hit a punching bag.
- Write in your journal.
- Talk to a friend or loved one.
In addition to improving your health, managing your stress will also enable you to take on new projects, hobbies, or healthy habits.
If you’re constantly stressed out, it may be hard for you to adopt new things into your life, even if they are things that would benefit you in the long run.
Keystone Habits For Productivity
Regular Goal Setting
Goal setting is an incredibly important life skill. However, a classic study conducted by Harvard Business shows that a huge percentage of people either underestimate or overlook the benefit of goal setting.
The study estimated that only 14% of people regularly set goals for themselves, and only 3% of people write their goals down and make a clear plan about how they will achieve their goals.
Research indicates that people who set goals are 10 times more likely to be successful than those who don’t.
Further, those that write their goals down along with a plan to reach them are three times more likely to achieve their goals than people who have goals but don’t write them down.
So while it might be tempting to skip out on the goal setting and planning – don’t!
Learn more about setting goals and action planning in the following articles:
- How To Create An Action Plan And Start Your Goal Today
- How to Set Goals, The SMART Way (+ Free Goal Setting Template)
People who have a habit of self-evaluating in respect to their goals have an advantage over those that don’t.
Self-evaluation allows people to recognize techniques that either are or aren’t working well, sooner rather than later.
By recognizing what doesn’t work sooner, they are able to adjust the plan of attack and course-correct in real time.
On the other hand, people who do not often self-evaluate may carry on doing something that isn’t working well, for far too long, wasting valuable time and effort in the process.
I like to reflect weekly (and even sometimes daily) on how my goals went. I typically ask myself:
- What went well this week?
- What didn’t go so well this week?
- How can I make next week even more successful?
Time management includes the ability to plan, prioritize, and schedule time for important tasks.
Time management is a major life skill. Those without effective time management constantly feel like they are trying to keep their heads above water. They may constantly find themselves wondering, “Where did all the time go?”
They typically end up wasting a lot of time with inefficient procedures, and have trouble “finding time” in their busy schedules to do even the most important of things.
For example, one of the main reasons people give for not exercising or eating well on a regular basis is the lack of time.
Learn more about time management with the following posts:
- How To Make Time For Healthy Habits In Your Busy Schedule
- Improve Focus & Efficiency With This Shockingly Simple Time Management Skill
Organization is making a system that allows you to find things quickly and easily, and can refer to physical “stuff”, or digital files.
“A place for everything and everything in its place”, as they say.
Organization can also affect time management. If you have poor organizational skills, you will have trouble finding things. If you have trouble finding things, you’ll be forced to waste valuable time searching for them – time that could’ve been spent doing more meaningful things.
A proactive approach focuses on preventing problems before they occur.
A reactive approach is just the opposite – allowing the problem to occur and then taking action to deal with it after the fact.
The takeaway here, is that if you are being reactive, you are already a step behind, and now you have a mess to clean up.
Whereas if you take a proactive approach, a little bit of effort upfront can often prevent a problem from ever occuring. As you might expect, this saves a big headache and a lot of wasted time.
[Related: Check out the section on “Barrier planning” to see how you can proactively plan to prevent slip-ups from happening while working on your goal.]
Keystone Habits For Mindset
The growth mindset may be one of the most important gateway habits that you can have.
People that have a growth mindset:
- Are willing to put in the effort needed to improve.
- See failure as an opportunity for growth and learning.
- Work harder when things get tough.
If you do not have a growth mindset, you won’t put much effort into things, and will give up easily when things get tough.
In order to achieve goals in any aspect of life (health, career, finances, relationships etc.) It is extremely important to work hard from the start, and even harder when things get tough.
[Related: Read “Is Your Mindset Setting You Up To Fail Your Goals?” to learn more about how to adopt a growth mindset.]
Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone
As the saying goes, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”
If you want to grow, learn, or improve in pretty much any part of your life, you need to make a habit of stepping out of your comfort zone.
It isn’t easy to do at first, but when you do, confidence will increase, and you’ll feel more and more comfortable doing big things!
I have included gratitude as a gateway habit, because it allows us to appreciate what we have in life, which in turn can make us happier and give us a more positive outlook on life.
Those that are happier and have a positive outlook, find that more opportunities will open for them. No one wants to surround themselves with negative friends or co-workers.
So when things get tough, try to make a list of all the things you are grateful for. Or even better, be proactive about your gratitude, and write down a couple things each day that you are grateful for.
I like to write down three things I am grateful for each morning while I sip my coffee. This makes for a great start to each day!
Adopting the 10 fundamental keystone habits will make your day-to-day life go much more smoothly so you can focus your effort on achieving bigger and better things!"Get the fundamentals down, and the level of everything you do will rise." -Michael Jordan Click To Tweet
In summary, the 10 keystone habits are:
- Getting enough sleep.
- Staying hydrated.
- Managing stress levels.
- Regular goal setting.
- Frequent self-evaluation.
- Time management.
- Being proactive.
- Having a growth mindset.
- Stepping out of your comfort zone.
- Being grateful.
Have you adopted any of these keystone habits? Are there any you still need to work on? Which other habits would you consider to be keystone habits?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences – let’s chat in the comments!