Cairns (stacked rocks) against the sky.

10 Keystone Habits For A Healthy, Happy & Successful Life

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.

A cairn of balancing rocks in the forest.
Nothing of quality can be built without a sturdy foundation.
"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!

Staying Hydrated

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.

Happy woman staying hydrated at the beach.
Stay hydrated to maximize physical & mental performance.

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.
  • Meditate.
  • 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.

[Related: How To Manage Stress & Stop Worrying About Things You Can’t Control]

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:

Frequent Self-Evaluation

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

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:

Time management is an important life skill.
Time management is an important life skill.

Organization

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.

Disorganized papers without any filing system.
Being disorganized can cost you valuable time.

Being Proactive

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

Growth 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!

[Related: How To Make A Habit Of Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone]

Being Grateful

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!

Sign saying "give thanks" to remind us to practice gratitude and be grateful for what we have.
What are you grateful for?

Conclusion

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.
  • Organization.
  • 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!

~Clarissa

Share the knowledge!

Author: clarissa.cabbage

Clarissa is a teacher, a coach, and an avid adventurer! Armed with a master's degree in Exercise and Wellness, she is on a mission to teach people how to build healthier habits that support the adventurous lifestyle of their dreams. There is nothing Clarissa is more passionate about than helping people get active and live their lives to the fullest!

44 Replies to “10 Keystone Habits For A Healthy, Happy & Successful Life

    1. I absolutely agree that moving every day is extremely important Michelle! But I’ve found that people that lack these 10 keystone habits (like sleeping well, drinking enough water, managing time and stress etc.) aren’t able to form a lasting exercise habit. Because of this, I typically consider regular exercise a next level habit rather than a keystone habit. If people can get the keystone habits established it will be MUCH easier for them to stick to a regular exercise routine.

    1. Thank you Sarah, I’m so glad you found this list helpful! More sleep and water makes a HUGE difference in energy levels, which of course benefits all other aspects of your life as well! Thanks so much for stopping by and reading!

  1. Grateful to have found this blog post and yes to all of your well written ideas! I’m continually working on my mindset especially during high stress times! Thanks you!

  2. I didn’t really know what a keystone habit was before reading this post. You did a great job explaining it and made a great list of habits we need to do in order to achieve a happy life. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. You’re welcome Charity, I’m glad you found it so informative! I like the idea of keystone habits because it helps explain why new fitness and nutrition habits can sometimes be so hard to adopt, especially when we are lacking in the keystone habits!

    1. Thank you Tamra, I’m so glad you found it helpful! It can be easy to slip into that negative mindset, especially in these crazy times! But I think it’s important to realize that mindset can be developed with practice, like most other things. Thanks so much for reading, and I hope this helps make achieving your goals a little easier!

  3. These tips are wonderful! I love how simple changes can make huge improvements. Most people love those “fancy stuff” but do not think of the process, which I think is the most important part of the journey.

    1. I’m glad you liked it Jen! I absolutely agree that being able to accomplish the “fancy stuff” is all about laying a solid foundation and focusing on the process, as you said. Thanks so much for reading!

  4. This is great advice, and I love the way you tell it so straightforward and organized! It made me realize I need to work on getting out of my comfort zone. Thank you for sharing! I hope you write more stuff like this soon!

    1. You’re welcome Lex! Getting out of your comfort zone has sooooo many benefits. It’s a fantastic habit to have! I will do my best to write more of these types of posts. Thanks so much for reading and for your feedback! ❤️

    1. Thanks for stopping by Jenny! I agree, none of things are rocket science. But what might be a little less obvious is that it might be some of these keystone habits that we lack, that are holding us back from bigger goals in life!

  5. Nice post. Very detailed. I practice gratitude often and it really helps. I also like some of the tips you mentioned like managing stress levels and sleeping more. That’s where I’m going to work on.

    1. Sounds like a plan Anita! I actually feel like both practicing gratitude and getting enough sleep do wonders for my stress levels! In these strange times I think it’s especially important to make a conscious effort to decrease stress whenever possible. Thanks so much for stopping by! 💕

  6. I love the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone; it offers space for so much growth! Water, sleep, and exercise also make my day brighter, and I love to declutter and organize not only physically but also mentally. 🙂

    1. That’s great Jaya! I’m definitely with you on the decluttering, both physically and mentally! Any kind of clutter really makes me anxious, for that reason I love me a good brain dump! Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts with us! ❤️

  7. “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” This is SO true and something I frequently remind myself of.

    I also am a big fan of your advice on sleep. I’ve been in circles of people that champion that idea of less sleep–the “I’m going to wake up early to do “x”” idea and then make you feel less for not doing it. For me, I’m way more productive and healthier when I get a good amount of sleep 🙂

    1. Yes, I absolutely agree about the sleep Alison! 🙌🙌 It drives me crazy when people brag about how little sleep they get like it’s a badge of honor. I feel like I hear the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” attitude from a ton of athletes and especially from hugely successful CEOs – but it’s a model for burnout, and not to mention, it does TERRIBLE things for health long-term. I wish people would stop this.

    1. Yes, I agree Brigit! Sleep can be a tough one. I’ve never been a good sleeper myself, so I have to work on my “sleep hygiene” constantly. It makes such a big difference when you do get the amount of sleep you actually need though – definitely worth it!

  8. Amazing and so many great well known points that we needed a reminder on. I love the con eot of keystone habits. Never heard of it, but I csn really see how making small changes can really go a long way as oppose to trying to make huge drastic changes that often times so not last. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Rebekah! I think the concept of these keystone habits is so important! Many people really don’t consider how things being organized or good at time management etc. can effect larger health and career goals!

  9. It’s so easy to skip the fundamentals and go right to the fancy stuff, but as the quote says, that’s not going to work! I am guilty of that, and have seen that mistake all too often in my life. Great tips!

    1. Yes, I agree that trying to skip past the fundamentals is a very common mistake. The path to building healthy habits and routines goes soooo much smoother when we start at the beginning with the basic fundamentals. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment Seth!

    1. I agree, it’s definitely crazy how much a little more sleep can help. I know when I don’t get a good night’s sleep, I feel like I’m dragging, have trouble focusing and get very irritable and impatient. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment!

  10. All such valid points. I am currently in a bit of a transition phase with my life right now, so in many ways, it’s giving me an opportunity to take a really hard look at my habits, routines and decide what I want to build more of and eliminate what is not working for me. This list is a great one to remind me to just focus on the basics and the rest will fall into place more easily. Thank you for the great post. 🙂

    1. You’re welcome Shirsha! I too am in a bit of a transition phase it my life. It’s kind of scary isn’t it? But I think the silver lining is that we do have the time to reflect now and figure out the best direction for ourselves since we’ve now been forced to slow down a bit. Thanks so much for reading and contributing to the conversation! ❤️

    1. You are welcome Tiffany, I am so glad that you enjoyed it! It seems so often when we are overwhelmed by life, it’s the basics that are let slide, which ends up having a domino effect. Thanks for reading!

  11. Fantastic post, Clarissa! You’re absolutely right – every house that isn’t built on a solid foundation will eventually crumble and fall. I think it’s one of the more damaging misconceptions about ‘being skinny’ too. Low body weight doesn’t always equal a healthy foundation. It can in fact equal the exact opposite with restricting food, unhealthy habits overall, and poor long-term wellbeing. What you see isn’t always what you get.

    Sleep is a major foundational block, isn’t it? I can attest to the fact, as most others can, that when I haven’t slept well or enough – my entire system is out of whack. I’m more easily upset, choose unhealthy food options, and certainly don’t get enough physical activity. It’s probably one of the most critical keystones, don’t you think?

    I also love the tip about organization. You’re 100% right. How much precious time do we waste trying to find something? My personal belief lines up with the notion of a cluttered space being a cluttered mind. Productivity, for me, declines rapidly when my surroundings are a mess!

    Each of these tips are actionable, relatable, and very helpful. Thank you for another fantastic post! Keep up the great work! ❤

    1. Hi Holly! I absolutely agree that “what you see is not always what you get”. Great example of being skinny – that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily healthy.

      I do think that sleep is one of the most critical keystones – but I think it has a weird place in popular opinion. On one hand there’s people like us that know they’re unproductive and moody and not functioning well on low sleep. Buying the other hand, there’s this group of people that almost brag about the fact that they get very little sleep like it’s a badge of honor and key to their success. I’m talking about these high level CEOs who claim to sleep 4 hours a day, or the professional athletes that say “no time for sleep”, or “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” So while sleep seems an obvious one for most of us, I feel there’s this subset of people, the hustlers I call them, that reject sleeps importance. 🤷‍♀️

      Thanks so much for reading Holly and taking the time to share your experiences and views with us! ❤️

      1. Oh my goodness, Clarissa! I could not agree with you more! To me, what’s most alarming about this notion of “surviving on little sleep,” is how so many of these folks push this notion onto pop culture. It is even frowned upon if you “need more sleep to function.” What the heck?

        You have touched on a VERY important subject, and I’m grateful you’ve shared it. ❤

        1. Yes, thank you Holly! This pop-culture obsession of sleep deprivation as a way to gain success is a pet-peeve of mine. Unfortunately, it’s usually the people that are in the position of role models that are perpetuating these beliefs. I’m doing my best to squash that! 😂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *