Site Name


Keystone Habits: Unlock the Power of the Ordinary

Keystone arch - Keystone Habits

Table of Contents

What if you had a superpower that after you develop a habit other parts of your life begin to improve almost automagically, although gradually over time. The development of one habit could cascades into improving your social life, your work success or mental capability. While it may sound far fetched it is possible through something called Keystone Habits.



“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.”

~Colin Powell


What are Keystone Habits

“Keystone habits” is an apt name Charles Duhigg coined to refer to life changing habits that have a ripple effect on your life. In the book “The Power of Habit” Duhigg defines Keystone habits as “small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.”


Even though people develop habits for many of the things they do on a daily basis, such as brush their teeth or add sugar to their coffee, some habits stand out as more important than the rest. These habits have a cascading or compounding impact, greatly improving a person’s life.


A keystone is the top center stone found in an doorway arch.  It is the stone that provides the overall stability of the arch, upon which the entire frame depends.  Similarly, a Keystone Habit is one in which provides an overall benefit to a person for which they need not invest the same amount of effort as they did for the original routines and actions that formed the base habit.


How do Keystone Habits work

A Keystone Habit works through the actions or efforts to form a positive habit, such as “stopping drinking” which makes future changes or habits easier to accomplish than would be without the keystone habit. If you are a habitual drinker, stopping the habit of drinking  not only stops the consumption of alcohol but may also  improve one’s health, relationships, and performance. Each of these benefits may cascade to other actions or routines that improve life.


How Keystone Habits affect our lives

Most people have some keystone habits that make them more or less successful in life.  While the cascading benefits may not have been their intention, they are the result of taking initial action, whether consciously or subconsciously in some area of their life.


Of course keystone habits, though perhaps not referred to as such in the negative form, may have negative cascading or ripple effects as well.  If you have the habit of regularly staying up late playing video games, there are many negative effects that impact your body and mind. These, for example, may prevent or make it more difficult to follow up with positive habits, such as developing the habit of studying and eventually excelling at school.


alarm clock

How to develop a Keystone Habit

Developing a keystone habit is the same as forming any other habit.  The difference is identifying a habit which will set you up for success in other areas of life.


Habits are “defined as actions that are triggered automatically in response to contextual cues that have been associated with their performance”. Contextual cues are events or time based triggers: i.e. ‘when I wake up’ or ‘after dinner’, which you associate with an action (performance).


Forming a habit involves doing an action when you face a cue and every time you face that cue until the action is done without thinking.  Examples include washing dishes, where you can direct your attention to something else. Or driving from work without noticing how you got home.  Remember how aware and focused you were when you first learned to drive?  Habits are an evolutionary benefit that free mental resources so you can perform other tasks.


The final part of developing a habit involves a reward.  While the cue provides anticipation of a reward, the reward is what drives the behavior.  The reward is usually different for each person for a given action – it has to have personal meaning for us.  The reward for reading a book may be enjoying a cup of coffee while reading. For someone else it may be about doing well on a book report for school.


How to make your Keystone Habit stick

If you hope to form a habit you need to follow the process of habit formation.  You also need to consciously think about performing the action until it becomes effortless.  The key to forming habits is the thought you give to finding an appropriate cue and reward.  If the cue isn’t sensible for the action, the habit won’t stick.  Similarly, if the reward isn’t related to the action and isn’t sufficiently valued, the habit also won’t stick.


Keep with habit formation until the action is automatic.  This will likely take much longer than the 21 days people commonly believe.  Research indicates it takes on average around 66 days after first performance, or around 10 weeks.


How to identify your Keystone Habits

The best way to identify keystone habits is to find those things you do regularly which, if you stop doing them, life would become much more difficult for you in the mid to long term.


For example, life isn’t going to fall apart for you if you decide to drink tea in the morning instead of coffee and have it after breakfast instead of at the office once you arrive.  What if you decided to stop eating vegetables at dinner time or decided you want to walk leisurely for 15 minutes each morning instead of going for your morning run? Or what if you decided to come home for dinner each night to spend with your family rather than go to the gym for 2 hours where you spend a good part of your time socializing?


Toothbrush - brushing your teeth - Keystone Habits

Keystone Habits

What defines a keystone habit varies from person to person. The following habits tend to be most impactful for most people.


1. Regular Exercise

Regular exercise improves your general health and well being, including your cardio health, your muscle mass and muscle tone.  It generally makes you look and feel better.



2. Healthy Eating

Eating a balanced diet improves your health.  You have a greater chance of consuming the recommended vitamins and minerals which ensures your body works better.


3. Daily Reading

Reading regularly improves your focus and helps build your vocabulary.  It also improves your writing ability and your general knowledge.


4. Sleep Routine

Getting better sleep means you have more energy and less potential for health issues.  It decreases your stress level and improves your focus.  It also decreases your chances of developing depression or worse, paranoia.


5. Budgeting

Carefully planning your finances ensure you focus on what’s important and that you don’t overspend, incurring  debt.   It allows you to find money for family vacations and to save for your children’s education. It also teaches you how to better deal with fluctuations in salary or expenses.


6. Time Management and Planning

Carefully planning your day/week allows you to be proactive rather than reactive.  It gives you a better chance of anticipating change and adjusting for it.  Daily planning also reduces your stress and improves your performance as you focus on what is most important rather than what is most urgent.


7. Meditation/Mindfulness Exercises

Meditation and mindfulness can be as simple as taking time every day to meditate and practice deep breathing or can be as simple as clearing your mind by taking a walk during the day. Whatever you call it, more and more people are doing these types of things to reduce stress and reflect on what is important. Mindfulness exercises improve your health, and well being and help keep you refreshed.


8. Clean your Teeth Regularly

Although this may seem like a small thing, regularly cleaning your teeth, including flossing and using mouthwash will help prevent cavities, gum disease and issues that result from gum disease such as tooth loss, chronic bad breath, sore gums and diseases like diabetes, heart disease and stroke.



Conclusion: Keystone Habits

Developing positive habits and extinguishing negative ones will greatly benefit you.  Building Keystone Habits have an even greater impact and will help set you up for success, whether it means getting a full 7 hours of sleep every night, working out every morning, or eating your veggies with every meal, these are the habits that have a ripple effect in life.  Tackle a few of these Keystone Habits and watch your opportunities, choices and life improve.

Check out The Power of Habit Great Results for Men Over 50.

The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the support and guidance of your physician when you are unsure about any health issues.

Related Posts

Daily Tip

Alcohol? Red Wine is the Better Choice

Pouring a glass of red wineChoose red wine when drinking alcohol for a number of health benefits. First, it contains antioxidants like resveratrol, which support heart health by improving cholesterol levels and blood flow. Additionally, it can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that boost overall health. Plus, moderate consumption of it may help improve gut health and support longevity. With these benefits, it stands out as a healthier option compared to other alcoholic beverages. So, next time you want to drink alcohol, choose red wine for its health benefits.

Check out Easy Choices Hard Life, Hard Choices the Best Life.

My Favorites
Wordpress Social Share Plugin powered by Ultimatelysocial