Keystone Habits: Transform Your Life by Changing the Way You Define Yourself

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What if you could change your entire life by making just one new habit?

In the book, the Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, he describes something he calls a keystone habit. Researchers have discovered that people who were able to transform their lives, often started with just one change that made them see themselves differently. This created a ripple effect over their entire life, helping them to become more healthy, successful, and happy than they ever thought possible.

Keystone Habits: Transforming Your Life by Changing the Way You Define Yourself

Do you need less stress and more success in your life? The answer may be to make one change, called a keystone habit.


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Where a Keystone Habit Can Take You

So imagine you have a habit of staying up too late because you are looking at your phone too long. You take the steps described here and change that habit into a healthier one (like snuggling with your cat), so you begin to go to sleep earlier. The results of this one habit change could effect your life in big and small ways.

Because you are getting more sleep, you start the day feeling rested. The morning frenzy of breakfast and getting the kids ready doesn’t get you frazzled.

And because you don’t need that extra caffeine boost, you stop drinking so much coffee which helps brighten your smile.

Your kids are happier to be around you and you are more attentive, they don’t fight over toys.

And by mid-afternoon you won’t be crashing- you’re just not that tired.

So now you have more time and energy to read that great book that’s been sitting on the coffee table for weeks- or be able to put some time into a side hustle.

You start seeing yourself as a happier, more productive person, and you make choices according to that vision of your new self. You could go on to start new fun hobbies, get more exercise, or cook more homemade meals.

The good habits keep snowballing from there and it all started with that one simple change of getting to bed at a decent hour. That change is a keystone habit. It upholds and makes new good habits possible, like the top keystone of an arch that anchors the other stones.

Develop a keystone habit and transform your life


Keystone Habit Examples

The following 12 habits can lead to powerful change. Keystone habits are not limited to this list, of course, but it will help you start brainstorming ways you can make a change in your life.

  • Positive thinking
  • Journaling
  • Getting to bed or waking up earlier
  • Saving money
  • Tracking what you eat
  • Quitting cigarettes/drugs/alcohol
  • Family dinners
  • Meaningful prayer and/or meditation
  • Planning your day the night before
  • Making your bed every morning
  • Regular exercise
  • Visualization


Finding your Keystone Habit

Keystone habits can be very powerful, life-altering changes, so how do you find one that will work for you? Here are 3 attributes every keystone habit should have:

1.Keystone Habits Provide Small Wins

Duhigg says a keystone habit will give you “numerous, small senses of victory.” When you go to bed earlier you will feel proud of yourself for taking care of your body. You will feel a small win when you wake up and you’re not exhausted. Duhigg says, “small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.”

  1. Keystone Habits Support More Change

A keystone habit is also defined as preparing “the soil from which other habits [grow].” When you are getting enough sleep you may have an increased desire to exercise, and from there you will start drinking more water and eating healthier. Before you know it you have a whole bunch of great habits that were made possible from the first habit.

  1. Keystone Habits Change How We Define Ourselves

When you would go to bed late, you woke up groggy and cranky, yelled at the kids more often, didn’t have the energy to clean your house, and just ordered dinner out almost every night. By the time you got into bed each night you were exhausted, but you needed an outlet for all your stress, so you complained on facebook to your friends about how hard you have it (#momlife) and then watched youtube videos of 90’s songs until you couldn’t keep your eyes open. You defined yourself as a tired frazzled mom.

But after you stopped looking at your phone at night and went to sleep early, your whole life began to change. You were doing things that you didn’t think you could and because of that, you began to define yourself as happy, productive, and capable. Duhigg says that keystone habits give us “moments when excellence—or change, or perseverance, or some other virtue—seems to become contagious. Keystone habits are powerful because they change our sense of self and our sense of what is possible.” When you begin to believe that you can change- you will.


Examples of How Others Have Used Keystone Habits

Michael phelps’ coach taught him how to harness the power of keystone habits to help him become the Olympic champion he is today.

A woman named Lisa Allen was depressed, in debt, and unhealthy and then transformed into a vibrant and happy person in 4 years. Her keystone habit was convincing herself to jog every time she had a craving for a cigarette.

And these 7 people use keystone habits that have led them to success in business.


You’re Next

Let yourself be open to new possibilities. Be inspired by the stories of others and do some soul searching for what you really want to change in your life.

Dare yourself to make a small change in the right direction and see where it leads you. It may just be the thing that revitalizes your entire life and helps you redefine who you are.

If you want to learn more, be sure to check out the book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

This Post is Part of the Habits that Last Series:

A Month-Long Web Series Dedicated to Helping Moms have Less Stress through the life-changing tool of Habit creation

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2 thoughts on “Keystone Habits: Transform Your Life by Changing the Way You Define Yourself

  1. I just started to eat no or very little candy, and no frozen pizza or other processed foods for a week, because i want to see what it does to my bad skin. I’ve just been sitting with my husband in the living room, staring at a piece of chocolate. I went to bed really proud because I resisted!
    I got ingredients for home made hummus and a “healthy” simple cake I want to make, because I want to keep out the chemicals in foods from the store. I do cook, but more because we survive on food rather than for pleasure. Lol, but I am looking forward to hummus and cake. Separately!! I am at a very early stage but it feels great already. I am very curious where this is going to take me.
    Thanks Lamora!

    1. I’m so proud of you, Louise! I know it is hard- I talk about my journey giving up my bad habits here- and I can especially relate to trying to give up the chocolate. It’s all been worth it for me, though. And I’ve found the longer you are away from it, the easier it gets.
      Good luck on the healthy treats! I don’t think there has ever been a better time to experiment in the kitchen with so many food sites that teach us exactly how.

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