Keystone Habits: A Non-Negotiable Routine

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

Habits are powerful forces. They influence what our brain tells us to do, based on decisions that have become part of engrained routine. Everyone has routines, or habits; things you just do—without thinking about them. According to research from Duke University, up to 45 percent of your actions are unconscious habits. This means that a significant part of what you think, say, feel and do are strongly shaped by your habits—whether they are positive or negative.

But all habits are not created equal. Some have little impact on your life, and others, referred to as “keystone habits,” can affect your life immensely. Exercising on a regular basis is one example of a keystone habit—which is a habit that creates a domino effect on the rest of your life by naturally influencing you to build more breakthrough routines that produce positive outcomes. Keystone habits are very different from regular habits, like posting a daily message on multiple social media platforms. A regular habit is a positive thing to do, but whether you choose to do it or skip it, it doesn’t have a huge impact on the rest of your life.

By contrast, a keystone habit, like consistently exercising five days per week, is a habit that can also lead to other positive, unintended outcomes like a stronger and more flexible body, enhanced mood, decreased level of stress, reduced risk of heart disease, enhanced productivity, improved quality of sleep and heightened brain function. When you choose to make keystone habits a non-negotiable part of your routine, you change. You take more control of your life and the positive ripple effect naturally occurs. In addition to exercise, three common keystone habits include: active goal-setting, efficiently managing time and saving more money. Three uncommon keynote habits that also create breakthrough routines are:

  • Eat dinner together as a family. Not only does this habit encourage healthier eating patterns—like a greater opportunity for portion control and nutritionally balanced meals—but it also is a perfect setting to expose your family to different foods, save money with less expensive home-cooked entrees, and spend quality time together. Moreover, according to a report by Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA), when this routine is practiced at least five times per week, a teen’s chance of smoking, drinking, and using drugs is drastically decreased.
  • Make your bed. It may seem irrelevant, but tidying up your bed as part of your morning routine is a small, quick habit that sets a precedent of order and productivity for the day. Creating a neat and organized environment can positively impact your mental state with a small sense of accomplishment—in just 30 seconds, no less.
  • Discard and replace. Choose one day a week, or every other week, or even once a month, where you discard something you don’t love or need. This process helps reduce clutter and gives you the opportunity to replace things that don’t add value with items you enjoy and appreciate.

Rather than going through life without thoughtful intention, make today the day you choose to cultivate one keystone habit. By taking this one small action, you will likely find the momentum to set off a slow avalanche of additional changes, positively transforming your life in amazing ways.

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