How to Build a Better Life By Forming Keystone Habits
Keystone habits are small changes that we introduce into our routines that lead to the development of other good habits. They start a chain effect in our lives that produce a number of positive outcomes.
Keystone habits are the foundation for other healthy habits to thrive.
In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explains that keystone habits create a chain reaction; they don’t create a direct cause-and-effect relationship, but they can spark chain reactions and help you develop other good habits. And as a result, keystone habits foster the success of other habits.
When we have keystone habits in place, other parts of our lives can flourish
“It’s like making five good decisions for the price of one.” – Lifehacker on Keystone Habits
Keystone habits are important because when you developed a good keystone habit, it will affect other areas of your life. It is just like a chain effect that produces a number of positive outcomes.
That’s also meant to say if you developed negative keystone habits, your life will be greatly affected and it will lead to many other negative outcomes in your life.
For example, if you become an alcoholic and you get back home drunk almost every night, guess how that will affect your life:
– You may wake up late every day feeling groggy.
– You feel tired and exhausted because you don’t get a good sleep at night.
– You burn a hole on your credit card because you overspend on alcohol.
– Your relationships with your lover and family members suffered.
– You find it difficult to focus on your work during the day.
The above are just some of the examples of the effect of a negative keystone habit.
This is why keystone habits are important. When developing the right habits, they will give a positive impact on all other areas of your life.
Characteristics of Keystone Habits
There are three basic characteristics all keystone habits share:
1. Keystone Habits Produce Little Victories.
According to Duhigg, research shows that small wins help in a psychological way. Achieving them convinces us that more success is right around the corner. Keystone habits cultivate tiny senses of victory.
2. Keystone Habits Create New Platforms.
Keystone habits are jumpoff points for other good habits to emerge. When we develop them, new and better routines blossom as a result. Think of a keystone habit like the foundation of a building. With a strong one, that building can last.
3. Keystone Habits Cultivate a Culture of Contagious Excellence.
Duhigg states they’re found during moments of monumental change. And as a result, these instances of transformation spread across other parts of our lives. Keystone habits transform our sense of self and belief in what’s possible. They build around an idea that we’re capable of overcoming our problems.
Great Keystone Habits
Use the habits to better your life, but don’t worship any one of them for your entire life.
When it comes to great keystone habits in the physical domain, they all fall into two categories:
These two are the pinnacle of the physical domain when it comes to keystone habits.
From better hormonal regulation, to energy levels, to looking better, to feeling more confident, to increasing your lifespan and the quality of your life, a positive habit of exercising regularly is one whose effects you will feel in both your mind and body.
When it comes to food, it’s literally the building block of your life’s energy. If you eat garbage, you will feel like garbage—garbage in, garbage out. And your energy levels are one of the most important factors you need to regulate in your life if you want to achieve anything.
None of your dreams will ever come true if you cultivate unhealthy eating habits, which makes you drowsy and lifeless no matter how much ambition you have. If you really want to improve your health, put down the ice cream and start adding in whole, nutritious foods to your diet.
There are many great intellectual keystone habits we can pursue, but I will just name a couple of them that most people will find relevant:
– Reading books
– Writing (columns, articles, personal blog, or diary)
– Learning new languages
– Learning a new skill set (copywriting, coaching, cooking, etc.)
– Teaching your skillset or your life experiences
All of these have their own benefits and can massively improve your life and the life of people around you. When you set goals to learn a new language, for example, you don’t just learn that language; you learn a completely new way of thinking and form unique connections in your mind.
This is a difficult one because, for one, it’s really hard to measure it in any quantitative way.
The keystone habits of the emotional domain are one of the most complex and difficult ones to pull off because they require most people to change things they do in relation to other people.
If you want to be more sincere and honest in your emotional responses, that means that you will have to make some people angry by doing that. It can be a difficult conversation you need to have with your spouse or with your friends, maybe a disagreement with your peers and colleagues, or a deep, honest look within yourself about your actions and mistakes.
Emotional domain keystone habits improve your life at any stage, but since they make us do uncomfortable things, they are the last ones we pursue.
Some of the examples would be:
– Telling yourself that you are the only one who is responsible for your emotions and keeping that standard.
– Calling out passive-aggressiveness in people.
– Speaking your mind even though you know it will bring disagreement.
– Dealing with your own problems first before pointing fingers.
– Asking for feedback constantly, both positive and negative.
– Deciding to be vulnerable even though it means risking being hurt.
The keystone habits of the spiritual domain are our connection with things that have a higher purpose than just ourselves. This is the place where feel the connection with our communities, with “higher beings,” or with God or nature.
The spiritual domain is the strongest as a guiding force in life, and some of the keystone habits of this domain include:
– Finding your life’s purpose.
– Living your vision of life.
– Sacrificing yourself for the achievement of something bigger than you.
– Nurturing your inner voice and connection with the world around you.
– Practice a spiritual discipline, such as Reiki.
This is about the spiritual dimension of every individual, and if you disregard it, you will annulate a part of you, which will become a problem.
The Western world currently faces a major spiritual crisis where people feel disconnected with anything in their lives that has a higher purpose than themselves. That’s why people are miserable even though they lead an “objectively” rich life where they appear to have everything but still feel like happiness is not in their lives.
My Own Keystone Habits
The global pandemic presented us with unprecedented challenges but at the same time, incredible opportunities.
I was living in London during the first lockdown, from February until June 2020. Suddenly I had a lot of time in my hands and practically no work to do, as my ‘job’ involved working with people face-to-face, whether these were individual sessions or teaching classes. I knew straight away that I had to make important changes in different areas of my life.
I remember that it was after the first few weeks that I made a commitment to release everything that I could from my life and introduce keystone positive habits.
Some of these included:
– I collected everything that I did not need in my flat: books, clothes, stuff – and I either gave it to charity or took it to the local dump.
– I moved things around in the bedroom and lounge and created a space where I could start working with people remotely.
– I removed weeds from the garden and started preparing it for the spring.
– I made a commitment to lose weight, which lead me to invest in a smoothie maker; I gave up coffee for three months (yes, for an Italian this is a massive change!), I eliminated refined sugar, gluten and dairy from my diet, and started to follow a healthy vegetarian diet.
– I introduced a daily routine which included Reiki healing, praying, meditation, positive affirmations, and gratitude list.
– I started journaling and also a day review before going to bed. I also started recording my dreams when I woke up in the morning.
– I started exercising every day for at least 30 mins, which included at a 5 mile powerwalk.
– I made a commitment to pay off all my debts and live a debt-free life.
– I decided to manage my time better, reducing to a minimum the time I spent on social media, phone etc.
Results after 12 months …
– I lost 12 kgs and I now have a healthy weight for my height.
– I made important new connections in my work and met some very interesting people who later became good friends.
– I sleep better at night and feel really calm and centered when I wake up in the morning.
– I have much more energy, I feel incredibly motivated and inspired.
– My mental clarity has increased, also my memory seems to have improved greatly.
– I paid off £14k of debts – more than £1k per month.
– My business is now almost entirely online, and I work with clients from all over the world. Profit made through online work is now higher compared to pre-pandemic profit resulting from face-to-face work.
– My diet is still very good and my health has never been better.
As per today (August 2021) … all the above are still in place!
One of my favourite prayers is the Serenity Prayer, which was written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971).
It is commonly quoted as:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
Giancarlo Serra works with Esoteric Healing and Spiritual Alchemy to help people move forward on their spiritual path in order to create positive and lasting change. Consultations work successfully both in person and online. Giancarlo is a College of Psychic Studies accredited spiritual healer, Usui/Holy Fire®, Karuna Reiki® Master Teacher, Regression Therapist and Spiritual Counsellor. He offers consultations in both English and Italian.