The Power of Keystone Habits

Habits are important parts of our lives. Without them, we are simply unable to function. In fact, according to cognitive psychologists and neurologists, 40 to 95 per cent of human behaviour can be categorised as habits. These habits are often executed unthinkingly and subconsciously with minimal willpower required. As such, habits are said to be the keys to success. However, not all habits are made equal. Some habits may have stronger impacts as compared to others. Some habits may even have the ability to completely change the course of your life. So which habits should we focus on and why? Enter keystone habits. Keystone habits are habits that cause the formation of more habits, which may, in turn, catalyse the creation of more habits. A domino chain, if you will. Thus, rather than focusing on changing your life all at once, you should identify and focus on one keystone habit and let its effects spread across your life. In this article, we will go deeper into the mechanisms of keystone habits and discuss how you can leverage their limitless powers. Before you continue reading, do follow me and subscribe to my newsletter!


What Exactly Are Keystone Habits?

Make no mistake, given time, keystone habits will transform every aspect of your life.

As detailed in Charles Duhigg’s game-changing book The Power of Habit, keystone habits are habits that have the potential to slowly alter almost all aspects of one’s life and thereby pave the way to success. These habits often begin small and focus on one crucial aspect of one’s life, such as willpower. Going to the gym regularly is a good example of such a habit. Not only will your body be healthier through consistent exercise, but your mind will also be sharper, clearer and stronger. By utilising willpower every time you go for a workout, your capacity for willpower and self-control increases. These effects then spill over to other parts of your life. You become less likely to snack unhealthily and more likely to complete a diet plan. You become less likely to watch television for long hours and more likely to take up a book. You become less likely to procrastinate and become more productive. Just by cultivating an exercise habit, you will be able to enjoy increased willpower and, in turn, better able to take up additional habits and more likely to eliminate destructive behaviours. However, exercising is not the only keystone habit that you can have. Reading, if you didn’t know, can also be categorised as a keystone habit. The benefits of reading are broad and limitless. It increases your attention span and allows you to learn about anything you want. Some books may even inspire you to take up new habits. For example, reading about the importance of practice may inspire you to set up routines for practising an instrument while reading about the importance of financial planning may prod you into keeping track of your expenses regularly. Furthermore, with increased vocabulary and knowledge of the world, you will be better able to communicate your ideas, value-add to discussions and will possess greater confidence. For the above reasons, reading is seen to be a powerful habit that is not only simple to do, but also unlimited in potential.


How to Identify and Kick-start a Keystone Habit

Sit down and take some time to ponder on which keystone habit you want.

So, how do we identify keystone habits? Keystone habits must fulfil the following two criteria – they must be foundational habits that empower other good habits and must be habits that stave off bad habits. For example, habits that aim to improve one’s willpower are likely to be keystone habits as willpower is a skill and resource that, in most cases, influences most of one’s daily choices. With that in mind, how should one start a keystone habit? My recommendation is that one should first start simple and small. You don’t have to exercise at the gym for 1 hour. Instead, in the beginning stages of the habit, you can opt to stay there for as little as 30 minutes, maybe even 15 minutes. It’s up to you. What matters is that you took the initiative to get there. Most of the time, getting out of the house to make your way to the gym takes more willpower than the workout itself. The key to building habits is not quality, but consistency. Focusing too much on quality may lead to burnout and dissatisfaction.

Habit tracking apps like Habitify, as shown above, allow you to track your habits and their respective completion rates.

Going to the gym every day seems like a daunting and impossible task. If consistency is that important, how do you maintain it? This is where habit tracking comes in. Habit tracking comprises setting a schedule for your habits while recording daily the completion status of your habits. This allows you to be aware of your progress and motivates you at times when you feel like giving up. For this, I recommend apps like Habitify and Done, which help to automate the habit tracking process and provide timely reminders if you have not completed them. Such apps can provide you with additional insights such as streaks, the average habit completion rate within a specific period and even mood statistics.



Just as a drop of water can create ripples, keystone habits can create minute changes that when accumulated, can eventually overturn your life. Success doesn’t come overnight. Change doesn’t happen on a whim. Big changes come from small, consistent ones over a protracted period of time. Keystone habits help you to do just that, and I hope that this article helped you to gain a deeper understanding into the benefits of keystone habits and their underlying mechanisms. Before you go, do remember to follow me and subscribe to my newsletter! Stay tuned for more articles.

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