Keystone Habits

Yesterday my wife and I travelled to Kansas City from the Tulsa area. It was a fun four hour drive, but geez Kansas City is cold this time of year. There’s a big difference between thirties and teens with snow on the ground. I am definitely not a northern frozen chosen.

There are too many habits frozen chosen have to develop… like the art of layers of clothing before going out the front door, gloves, heavy coats, and the dreaded scraping snow off the car. Don’t even get me started on shoveling the stuff from the driveway.

Even though those are not habits I prefer to get into this winter, there are a few of my own habits that I really would like to change. Sometimes changing those habits can seem like an uphill climb. But once you know the anatomy of a habit like I talked about in the last two articles “The Habit Loop” and “Habit Change – How I ‘Really’ Became a Morning Person”, it’s a little less scary of a climb.


Another amazing tool to have in your habit developing arsenal is the knowledge of keystone habits. In reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, Wednesday’s book of the week, Charles defines keystone habits, “Some habits.. matter more than others in remaking businesses and lives. These are “keystone habits,” and they can influence how people work, eat, play, live, spend, and communicate. Keystone habits start a process that, over time, transform everything.”¹

Sometimes I know I can get so focused on trying to do to much at once. Sometimes focusing on one small thing can make a large difference. For instance, just focusing on one habit that effects all the other little habits. Charles says that, “If you focus on changing or cultivating keystone habits, you can cause widespread shifts.”²

One really amazing example in the book is when Charles starts talking about the changing of food habits from his controlled study group and how one change in habit, caused a chain reaction in many other habits and behaviors. “The researchers hadn’t suggested any of these behaviors. They had simply asked everyone to write down what they ate once a week. But this keystone habit food journaling-created a structure that helped other habits to flourish. Six months into the study, people who kept daily food records had lost twice as much weight as everyone else.”³


A necessary element of any keystone habit are small wins. “Small wins are exactly what they sound like, and are part of keystone habits create widespread changes. A huge body of research has shown that small wins have enormous power, an influence disproportionate to the accomplishments of the victories themselves… Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.”4

Keystone habits to me are driven by a desire to instill certain values in your life.  I know when I start exercising, my diet always changes. It’s easy to want to start new habits. But taking action isn’t just about forcing your will to start. It’s about the three steps we talked about earlier in the week. The anatomy of habit. The anatomy of change.

To start a new habit. Find or create a cue. It can be an old or new cue. A cue is just a reminder that you are about to start something. Like getting off work and going straight to the gym. The cue is getting off work. Then insert the new habit. Follow it up with a reward. Something that will make you smile. Once you start craving the reward as soon as you see the cue, you have started a new habit.

Sarah Jackson

Vigilant Poster Girl

Read along with us The Power of Habit 

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg 

  1. Pg 100
  2. Pg 109
  3. Pg 120 
  4. Pg 112


  1. Pingback: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg ~ Wednesday’s Book of the Week – Vigilant Poster Girl

  2. Pingback: High Performing Habits 2 & 3: Generate Energy and Raise Necessity – Vigilant Poster Girl

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