I remember when I was finally fed up and decided to clean my room. I put 91 pop cans in the recycling bin that day.
This, of course, was disgusting not only because I was that messy but also because I could drink that much pop.
I counted the exact number because I could not believe my eyes as I was cleaning. It was like waking up from a hazy dream and seeing my surroundings for the first time.
I was living in a hyper cluttered room, and my mind was just as disorganized as a result. The mess had started to affect me mentally. I felt like I had no space to breathe or even think.
After that day I decided to consciously be aware and clean up after myself day-by-day. It didn’t happen over-night, but I developed the habit of being clean.
Once I was a cleaner person I found that I had more energy, I was more creative, and I had the confidence to improve myself in other ways.
Without knowing it I had found my Keystone Habit. This is a habit you change or implement that creates a snowball effect that leads to further change in your life.
Keystone Habits usually involve something personal to you that has challenged you for a long time. I had been messy for as long as I could remember, and realizing that I could change a trait that I believed I was born with, gave me the confidence to create even bigger changes.
With this new confidence I implemented new habits over a long period of time. Going to the gym, drinking more water, waking up earlier, cooking breakfast, reading, and many more habits all formed from the confidence I had gained.
We usually want to change our lives all at once, but it rarely works that way. My belief is that you should focus on one main problem that has plagued you and once you conquer that, you’ll have the tools to break through all the other obstacles.
If you are looking for a possible keystone habit to implement, here are a few that are especially effective at starting that snowball effect.
Waking Up Early
When you start to wake up early, I mean at 5-6am, you are almost guaranteed to see some huge changes.
You’ll have to go to bed earlier which means you won’t spend as much money going out. You’ll have more time in the morning to be productive, make food for the day, schedule your day, and you’ll never be late to school or work again.
To start waking up early you should limit the amount of light you take in past sundown, have a bedtime routine, refrain from eating before bed, sleep in a quiet/dark place, avoid caffeine past 4pm, and go to bed at the same time every night.
If you are going to make this your Keystone Habit, you should dedicate at least 45 minutes to it. Going to the gym for a full workout is best, but you can get a great workout at home if you jog and do body weight exercises.
Working out changed my life completely. Once I knew how good it felt to use my body and show it that level of respect, I was addicted. I lost weight, gained muscle, became sharper mentally, and gained a deeper connection with my body that money can’t buy.
The key word in ‘Keystone Habit’ is HABIT, so make sure if you are working out a minimum of 4 times a week. If you absolutely can’t go to the gym or get your full workout done, cut it down, but never miss a day.
Cooking All Your Own Meals
This is one that I still struggle with often. I’ve had periods of time where I’ve done really well, and they felt great.
When you cook all of your own meals you seem to have boundless energy. You can control everything that goes into your food and even if you aren’t a health nut, you’re already 10x healthier than when you ate out.
The times when I do best with cooking all my meals are when I’m committed to being absolutely prepared in ADVANCE. Cooking your food for tomorrow, today, is the best option.
Experiment with different ways of cooking in bulk, buy easy to eat food and prepare it immediately after grocery shopping. Cut up your watermelon, pineapple, apples, and other fruit into snack size and leave it in the fridge.
The goal is to be prepared, and to make it easier to eat healthy than it is to eat unhealthy. If you have healthy snacks you will eat them, I promise.
So those are a couple examples of my favourite Keystone Habits.
There are many more: Quitting smoking, only drinking water, meditating, spending an hour a day on your craft, or even just going for walks.
The main point is to pick something that really calls out to you. Either get rid of something you once thought was an intrinsic part of you, or pick up something you’ve never believed you could accomplish.
Your Keystone Habit will create a ripple effect that will payoff for years to come. All great changes start with a single step in the right direction. Pick your step, and move one foot in front of the other.