The Power of Habit: Keystone Habits

If you have been reading my journal lately you will know I have been focusing on my untangling process around money. I have written about it here, here, here and here so far! What I have found so far is that by focusing on money (one aspect of my life), it is also transforming other areas of my life.


The Power of Habit

In the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg talks about Keystone Habits. “Keystone Habits” are small steps or habits that have the power to start a chain reaction in to other areas of our lives or businesses.

Charles Duhigg talks about how keystone habits “… can influence how people work, eat, live, spend and communicate” and that success “…doesn’t depend on getting every single thing right, but instead relies on identifying a few key priorities and fashioning them into powerful levers.” “The habits that matter most are the ones that, when they start to shift, dislodge and remake other patterns.” (p.100).


Two Keystone Habits

Two keystone habits Duhigg refers to in his book are exercise and food journaling In relation to exercise –

“When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, often unknowingly. Typically, people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. It’s not completely clear why. But for many people exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change. “Exercise spills over,” said James Prochaska, a University of Rhode Island researcher. ‘There’s something about it that makes other good habits easier.’” (p. 109).

Reflecting & JournallingSimilar things can happen when people try to lose weight. There have many studies over the years investigating the most effective way to lose weight. Strategies ranging from strict diets, counseling sessions, completely changing people’s lives and self-monitoring of diet, exercise and weighing. Of the many self-monitoring strategies researched the paper diary or journalhas been the most used.

Duhigg (2012) refers to the study by Kaiser Permanente of nearly 1700 people. The study found that keeping a food diary can double the a person’s weight loss. Keith Bachman, MD, a Weight Management Initiative member from Kaiser Permanente says – “Keeping a food diary doesn’t have to be a formal thing. Just the act of scribbling down what you eat on a Post-It note, sending yourself e-mails tallying each meal, or sending yourself a text message will suffice. It’s the process of reflecting on what you eat that helps us become aware of our habits, and hopefully change our behavior.” (2014).

“It was hard at first [writing down everything one day per week]. The subjects forgot to carry their food journals, or would snack and not note it. Slowly, however, people started recording their meals once a week – and sometimes, more often. Many participants started keeping a daily food log. Eventually, it became a habit. Then something unexpected happened. The participant started looking at their entries and finding patterns they didn’t know existed. Some noticed they always seemed to snack at about 10 a.m., so they began keeping an apple or banana on their desks for mid-morning munchies. Others started using their journals to plan future menus, and when dinner rolled around, they ate the healthy meal they had written down, rather than junk food from the fridge.” (p. 120).

Exercise and food journaling are two examples of keystone habits – there are many more. As you can see, sometimes the changes are not easy to implement as there is resistance and/or self-sabotaging behaviours that surface when we decide and commit to making change in our lives. However, the habits do become easier and flow over in to other areas of our life. As Benjamin Franklin said – “Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.”


Over to You…

What keystone habits do you implement in your life to promote your success and wellbeing?

If you are ready to reclaim your courage and take the next step towards freedom and opening your heartwhy not join our Toolkit?


References –

Duhigg, C. (2012). The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. USA: Random House.

Kaiser Permanente. (2008, July 8). Keeping A Food Diary Doubles Diet Weight Loss, Study Suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 13, 2014 from