James Clear, an entrepreneur and author of the book Atomic Habits writes that habits are actions that have been repeated multiple times to become automatic. 40 per cent of our everyday actions are reportedly mere habits and not active decisions.
On encountering a new situation our brain has to pause and make a choice. The brain tries to figure out how to respond to the situation by taking in the series of new information available. After carefully analysing it, the brain finally manages to arrive at a decision. However, on confronting a similar pattern multiple times, the brain does not require time to respond and automatically knows what to do. In this article, we’ll help you recognize the growing importance of positive habits in the life of every individual.
POWER OF HABITS
Take a pause and ask yourself a couple of questions.
“How happy or unhappy are you?”
“How productive or unproductive do you feel?”
“How successful or unsuccessful are you?”
You’ll be surprised to know that all of the three varying questions have the same common reason – habits. Our life is a total of the habits we have accumulated over time. The things that you constantly do, reflect the kind of person you are, the life you lead and the personality you portray. Hence, it is of utmost importance to ensure that throughout our life we consciously pick up good and healthy habits so that our life and future becomes a more efficient version of what it is in the present.
So, on waking up from sleep on a Monday morning, when you find yourself reaching for the packet of cereals without even giving it a second thought, remember it is essentially due to the power of habits. It is nothing but a series of automatic responses to problems, by reducing cognitive load and burden, thus allowing us to be more efficient.
Some habits have the power to start a chain reaction while changing other habits as they move along. Hence, certain habits play a more important role in influencing our lives and making a difference. These habits are known as the “keystone habits” because they directly have an impact on the way people eat, communicate and spend. Such habits can transform everything over time. Charles Duhigg comments that “keystone habits say that success doesn’t depend on getting every single thing right, but relies instead on identifying few key priorities.”
WHAT ARE KEYSTONE HABITS?
Have you ever wondered why do some students outperform their peers in school? Why do you think some people become more productive at work and still manage to return home early?
Understanding keystone habits hold the answer to these questions. The habits that matter the most are the ones that begin to remake and reshape other habits and behavioural patterns.
In architecture, a keystone is a stone that is placed at the centre of the arch. Majority of the times, this keystone is responsible for locking all the other stones together and ensuring an equitable weight distribution of the entire structure. Hence, it can be easily said that keystones are the most important component of the construction of arches in the world of architecture.
In a similar fashion keystone habits are the most important components of leading a life of a certain kind. They are small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines which unintentionally carry over to the other aspects of life and ensure the smooth functioning of the same.
Charles Duhigg observes, “When people start habitually exercising, even if it is as infrequent as once a week, other unrelated patterns in their lives, unknowingly start changing. Typically, people who exercise start eating better and become more productive at work. They smoke less and have more patience in their behaviour.” Hence, developing the keystone habit of exercising ends up stirring one’s life and results in various transformations.
However, identifying keystone habits or “small wins” can be a tricky activity. Detecting them requires searching for some specific characteristics. These “small wins” help in establishing a new structure by making tiny, seemingly insignificant changes in life.
INCULCATING KEYSTONE HABITS IN CHILDREN
A huge body of academic literature has shown that small changes have enormous power in influencing massive transformations in individuals. They fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that make people believe that bigger achievements are also within their reach. Hence, it becomes foremost to educate children about the importance of such keystone habits so that they can reap the benefits of it and lead an efficient and healthy life.
Having Family Meals – Gathering your family around the table at least for one meal might seem to be a very insignificant and unrelated activity, but it is a crucial step towards a healthy life especially for children. Eating together ensures a positive environment and helps children and parents bond, thus creating a healthy relationship. Studies have shown that families who regularly eat dinner together raise children with better homework skills, higher grades and emotional control.
Doing Chores around the house – Involving your kids in performing various chores around the house helps in building good habits. Things like making your bed after waking up in the morning is a keystone habit whose influence spills over to the other aspects of life and lifestyle. Charles Duhigg also has written that “making your bed every morning has been correlated with better productivity and a greater sense of well-being.”
Tracking what your children eat – Often adults, as well as caregivers of children, do not understand the importance of keeping a track on the food that they eat or they see their children consuming. Maintaining a food journal, or mentally keeping a track of the daily meal consumption is a good exercise because it helps in noticing certain routines within one’s eating habit, which often goes unnoticed. For example, there might be a specific time when your child feels the need to snack. It is best to keep fruit in hand in advance so that the child can snack on that, rather than on something unhealthy. Keeping a track of the food habits assist in meal planning in advance (which saves time) and helps in noticing unhealthy habits within the structure.
Keystone habits do not combine in a neat, linear fashion and the performance of every action does not essentially keep bringing us one step closer to our goals. Rather, they create some resources in our body, mind and personality which were not present in us before the “small wins”. They help us in identifying resistance and opportunities and contributes to a healthy life.
It is not that a family meal or a tidy bed causes better grades or less frivolous spending. But somehow those initial shifts start chain reactions that help other good habits to be formed. Therein lies the power of keystone habits.
Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit. Random House. Kindle Edition.
Clear, James. Atomic Habits. Random House. Kindle Edition.