Charles Duhigg, in The Power of Habit, describes a keystone habit as — a small habit that causes widespread change.
He identifies exercise as a paramount keystone habit. That means if a person begins to exercise, they soon may see additional changes in their life. They might pursue more mental health. They could become more productive at work.
I gained thirty pounds in my first three years at college, the freshman thirty as opposed to the freshman fifteen. The summer between my junior and senior year, I interned under a leader who invited me to exercise and challenged me to eat healthier.
Over that summer, I lost forty pounds. I became more open to significant spiritual growth in my life, including healing from past hurts and dealing with my insecurity. That keystone habit sparked several changes in me.
Last week, I started wearing a FitBit. As someone who never wore a watch, it surprised me how much I began to notice the device-deciding to get healthy results from daily decisions not just from losing weight in college.
Even with regular exercise since college, wearing a Fitbit re-sparked the keystone habit in me.
Here are three ways it’s changing me:
What you measure matters.
A Fitbit tracks how many steps taken, calories burned, water intake, and many other health details. Seeing a visual reminder of metrics in your life informs your decisions. For example, if you start looking at your budget each day, you begin to spend less money. When you see that you have taken 2000 steps in a day, that clarifies a need to exercise.
Focus on the Essentials — Sleep & Water
My wife works as a mental health counselor. We discuss the list of remedies for anxiety and depression; they almost always include sleep and drinking more water. The Fitbit has calculated that I need to drink 64 ounces of water and sleep for eight hours. It’s not enough for us to affirm the need for these essentials, but it requires us prompts to understand our need for sleep and water.
Confronting the uncomfortable.
I have not started tracking how much food I eat on the app, and let’s just say I’m not sleeping the appropriate amount of time. A small shift in wearing a FitBit draws us to confront the uncomfortable. Keystone habits move us from the status quo no matter how unpleasant, because the change on the other side becomes worth it.
As you start this week, what keystone habits do you need to start? Maybe you need to re-evaluate your need for the essentials or measure what matters. Often, the small shifts make the most difference.
Originally published at https://peterenglert.com on August 3, 2020.