A keystone underpins other stones on top of the pile. It sits underneath them, like a foundation. When it’s removed, the other stones automatically topple. Your habits are similar because they influence each other; there are one, or a few, that underpin most of them. When you change the underlying habit or habits, your life changes.
Imagine you change the habit of going to bed late, so you get more sleep. Suddenly, you don’t need that sugar-laden pick-me-up mid-morning because you aren’t tired anymore. Also, you don’t have to drink copious amounts of coffee to think straight. Since you aren’t eating as much sugar and consuming as much caffeine, you are less jittery, and you feel calmer. Your calmness spills over into your relationship with your spouse, and you have less arguments, which means you don’t feel the need to down a huge glass of wine to dull your brain and reduce stress, which used to be a habit.
All you did was go to bed earlier and sleep well, and your life was transformed. Let’s take another example, imagine you change the habit of watching hours of mindless drivel on the TV. Suddenly, you have plenty of time on your hands, so you start going for a walk every evening in the countryside with your spouse. You get more exercise, spend quality time with your spouse, and are more relaxed because you regularly connect with nature. Your fitness and health improve, your relationship improves, and you feel happy more often, all because you changed the habit of watching the TV for hours.
If you want to identify your personal keystone habit, think about what it is you do most often that isn’t really rewarding. There’s something you do mindlessly, just because it’s part of your routine, which might be a keystone for other habits you want to drop. Maybe you automatically sit in front of the computer checking social networks when you get home from work, or reach for an unhealthy snack at a certain time of day, every day.
Get rid of your keystone and watch other unhealthy habits tumble as your life improves. Doing so is easier than trying to alter many habits at once.