YOU ARE WHAT YOU DO.
The turn of the year is a fresh start for everyone. For many of my coaching and counseling clients, it’s a time for reimagining who they’d like to be, and how they’d like to show up in their relationships, careers, and with themselves.
This spurt of fresh-start energy is often expressed as a New Year’s resolution: I am going to pay off my debt! I am going to read a book every week! I am going to lose this weight, once and for all!
But as research shows — and as you’ve probably experienced firsthand — resolutions don’t work. Simply making a decision to do something new is not enough to create real and lasting change.
Fortunately, there is something that does help you achieve your goals, without fail, every single time: Dedication to one, powerful, keystone habit.
The Power of Habits
As a life coach, I’m in the business of supporting people as they create radical, positive changes in their lives. I know from experience that real change requires much more than desire. It certainly takes more than motivation, which always ebbs and flows. It even takes more than a plan.
Making changes that stick requires understanding the way our brains work, and the way change occurs. By understanding how to reprogram your brain, you can hack your way to inevitable success.
This process may sound complicated, but it’s not: When you find the right healthy habit to cultivate, everything can change.
What Is a Habit?
A habit is any behavior or activity that you routinely do over and over again. So much so that you begin to do it unconsciously.
Change is hard because habits are powerful. They become so ingrained that they feel hard-wired — the way you cover your mouth when you cough, put on your right sock first, or answer the phone. You just do it, without thinking about it at all.
It is also true that the arc, even the outcomes, of our lives are built on the habits we engage in every day — most of which are almost entirely subconscious. Think about it: Your life, as it is today, is simply the outcome of everything that you’ve done up until this point. A few macro-decisions have the potential to impact your life to a significant degree, like who you marry, the job you take, or moving to a new town.
But even then, the actual outcomes you experience in any of these scenarios have much less to do with the circumstances themselves, and much more to do with your daily “micro-habits.”
Plenty of people get into Ivy League schools, and don’t have the personal habits required to be successful. So they flunk out. Most relationships have the potential to be good or bad, depending on how people are in the habit of treating each other day-to-day. All success or failure is determined by your habitual behaviors.
When you think about the changes that you might want to make in your life, and resolve to “save money” or “lose weight” or “have a better relationship” or “expand your social circle” or “declutter my house” — all of those are fantastic hopes.
But they will remain hopes until you learn how to use the habits that are creating your current reality, and swap them out for the ones that will allow you to create the life you want — hour by hour, day by day, and year by year.
What is a Keystone Habit?
A keystone habit is a very special habit. It’s one, powerful habit that touches many other aspects of your life, “automatically” leading to other positive behaviors that have a compounding effect.
If you find a single, excellent keystone habit, it can begin working its magic on multiple fronts, from the way you feel, to the way you think, to how much energy you have, to how easy it feels to do other healthy things. Interestingly, a good keystone habit can even make it harder to engage in other “bad” habits.
Keystone Habits List
Here’s a list of a few keystone habits at work:
- Exercising for 30 minutes every morning may cause you to eat better, get more sleep, and feel more energized and productive at work.
- A weekly financial check-in may inspire you to budget more effectively, save more, and stay on track for your long-term financial goals.
- Having family dinners each night could help you build better connections with your kids, feel closer to your partner, while also improving your diet.
In contrast, if you focus on ALL the little habits you need to achieve your goals, it can feel discouraging.
Take the goal of losing ten pounds. It requires a number of daily micro-habits that together will change your relationship with food: tracking what you eat, consciously choosing lower calorie options, saying no to junk and sweets, minding portion size, getting yourself to exercise, being mindful of cravings and impulsivity, and having a plan to deal with special situations, like holidays or outings.
Then tack on your other personal goals, like saving money, having a better relationship, or getting more done at work. When you start breaking down all the small steps these goals require, it’s enough to make you want to eat a donut and take a nap, isn’t it?
I want you to succeed at creating the positive change you desire in this new year. For that reason, today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast is all about how to find and lovingly cultivate one solid keystone habit that will carry you forward.
I’ll also be discussing how to make that new habit stick, so this new year turns into a string of successes for you.
Specifically, we’re discussing:
- How to find your keystone habit.
- How keystone habits work to effect change in many areas of your life.
- Habit loops, and how to make them work for you.
- Habit stacking, and how to cluster winning habits into a life-changing force.
- How long it takes to form a habit.
- How long does it take to break a bad habit? Why it may be easier than you think.
- Some tips and tricks to help you stay on track with a new habit.
- How to avoid some common pitfalls that could knock your new keystone habit off course.
All that, and more, on this episode.
I hope that our conversation helps you craft your path for the new year, as you work to bring positive, radical change into your life.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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