The concept of the Keystone Habit isn’t mine to claim, I didn’t coin the saying, nor did I develop the definition. Earlier this week I was (as is my habit) driving home from work and listening to Podcasts – because when I listen to music I get rushed and frustrated with the traffic, but when I listen to Podcasts I am engaged in learning and in no rush to get to the end of the drive. Specifically, I was listening to Matt D’Avella’s Podcast The Ground Up Show, Episode 72 with Kraig Adams, where the idea of Keystone Habits was introduced.
In essence (and I’m paraphrasing here) a keystone habit is the habit that motivates and drives other habits; so, for example, someone who establishes a habit of working out several times of week, will then likely either establish or keep a habit of eating well so they have the fuel to perform in the gym to their highest potential without feeling sluggish or ill.
I started to ask myself, what are the keystone habits of my lighter life? And, because this blog, the lighter life is based on my life, I then asked myself what are the Keystone Habits of The Lighter Life? As I continue on my journey of living the lighter life, I have started to use the tools I’ve gained to clear emotional, mental, and other intangible clutter (weight) from my life, but the real start of the lighter life is lightness in two buckets – my own physical weight, and my own stuff.
My Weight-Loss Keystone Habit: It all comes down to calories in, and calories out. When you burn more fuel than you take in, your body is forced to burn stored fat to make up the difference. Even before I started to live the dairy free life, I had started to track my calories, every day I keep track of how much I’m eating and the offsets of how much I’m moving. I use a app which pushes notifications after each meal, and I have had to learn to be honest with myself about how many “servings” I’m really taking in in each “portion” on my plate.
Yes, not being able to take down an entire sandwich tray (because I can only eat the egg salad, and only when it doesn’t have butter) gives my motivation muscles a break, and yes, most diary is calorie dense, but that just builds on my keystone habit. My Meal-Prep routine is also built on my calorie conscious keystone, making sure I have healthy, delicious and easy meals for the majority of the week, helps me keep my meals within acceptable calorie counts.
My Minimalism Keystone Habit: It all comes down to letting go. Several years ago, I gave up reading the news in the morning – I just don’t need to start each day on such a negative note – I started watching YouTube Videos instead (mostly BuzzFeed, because its entertaining click bait); when I started eating better my morning YouTube watching switched to healthy eating channels like Mind Over Munch; and then one day the algorithm kicked out the TED Talk by the Minimalists: The Art of Letting Go.
I’ve never had a packing party, and I still have more sentimental items that I NEED, in fact I’m conscious that I wouldn’t miss many of them if I let go; but, I did get rid of over half of my stuff. I shifted my focus and my mindset to one of abundance, where I don’t need to hold on to things for “someday” I can hold on to things I need, and things that bring me benefit, and things I love, and I can let go of all the rest.
Not unlike my journey into weight-loss has been aided by going diary free, my journey into minimalism has been aided by my weight-loss. I knew I had to “burn the boats”, in order to give myself no room to backslide, when an article of clothing gets too big I get rid of it (or in the case of wardrobe staples, I replace it and then get rid of it); because, it is a costly process to replace your whole wardrobe more than once over in a calendar year, it was an easier decision to make to clear the clutter in my closet – the gateway for many to clearing the clutter in their homes.
This habit has a domino effect as well, I am more thoughtful about what I bring back into my life, I really think to myself, do you need this? I enjoy having fewer things, less clutter, and less stuff that needs maintaining (including dusting and cleaning – my least favorite tasks), and having less has allowed me to do more, to spend less time trying to find my notebook, and more time turning over an idea.
And, because I have less stuff, I see clutter, and untidiness, and messes with a more critical eye; I tidy as I go, because there is less to deal with, I clean more often because the crumbs on the counter aren’t hiding behind unused appliances.
What are your keystone habits? Are they serving the life you want to live, or are they standing in your way? What habits can you work on everyday that will lead to subsequent change? We all have the power to rewrite the script of our lives, but it takes effort, and focus, and patience, and time.