Keystone Habit Essay

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Now that you understand the concept of small habits, let’s dive into another important concept in the world of behavior change research: keystone habits.

Charles Duhigg, award-winning New York Times reporter and author of the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, has explored at length the idea of a “keystone habit,” or a small change in routine that can set off a chain reaction of new and improved behaviors.

So what makes a keystone habit different from a small habit?

When you perform a small habit—say, for example, putting on your running shoes every morning—you are successful as soon as you put your running shoes on, regardless of whether or not you actually go for a run.

A keystone habit, on the other
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So if you begin more closely tracking your expenses as a keystone habit, you’ll begin discovering spending patterns that you may not have noticed before. This could lead you to be more cognizant of spending money when you shop, causing you to be make better decisions, spend your money more wisely, and ultimately increase your savings.

Once you experience these positive outcomes, you are likely to actually change the way you view yourself. Suddenly, once you are able to define yourself as a responsible person who plans for the future, you start making smarter decisions in other areas of you life as well.

In, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg includes a particularly interesting anecdote about how a simple keystone habit was able to make significant changes in a corporate workplace. In 1987, Paul O’Neill, the new CEO of Alcoa—or the Aluminum Company of America—was speaking to a large group of investors and stock analysts. To the crowd’s dismay, rather than discussing profit margins and other “business buzzwords,” he wanted to discuss worker safety. Worker safety remained his primary focus, and it paid off. Duhigg recounts a conversation he had with Paul O’Neill:

“’I knew I had to transform Alcoa,’ O’Neill told me. ‘but you can’t order people to
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