Keystone habits, as defined by Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit (one of my all-time favorite books) are small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.
I think keystone habits exist for every area of life, but sometimes they’re harder to root out than you’d think. Even though I love going to my Sunday morning Step class, I used to skip classes frequently if I was feeling tired or un-motivated. These days, I go every single week, but the keystone habit that gets me there isn’t even mine. It’s my husband’s habit: he takes my son food shopping every Sunday morning, allowing me to go to class. The two habits are tied together: me going to the gym, and them having their father-son time at our favorite grocery store. If they stopped doing that, I bet my attendance would fall off.
I have a keystone habit for healthy eating, too. Every Sunday I spend 20 minutes chopping and preparing fresh vegetables so that I can quickly make salads for my and my husband’s work lunches during the week. This keystone habit starts the week off healthily, and makes me want to continue in the same way. If I ever missed doing it, I’m sure I would eat fewer vegetables that week.
I used to think I didn’t have a keystone habit for writing. I just loved doing it, and so it was relatively easy to sit down in my chair and get started. But when I really thought about it, I realized that I have a keystone habit so deep that it actually started me writing in the first place. That keystone habit is keeping a journal.
I journaled all through high school, stopped for awhile in my mid-twenties, and began again in my late twenties. At that point, I began to crave more writing. I signed up for my first writing class less than a year after re-starting the journaling, and the rest is history. The need to write in my journal every day prompts the need to touch my other writing projects every day. It’s given me the discipline to sit down in my chair, and the ability to just start working even if I don’t feel inspired. It’s given me trust that the right words will come if I give it some time.
Here are a few suggestions for other creative keystone habits:
If you are a musician who wants to practice more… Stop putting your instrument away. Keep it out, right next to your music stand, so it prompts you to pick it up without hassle. Bonus: There’s nothing more decorative than music propped on a music stand.
If you are a chef who wants to cook more…. Download apps that make it easy to find new recipes and create shopping lists on the go. Schedule a block of time one evening a week to try new recipes.
If you are a dancer or athlete who wants to expand your game… Take a class or try a movement that takes you back to the basics. Go back to those basics, and you’ll find new areas of growth.
What’s your creative keystone habit?
If you can’t think of one, here’s your chance to steal my creativity: Tell me (one) your favorite mode of creative expression, (two) why you started doing it, and (three) how you’d like to do it differently. I’ll come up with some suggestions for you to find a keystone creative habit.
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