Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Looking For Keystone Habits

The pursuit of establishing many sustained habits can be overwhelming. I have many things that I want to start doing differently, and although I know that lasting changes are best taken on little bit at a time, I don't know where to start. It's like being an eager beginning piano student--you have a book with ample Bach, Couperin, Rameau, Mozart, and Bartok pieces, but you know that it's best to focus and master few pieces at a time before moving on to learning other pieces. But which pieces do you start learning first?

I recently did a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Weaknesses) analyses of few important long-term goals: improving fitness, making progress on career development goals, and blogging regularly In all cases, there were glaring commonalities under the Weakness quadrant. The same phrase--"lack of discipline"--populated the W quadrant. Is there something that I can do to address my lack of discipline?

I recently finished reading Charles Duhigg's insightful book, The Power of Habit. The author asserts that certain habits are catalysts for creating cascading changes, and act as foundation for establishing new habits. Duhigg calls them "keystone habits."

Perhaps finding which new habits I could designate as keystone habits is my first course of action. What are the habits that will address my proclivity for lax self-discipline? For fitness goals, I want to establish a modest routine of three workout sessions a week. For professional growth, I want to spend minimum of four hours a week learning new skills and engaging in career-propelling activities (such as networking, meeting with inspirational experts and mentors, and staying up to date in my fields of interest). And for maintaining blogging discipline, I want to post once a week. So far I have been able to prioritize these keystone habits.

I've discovered that participating in these keystone habits have the added benefit of feeding off each other. I spend my post-gym whirlpool time thinking about content and the structure for the week's blog posts and plan the week's career-propelling activities. Engaging in career-related activities also acts as a catalyst for future blog posts. Spending 60 minutes on cardiovascular exercise helps inculcate mental toughness needed to slosh through challenging study exercises.

The biggest question now is, "will these keystone habits stick?" That remains to be seen. As long as my important long-term goals remain the same, I feel confident that these keystone habits are built to last.

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