Keystone Habits: Leveraging the Power of Small Habits

leverage keystone habit

Leveraging the power of keystone habits

There is an interesting statistics on New Year Resolutions. Each year, about 45% of Americans “usually” make their New Year’s Resolutions. By the end of first week, 75% would have stopped maintaining their resolutions. 64% would get past the first month and only 46% past the six months.

At the end of the year, only 8% of them are successful in achieving these resolutions. That’s only 8 in every 100 who made their commitment to their resolutions.

Sticking to resolutions is hard. There is no question about that. But there is a key to achieving all your resolutions successfully.


That’s it. That’s no drama. That’s no secret either.

But the question is how to attain that level of discipline that will get everything you committed to doing done.


Discipline, in a sense, is adherence to habits that you, yourself, have established and decided to stick to.

So, I guess the formula would look something like this:

Habit –> Discipline –> Resolutions –> Success!

Forming a habit is as difficult to stick to as is sticking to resolutions. It’s just hard to form habits that you can stick to.

This will lead us to the secret of forming a habit: Keystone Habits.

In his book “The Power of Habit” (affiliate link), Charles Duhigg defines keystone habit as habit “that triggers widespread change.” He pointed out that exercise is a good keystone habit as it usually triggers more positive changes; like, exercise increases productivity.

The principle behind the keystone habit is “leverage.” Leverage is “mechanical advantage gained by using a lever.” Imagine an average-sized human trying to move a big rock ten times his size by wedging one end of a sturdy wood, which is laid over a fulcrum, under the rock. That’s leverage – using minimal force to cause maximum effect.

Discipline, in a sense, is adherence to habits that you, yourself, have established and decided to stick to.

You can leverage a keystone habit to set off a much bigger habit that brings about the much-needed discipline to accomplish or achieve anything!

Honestly, the concept of Keystone Habit is still new to me. This is how I set it up:

1. I Decided What Keystone Habit to Form

Reading the Bible in One Year has been one of the hardest goals that I always fail to achieve. I decided to conquer this once and for all.

2. I have a Plan

I have a definite plan to read the Bible from cover to cover. It’s a reading schedule I downloaded from our church’s website with the date at the first column and the verses to read next to the date.

3. I Set a Cue

Again in his book “The Power of Habit”, Duhigg exposes that MIT researchers “discovered a simple neurological loop at the core of every habit, a loop that consists of three parts: A cue, a routine and a reward.”

My cue is an alarm I set to go off at 8:30 PM. I don’t necessarily open the Bible at 8:30 PM. It reminds me that I have to drop anything I am doing at the time and read the Bible.

4. I don’t Over-Do What I Planned For

Sometimes I feel like reading more than what’s on the schedule of my Bible Reading Plan but I resist that urge. If I want to read more, I would read outside of this set time. The key is to maintain the flow of the schedule.

5. I Don’t Break the Chain

You probably heard about Jerry Seinfeld’s’ unique calendar system. “For each day that he does his task of writing, he gets to put a big red X over that day.”

I am doing something like this by crossing off in red ink the whole row that contains the date and verses of that day.

6. I Piggyback Other Habits

Once I’m done reading the Bible for the night, that serves as another cue for me to heat water to use for steeping my loose-leaf green tea. While waiting for my tea to brew, I use that time to look for the non-fiction book I am reading for the week (or for how long I need to finish reading it) and find where I left off the previous evening.

This is where that magic of “triggering widespread changes” happens. My Keystone Habit of reading the Bible everyday triggers me to drink green tea daily that triggers, in return, another habit, which is reading a non-fiction book. At 11:00 PM, I stopped reading and do 30 reps push-ups (15 regular push up and 15 wide push-ups).

At this stage, forming habit using keystone habit is still an experiment to me. I am still trying to hone my system.

Two months in and I never missed a day of reading the Bible.

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