As a new year and indeed a new decade rolls around, many people (myself included) will be considering setting new goals and planning for the year ahead and beyond.
Although I do set goals, the actual goal itself doesn’t really occupy much of my day to day thinking. The goals themselves are merely a reflection of my behaviour. How I live and show up every day is more important. I know from experience this will have more impact than over fixating on the actual goal itself. Instead, I tend to focus on the performance I want to put in each day, the habits I want to create and how I enjoy the journey. If I get these parts right, the goals will not only look after themselves, but they will also probably evolve and change slightly over the course of a year. I have found that energetically this is a different way of being compared to a rigid focus on a specific goal.
When it comes to creating habits that work well for you, one concept that you might find useful is what’s known as a “keystone habit”. I first came across this concept a number of years ago when I read a great book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. In the book, Duhigg explains the concept of developing ‘keystone” habits. The word keystone stems from the architecture world and relates back to a “key” stone that was the final one placed at the apex of an arch. It was the stone that effectively locked all the others into position and was regarded as a mark of strength or good architecture.
When it comes to the architecture of our habits, keystone habits are similarly important. These are habits that are not only important and potentially very impactful themselves but in turn may lead to other positive habits forming in our behaviour. They create a domino effect that spills over into other areas of our lives. For example, let’s say I decide that unplugging from all forms of technology by 9.30pm each evening is going to be a keystone habit I want to develop. The knock-on effects of this could be things like being more present with my wife in the evenings, getting better quality sleep which in turn means I’m more energised in the morning and probably more focused at work. Picking a keystone habit is just the fist step. It’s crucial that you also break down the steps involved and relevant considerations to actually doing the activity itself.
For 2020, I have picked 3 keystone habits I am focusing on:
- Sleep – consistently getting 7.5 to 8 hours sleep each night.
- Exercise – training on average 4 times per week over the course of 2020.
- Technology – spending on average less than 1 hour a day on my phone.
For me an improvement in all of these habits will lead to knock on benefits including:
- Improved consistency with energy levels.
- More clarity of thought.
- More creativity in my work.
- Being more present with friends and family.
- Becoming better at my work.
- Being a better father and husband.
- Setting a positive example for my son.
- Enhancing my overall sense of well-being.
For each habit, I am setting out here 3 practical considerations as well as small tweaks I can make in my own mico-environment that will stack the odds in my favour of actually performing the habit consistently.
Sleep – consistently getting 7.5 to 8 hours sleep each night
- Disengage from all technology by 9.30pm each night.
- Stretch and do some breath work for 10 mins prior to getting into bed.
- No technology in the bedroom.
Exercise – training on average 4 times per week over the course of 2020
- Spend 20 mins each week diarising my training sessions for the following week.
- Freshen up my training regime with new activities (I am starting to use gymnastic rings outdoors and am experimenting with Tai Chi).
- Pack my gear each night and leave by the door for the following day.
Technology – spending on average less than 1 hour a day on my phone
- Download a tracking app (I’m using one called moment) onto my phone to record daily usage.
- Turn off all notifications on my phone.
- Buddy up with my wife for accountability each day.
Building habits takes time. This idea of building a habit in 21 days is nonsense. Research has shown that it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit. The length of time will vary depending on the habit you are trying to form and on your own circumstances.
I know that improvement in the areas above will have a positive impact for me personally and professionally and in turn will help me evolve my behaviour around the goals I want to achieve. As I mentioned earlier, while I absolutely do have goals for this year, my daily focus is on my behaviour and the habits I create, not the actual goal itself.
To help me with this, I am also bringing in an accountability / support structure which is three fold.
- I am sharing this publicly and so will report back on this later in the year.
- I am sharing these intentions with my coach and these are part of my overall life and business planning for 2020.
- I am also asking my wife Colette to keep me accountable.
Having some support and accountability can be a really simple and impactful way of evolving behaviour. Support and accountability can, over time, help us truly embody new habits and ways of being and therefore reduce the need for discipline and willpower.
What could your keystone habits be and what impact they could have for you and those in your life for 2020 and beyond?
Best wishes for a happy, healthy and fulfilled 2020!!