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The Power of Habits: How to Change Them

8 min read

This is my favorite Big Idea in the book. The basic idea: There’s a habit that when we change it will have the greatest positive impact on our lives. It’s a KEYSTONE habit. Keystones are good.

As the Apple dictionary tells us, a keystone is “a central stone at the summit of an arch, locking the whole together.”

So…what’s your keystone habit? What’s the #1 thing you could change that would have the most positive impact on your life? Is it quitting smoking? No longer drinking? Drastically reducing your internet time? Getting your inbox to zero? Meditating every day? Think about it. And pick one.


This is a keystone habit for me that I commit to changing: Frequency of checking e-mail

So, let’s look at my Cue + Routine + Reward. Old pattern: Cue = Checking my e-mail first thing in the morning. Routine = Tell myself there might be something important that needs my immediate attention. Reward = Convinced myself that there are no problems lurking out there for me.

New pattern: Cue = Getting out of bed bright and early ready to get a fast start to my day. Routine = Tell myself how much more productive I will be getting some “real work” (writing a blog post or article etc.) before checking my e-mail. Reward = Honored my commitment to be more focused, strategic and productive. Stopped fooling myself that checking e-mail incessantly is helping me reach my goals for the day!

Back to you: What’s your keystone habit? And your Cue + Routine + Reward?

The book goes into more detail that will be very helpful for you as you look to re-shape your habits, but let’s take a quick inventory:

My keystone habit:_____________________________________

My current Cue:_______________________________________

My current Routine:____________________________________

My current Reward:____________________________________

My new Cue: _________________________________________

My new Routine:_______________________________________

My new Reward:_______________________________________

Well done! Practice your new habit for thirty days so that it is well established. Change your brain and thrive!

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  1. Peter Cook

    January 3, 2014 at 7:58 am

    Stopping stuff is much harder than starting things – it’s the unlearning challenge.

    I’m sure Michael Jackson would not have had a hit if he called his song “Wanna be stoppin’ something” instead of “Wanna be starting something”

    More like this in my books “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” and “The Music of Business” at The Academy of Rock Website


  2. Craig Polsfuss

    January 6, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Thanks for the interesting and useful article, Julie. I appreciate your mentioning the neuroscience aspect. My work in Higher Brain Living, a recent significant neuroscience advancement, additionally energizes the pre-frontal cortex, which in turn empowers a profound shift experientially, cognitively and functionally.

    In effect, habits that do not serve us become organically and intentionally re-wired and replaced with ones designed by the highest intelligence in our brain. This changes the rules of the game. As a psychologist, I have never seen such fast, profound and lasting change.

    If you’d like to discuss this and perhaps share it with coaches – who are a prime resource of change agents – I would be happy to connect. Hope so!


  3. libraryofprofessionalcoaching

    January 8, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Maynard: I always appreciate your contributions to the library. Very thoughtful and based on your own extensive experience and wisdom as a coach and counsellor.


  4. Keto Fitoru

    November 27, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    This is a very interesting article on the power of habit and the different ways on how we can change them for the better.


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