The practice of identifying your keystone habit was made popular by Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit.

Just as a keystone in masonry is the stone that completes and holds an archway together, likewise your keystone habit keeps all of your other positive habits in place, supporting and connecting your daily routine.

Your keystone habit also acts as a key that unlocks your other habits, setting them in motion like a cascade of dominos.

Popular Keystone Habits

Making your bed


Drinking water first thing in the morning

Exercising daily


Planning and scheduling your day

Eating at set times

Sleeping and waking at set times

Using warm oil to nourish your skin (Ayurvedic practice of abhyanga)

Listing your blessings each day

How do you know which habit is your keystone habit?

There are so many self-care habits you could put your energy toward automating.

Yet, not all habits have the same powerful positive impact, because we each have different strengths, weaknesses, and imbalances at a given time.

From an Ayurvedic perspective our strengths and weaknesses have to do with the composition of the 5 elements (earth, water, fire, air, and ether) in our bodies. We have different tendencies depending on our constitution, our dosha.

Certain habits will have a bigger impact on moving us toward balance than others based on our constitution and where we are currently out of balance.

First, you need to know your Ayurvedic dosha. If this is new to you read Vata, Pitta, Kapha: An Introduction to Three Energetic Forces of Nature.

Keystone Habits for Vata Dosha
(air and ether elements)

Abhyanga – warm oil massage

Eating, Sleeping and Waking at Set Times


Keystone Habits for Pitta Dosha (fire and water elements)

Easeful Living – taking a load off and recognizing that life has your back

Meditation – connecting to the awareness that is beyond your mind to acknowledge that you are not your thoughts

Keystone Habits for Kapha
(earth and water elements)

Breath Body Practices – exercise and movement that uses the breathe to guide the body toward harmony and health

Earlier, Lighter Dinners – having a nourishing lunch and eating a lighter evening meal with three or more hours for digestion before going to bed


Why you need to know your keystone habit

If you want the capacity to transform your life, identifying your keystone habit will help you shift automatically and almost effortlessly.

The more aware you are of your keystone habit the more resilient you become to the things you can’t control.

As long as you get your keystone habit in each day, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and steadiness regardless of what occurs around you.

You’ll also be more likely to keep other positive habits in place that naturally flow from that one action.


How to identify your keystone habit – for better or worse.

Take a moment to envision your daily routine.

Where do you derive energy?

Can you pinpoint a daily habit that makes you feel put together and on track?

Does this habit generally set the stage for you to take other positive actions immediately following it and throughout the day?

If yes, then you’ve identified your keystone habit.

If it’s not that clear at first, it might be easier to look for where you breakdown during the day.

Where do you lose energy?

If you can identify a consistent breakdown, you’ve found the perfect opportunity to replace that breakdown habit with a slightly better one and to bolster a keystone habit so that you are less likely to get sucked into the breakdown or stay there as long as you might have in the past.

The first step is to simply identify your keystone habit. Begin to become more aware of your daily routines and habits. Get curious about what leads you to act better and feel better, versus the things that lead you to an avalanche of negative thoughts and actions.

I’d love to hear what your keystone habit is! Comment below.

More keystone habit examples.


Photo Credit: Mike Wilson