As my alarm went off at 6am, I could hear the rain lashing against the bedroom window. I’d looked out my running kit the night before, and placed it in a heap near my bed. It gave me one less excuse to snuggle down in to the warmth of my duvet.
Making preparations ahead of time such as buying healthy food at the weekend so that you can create an appealing lunchbox to avoid being tempted to consume junk food, or scheduling a date night so that you and your loved one can keep the home-fire burning is a great tip. But sometimes the ‘preparation technique’ isn’t enough to get me out of bed to run in the rain, or to prevent me from cancelling date-night, or to enable me to resist the temptation to buy a lunchtime dessert.
As my alarm was trilling, I toyed with the idea of pressing the snooze button and rolling over for an extra half hour of sleep. But then my keystone perspective kicked in. ‘This is not who I am’ I thought, ‘I do what I say I’m going to do, when I say I’m going to do it’. That was enough to get me out of bed and in to my running gear. Within 5 minutes I was enjoying the feeling of the rain on my face and my feet pounding the tarmac. Buddy, my Jack Russell looked pretty grateful that I’d called on my keystone perspective to get me out of bed as he ran happily alongside me.
I borrowed the term ‘keystone perspective’ from Charles Duhigg’s notion of a ‘Keystone Habit’. A Keystone Habit leads to the development of multiple good habits. For example, let’s say that your keystone habit is to take a half hour walk in nature everyday. That habit will lead to multiple habits such as:
- Making better choices when it comes to food
- Being calmer and more mindful during your day
- Having more energy each day
- Being more conscious of the amount of sleep you get.
If you’re like many others, you’ll be turning your mind to changes that you want to implement in 2017. Do you want to get fit? Get more sleep? Have more time with the family? Achieve a better work/life balance? Become more confident?
By shifting your perspective to focus on who you want to become, you add rocket fuel to the development of any keystone habit. I call this consciously chosen perspective a keystone perspective. For example, the keystone perspective of seeing yourself as a person who does what you say you will do when you say you will do it, will support a keystone habit of walking in nature every day, or dropping junk food from your diet. This single keystone perspective will push you in the direction of the gym to work out, have you planning healthy meals for the week and keeping your commitment to have dinner at the table with your loved ones. Excuses like ‘I’m too tired’ or ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ or ‘I can’t leave work just now because there’s so much to do’ give you momentary relief from the guilt of letting yourself and others down. By developing a keystone perspective that can operate precisely at the most likely point of failure, you can propel yourself to success.
To create a keystone perspective, you need to make it part of your identity. If you see yourself as ‘the kind of person who does what she says she will do when she says she will do it,’ then it becomes harder to switch the alarm off when it’s time for your early morning run. As you’re reaching for the junk food, ask yourself ‘is this who I am?’ By shifting your perspective of yourself to become ‘I am fit’ or ‘I am self-disciplined’ or ‘I am clear about my priorities’, you shift your outcomes.
So the compelling question is; ‘what kind of person do I want to become in 2017?’ Here are some ideas:
- I am self-disciplined (or I do what I say I will do when I say I will do it) – this works well as a keystone perspective to support daily or weekly habits.
- I am kind and compassionate – this works well with habits such as developing patience and building relationships.
- I am courageous and confident – this supports habits related to change outside your comfort zone.
Choose your keystone perspective for 2017 now – and link it consciously to what you want to achieve. Believe it, repeat it and use it as a prompt to get you going when you want to roll over and default to the easy option.