How to find and develop a Keystone Habit

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In the book “The Power of Habit,” by Charles Dughigg, the author describes how and why people change. One of the things he describes is something that researchers have known for a long time is essential to change; something called a Keystone Habit. For those of you unfamiliar, here is a quick definition:

A Keystone Habit is one simple habit that ultimately leads to the development of multiple good habits. They start a chain effect in your life that produces a number of positive outcomes. 

For some people, starting the day off by reading their Bible or going to the gym is the thing that sets things in motion. For others, it’s something as simple as making the bed and finishing the task by spraying glade at the base of the bed (funny, I know!).

The “what” it is is far less important than what it produces.

In the world of Younique, we think about this when we are finding and living out our 90-Day Goals.

The lynchpin of successful life design is setting the right goals.  There is, and always will be, far more that we want to accomplish and try than we have the energy or capacity to pursue.  We are imaginative and curious, which beautifully propels us to dream and think big!  It is counterintuitive, then to commit to one singular pursuit at any one time.  Psychological research has shown, however, that we can only do one thing at a time.  While it might feel good to keep open 9 table on the browser at once, the reality is that we can only focus on one at a time.

Younique embraces the power of singularity through the identification and commitment to a 90-Day goal.  This goal is the one commitment to rule them all.  We know it is the right goal because when accomplished it makes everything else on the list of what needs to get done or what is possible either much easier or no longer necessary at all.  Directly or indirectly, attention to this one goal makes everything else better and possible.

How do we decide what is the right 90-Day goal?  This can be a paralyzing moment in the process, whether it is the first time you set a 90-Day goal or your 100th plan renewal.  There are a few tips that I would like to share to help you declare your 90-Day goal.

Keep It Real

Not everything is under your control.  Determining your goal should begin with your actual life.  What is happening in the next 90 days that will impact you? Is your daughter getting married or your son undergoing treatment for cancer?  Will you be moving or starting a new job? Does the next 90 days include Christmas or other event in which family will be coming together for an extended period of time?  Are you on deadline for a big project?  The right 90 day goal will take into account what you will actually face in coming season.  It can be tempting to focus on the big dream articulated in your 3 year vision due to the interest and passion you have in moving toward that preferred future.  It is really important to come to terms that your preferred future requires you to move forward through your real today.  Taking account of what will be required of you in the present gives you the greatest chance of being able to successfully stay on track.

Pack a Punch

What is going to get you out of bed in the morning because you are motivated to crush this goal? The right 90 day goal will be something that inherently excites you.  This energy may not come directly from how pleasant the activity will be.  A friend of mine realized that her best self in the future requires a major context shift.  She is a doctor and looked ahead to see that her interests and passions in caring for people’s health would be better released in a different speciality. Needless to say, it is not simple to transition from one area of medicine to another.  She had to undergo new training, help her current patients find the right new doctor, and manage administrative details related to it all.  The 90 day goal to complete a certification that she needed to move forward was neither sexy nor easy.  Yet, when accomplished it made everything else on her to-do list either easier and possible or rendered them unnecessary.  Your 90 day goal is found in the power it releases.

Bite Size

3 months, 12 weeks, or 90 days.  This is a short period of time that is easily seen on a calendar.  You don’t have to flip or scroll many times to see the beginning and end of this time period. It is summer when kids are out of school, the fall college football season, or the time between Halloween costumes and Christmas morning.  A 90 day goal is intentionally limited in time in order to create a sense of urgency.  Time flies.  In order to be successful, it must be something that is possible to complete in 90 days.  There are two values to bite sizing goals.  The first is that it feels good to get it done.  We all want to know that we are making process and successfully getting it done.  Naming a goal that is specific, time sensitive, and doable gives us the satisfaction of checking it off as complete! You did it.  And that gives you the energy and confidence that you can do the next one as well.  Second, it gives us a regular status update that helps us manage expectations.  If your 3 year vision includes being debt free, then each 90 days must include a reduction of expenses and/or generation of new revenue to release funds toward debt payments.  An entire year can go by without managing our money behaviors if we don’t name a specific 90 day goal that helps us get on track with our financial choices and behaviors.  Break it down into goals that, although require effort and intentionality, are achievable.  Bite size the change and celebrate your success along the way.

Brainstorm all the 90 day goals that you can.  Think about all you want to do, all you need to do in order to achieve your three year vision, and take inventory of all that is required of you in the coming season.  Narrow down your list by asking yourself, what is realistic and needed from me given what’s on my calendar in the next 90 days? What will release power and energy that will make everything else easier and possible?  And what specific measures would both motivate me and demonstrate my success?

Many people find themselves at the end of their first life design process by setting their first 90 day goal as “learn how to set great 90 day goals.” This skill will unlock a lifetime of joy and productivity.  It’s Your Call!

About The Author

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Kelly Kannwischer
Kelly has spent her vocational life as a not-for-profit executive, consultant and development professional. Former to becoming the CEO of Younique, Kelly founded OptUp Consulting, served THINK Together as the Chief Engagement Officer, and led Vanguard University as a Vice President and President of the Vanguard University Foundation. Kelly graduated from the University of Virginia and earned her Masters degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. She is married to Rev. Dr. Richard Kannwischer and is the proud mother of Danica (age 15) and Ashby (age 13).