Keystone Habits: The Simple Way to Improve All Aspects of Your Life

by James Clear

There are certain habits and routines that make success easier, regardless of the circumstances you face.

In fact, you may already practice some of these habits, even though you are unaware of it right now.

But most importantly, if you understand how to harness these habits, then you can drastically improve your health, your work, and your relationships … and start living the life you deserve.

The Keystone Habit

In Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, he discusses the idea of keystone habits.

We have habits everywhere in our lives, but certain routines — keystone habits — lead to a cascade of other actions because of them.

For example…

A few months ago, I started to notice a funny thing.

When I worked out, I wanted to eat better. Even though I could have rewarded myself with chocolate bars and ice cream, I felt like eating real, healthy foods.

I also slept better. And when I was awake, I seemed more productive. Especially in the hour or two after working out, when my mind seemed to think clearer and my writing was crisper. Thoughts flowed easily.

When I didn’t exercise, however, I was more prone to eating junk food. I would stay up later working on unimportant tasks. I started to feel tension in my back. I didn’t check it, but my guess is that my blood pressure raised as a result of additional stress and no place to release it.

In other words, fitness is the keystone habit the puts the rest of my life in place. When I workout, other things naturally fall into place. I don’t have to think about eating better. I don’t have to force myself to focus on getting things done. Exercise naturally pushes me towards my best self.

What Are Your Keystone Habits?

I’m not always on top of my game, but on the days that I work out everything seems to come a little bit easier. And I’ll take all the help I can get as I continue my quest to become better.

Imagine how much easier and more fulfilling your lifestyle could be if you discovered one or two keystone habits that naturally put the rest of your life in place.

So often, we struggle to live the way we want to simply because we don’t have the willpower to make different decisions. Whether it’s having the discipline to eat healthy or the courage to take a risk or the energy to volunteer more often or the drive to perform better at work, we delay these choices — even though we know they are important — simply because we don’t have the willpower to make something new happen today.

Improving your lifestyle and becoming the type of person who “has their act together” isn’t nearly as hard as you might think. In fact, you might need just one keystone habit before the dominoes start falling everywhere.

What are you doing when everything falls into place? What is your keystone habit?

Find it and do more of it.

P.S. If you want more practical ideas for how to build new habits (and break bad ones), check out my book Atomic Habits, which will show you how small changes in habits can lead to remarkable results.

Why You May be 15 Years Younger Than You Think You Are

by Bob Veres

How long are you and I going to live?  None of us knows, of course, but this number is important for a variety of planning issues—including, of course, how long your money will have to last in retirement.  Actuarial tables tell us how long people will live on average, but that isn’t much help for planning a specific person’s life, and the averages conceal a lot of variation.

Living today is a huge advantage over living in the past, and living in a developed nation is a benefit as well.  As you can see from the chart, most children born in the late 1700s had a life expectancy below age 35; today, the global average is 70, and people who make it to age 65 have a good chance of living to 85 or longer.

If you’re above the national average in wealth and income, and especially if you have certain lifestyle characteristics like regular exercise and no tobacco usage, then there’s a good chance you’ll live longer than these averages.

There’s a website that can help you get a better feel for your expected lifespan; it’s called Living to 100 (www.livingto100.com).  The site asks you a series of questions including your birthday, gender and marital status, and some interesting questions related to the number of new relationships you’ve developed over the last 12 months, the way you cope with stress and some of the sources of stress you’re currently experiencing, your normal sleep habits and your education level.

There are questions on nutrition, your height and weight, how often you eat red meat and sweets, and at the end, you are told how well your answers match up with the tendency to live a long life.  At the end of a tutorial on your answers and suggestions for improvement, you get a calculated life expectancy, and a list of things that could add as many as ten years to that life expectancy.

Chances are, you’ll be surprised at how long you’re expected to live, and astonished at the possibilities suggested in the list of potential changes to your lifestyle.  That means that you’ve managed your life and your health intelligently, and the extra years could be an unexpected bonus.  Of course, it also means that you should take a second look at how much you’ve saved and the possibilities of using your skills and experience to earn income during retirement.

Bottom line: you may discover that you have 15 more years to live than you expected based on your experience with your parents, which means you can start thinking of yourself as 15 years younger when you look at your options and personal timeline.

The Pandemic That Isn’t

By Bob Veres

Omigosh!  There are cases of Ebola in the United States!  Someone with Ebola has flown on a domestic airplane!  Schools are closing in Texas!  Let’s show photos of healthcare workers in Hazmat suits who look like they’re dressed for the Moon, and report on anyone who might have been exposed, whether or not they’ve come down with the virus!

 If you want to sell newspapers or catch eyeballs on cable news, nothing works like fear, and the Ebola virus has proven to be a great way to play games with our collective startle reflex.  Get ready for more breathless coverage, like the time when it made headlines when somebody sneezed on an aircraft. 

There’s only one thing wrong about this: Ebola is not likely to become a health crisis, much less a global pandemic.  In other words: it’s okay to calm down. 

To date, four people in the U.S. and one Spanish nurse have contracted the deadly disease since its outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, three West-African nations which have, so far, experienced 1,000, 2,000 and 3,500 cases respectively.  Ebola has spread as far as it has in those countries for a variety of reasons not present in the U.S. and Europe: dysfunctional health systems, people living in close proximity in slums with hygiene that would appall most Americans, a lack of trust in authorities, and years of armed civil strife.  Remember, these are countries where there is a one in ten chance of catching cholera, and a higher incidence of malaria.   

The thing to remember is, Ebola is not an air-borne disease.  You don’t catch it by sitting next to somebody on the plane, which is why no cases were reported as a result of that now-famous flight to Atlanta–or, for that matter, on that flight taken by the first patient who eventually succumbed to the disease in Dallas.  You catch Ebola through close contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is in the advanced stages of the disease, when the patient is vomiting and plagued by diarrhea.  That’s why the only transmissions in the U.S. so far have been healthcare workers in close contact with the patients. 

Other countries, with far less medical resources, have already faced Ebola and kept it from spreading to the general population.  Senegal reported a single Ebola patient, who apparently never transmitted the disease to anyone thanks to local healthcare officials who immediately identified 74 people who had close contact with the patient.  These people were monitored twice daily, and when five developed influenza-like symptoms, they were tested repeatedly.  None had contracted the virus, but if they had, their isolation and monitoring meant that others would not have been infected. 

There was a similar story in Nigeria, where an airline passenger collapsed on the tarmac, and the two co-workers who helped him into a cab to the hospital also contracted the virus.  Nigerian authorities identified everyone who had come in contact with the sick people.  In all, roughly 900 individuals were exposed, and they were identified and monitored.  Eighteen of them contracted Ebola, and the plague ended there–in a country whose healthcare system is far from perfect, where one in five deaths is due to malaria, one of only three countries in the world where polio is still endemic. 

The lesson here is that, unless you work in a hospital and have had close personal contact with an Ebola patient, there is virtually a zero chance you will contract the disease.  It is even more unlikely that Ebola will grow into a national or global pandemic.  It is an undeniable tragedy in West Africa, which could have been prevented if pharmaceutical companies had been following up on promising treatments in their laboratories.  The U.S. Ebola scare has belatedly changed their priorities, but chances are the vaccine and the cure will actually be needed elsewhere.

Ten Things to Keep in Mind for a Successful Resume

by Helen Redfield

  1. Spell your name correctly, and use one name throughout
  2. Use one font, in black, format it correctly and make it readable
  3. Include all dates
  4. Do not list answering phones, opening mail, making copies or sending faxes as “skills”;  they aren’t
  5. Use spell check and then read the results, making sure to omit auto-correct errors
  6. Use full formal sentences, capitalization, and proper punctuation; no acronyms, no emoticons
  7. Do not include any social activities you may have participated in, in High School, or worse, Elementary School
  8. Do not dictate what you want the company to do for you
  9. Personalize the Objective to the position you are applying for (read the ad first)
  10. Remember to actually attach your resume, with contact information, and a professional email address; i.e. not “slinkygal@hotmail”.  

If people would only do this, my job would be so much easier.  Truth is, maybe 2  out of ten actually do all 10!  One of the resumes today came in orange.  While I know orange is the new black, she also used about 6 different fonts, most of which were fancy script.  Gaaad!