Dying Daily #180: Keystone Habits

I don’t really try to hide the fact that my life used to be a shitshow.

It was a mess, I was a mess and I made everything messy everywhere I went.

This isn’t self-deprecating, it’s true, and anyone who knew me will acknowledge this if they are being honest.

My life is cool now.

I love it. I have very little mess, and when I do I clean it up quickly and change whatever allowed it in.

When I look at the things that made the difference for me, some are pretty obvious.

Having a baby.

Discovering mindfulness and meditation.

Going to school.

Having parents who stuck with me.

A brother who let me live with him.

Within all of this though, there is one thing that allowed everything else to start shifting so that these things could have an impact, and it was unexpected.

I started getting up early every single morning.

That’s it.

I know it sounds odd, but this is very much a real thing, and it applies to so many things in life.

Changing one habit can lead to global changes in our lives.

This is actually born out by multiple studies. People who workout everyday are, predictably, more diligent with diet and smoke less, but they also exhibit more financial responsibility. People who track every single purchase not only spend less, they smoke less and have better diets.

In working with clients I tell them that discipline is an all-or-nothing thing. The client who cannot control their eating or video game playing will struggle with being on time on work and will no show on me. I see it all the time.

For me, getting up early everyday was a Keystone Habit, and it changed my perspective on everything.

The first thing it did was make me conscious of time as a thing at all. It gave me more time to do things.  It forced me into a place of intentionality with my time and how I spent it. Getting up early gave my time value, and encouraged me to go to bed at a certain time. It infiltrated every part of my life and slowly shifted everything. 

More than anything else though, it changed my perspective on myself. Instead of seeing myself as a loser with too much time on his hands, I began to matter to myself. Once I mattered to myself, I began to take care of myself and do things that were good for me.

I stopped thinking I was worthless, so I stopped behaving like a worthless person.

I am not saying that getting up early is the key for everyone. Keystone habits take all sorts of forms, and they don’t have to be related to the things they change. The key is introducing intentionality into one’s worldview.

Pick something big. It can be diet, exercise, sleep, video games, phone time, television time, whatever. My current task is related to swearing less. Change something big and see how it impacts the rest of your life. 

Thanks for reading.