Anna Bradfield Writes

Discovering the extraordinary in everyday life

Three Characteristics All Habits Share

Keystone habits explain how Michael Phelps became an Olympic champion and why some college students outperform their peers. They describe why some people, after years of trying, suddenly lose 40 pounds while becoming more productive at work and still getting home in time for dinner with their kids. – Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit

Click here to hear about habits, in the author’s own words, where he talks about Cue, Routine, and Reward.

Could it really be this simple? Are we driving ourselves crazy, stressing ourselves out, and perpetuating an unbalanced life because we’re focusing on too many things?

Perhaps this focus on everything distracts us from focusing on the most important things, which causes us to want to give up before we meet our goals. I know this has been the case for me. Take my writing, for example.

I have been writing for years now, but I keep putting things in front of this habit of putting everything  before writing. I wrote a historical fiction novel about five years ago and a children’s picture book manuscript about the same time. I have invested both time and money over the years, honing my writing craft, working with a consultant, paying for professional editing, and designing a website. And yet, now that I finally got up the nerve to show the work to an agent or two, I jump on the Etsy bandwagon and decide I’m going to do some sewing projects in my spare time.

What spare time?!? Ugh!

If I believe in Duhigg’s Cue, Routine, and Reward cycle, I need to find out what my reward is in delaying the gratification of success in writing. And I need to figure out what keystone habits I should implement to start the ripple of success in writing. But let’s take one step back. I have alluded to the idea that keystone habits share three basic characteristics:

  1. Cue: The Science of Small Wins. Small wins are a steady application of a small advantage. Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another one. These small wins convince us that larger achievements are within reach. We repeat them, see a little more by way of results, repeat them, see a little more…I suddenly feel like The Little Engine That Could! Our habits take over, leaving success as just another step in the pattern.
  2. Routine: Create New Platforms. We should look for new patterns that create new platforms from which other habits can emerge. Mental visualization is the bedrock of this characteristic. We must visually see ourselves succeeding so readily that it eventually becomes rote. If we can do that, we can rest in the knowledge of success because we have seen it happen so often. We will not be riled by unexpected challenges because we will be able to see the end result. And success will become effortless.
  3. Reward: Establish a Culture Where Excellence is Contagious. In order to do this, we must expect the unexpected. We must plan for it and know how to respond when it occurs. If we have that game plan ahead of time, we won’t be thrown off track when the unexpected happens.

How does all of this apply to my writing? I haven’t quite decided yet, but I know I need to get a copy of this book. Uh-oh…another delay in the writing…?

Your Inspiration Prompt: Until next time, tell us about a book that recently inspired you.

Share your thoughts in the Comments section.

photo credit: <a href=”″>Mathematical pattern – Guess Five</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>

About Anna Bradfield

Anna Bradfield has been spinning tales, exaggerating the truth, and flat-out lying almost as long as she could talk. Nowadays, though, she calls it fiction. Buy her ebooks, Hey Grampa! or Barnyard Babies today. Join the online community and receive a free copy of her ebook, Boy Crazy.

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