Have you ever tried to change a habit? If you have, you know how difficult it is—especially when it's one you've had for many years. It's not impossible. Just difficult.
Ariana Huffington in her book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life refers to the work of Charles Duhigg and scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who have mapped the habit genome.
Duhigg talks about "keystone habits" that, when changed, make changing other habits easier. He says, "Keystone habits start a process that, over time, transforms everything. Keystone habits say that success doesn't depend on getting every single thing right, but instead relies on identifying a few key priorities and fashioning them into powerful levers."
So Huffington says her most powerful keystone habit was sleep. And once she changed the amount of sleep she got, regularly getting enough each night, other habits became easier to change. Her discovery is in line with what psychological studies show: that willpower alone isn't enough because willpower is a resource that gets depleted the more it's used. Dr. Judson Brewer of Yale says the common signs of resource depletion are hunger, anger, loneliness and tiredness (HALT).
That makes sense to me. When I'm tired or any one of those other things, it's far more difficult to create positive habits. Now that I know this, I will pay more attention to the idea of resource depletion and to keystone habits.