A keystone is the pivotal stone in an archway. There are wonderful architectural examples like the ancient arch in this picture that demonstrate how a keystone can create a strong and secure strong. The remarkable thing about a keystone is that it holds the arch together without any cement or other adhesive, but just by the pressure its unique shape exerts on the other stones.
A keystone habit is a habit that works in a similar way. It is the habit that, when you form that one habit, it affects all the other areas of your life and work, causing change on a large scale.
An often cited example of a keystone habit is physical exercise. For those who are out of shape, unenergetic, and unmotivated in other areas of their lives, starting an exercise regimen can be a catalyst for other change. By forming that one habit of exercising each day, it can help create the positive framework for forward motion in seemingly unrelated areas. Work seems more interesting, personal relationships improve and so on.
With spring finally here, it’s a perfect time to look at your musical habits. Is there an area where you are dissatisfied with your performance? Technique, perhaps, or note reading? Is your practice schedule irregular?
What ONE THING , if you changed it, would jumpstart your playing? What keystone habit could make a change in that ONE THING?
Here is a quick strategy to help you identify your ONE THING, so that you can form your keystone habit: (I am putting this in a musical framework, but you could easily apply this to any area of your life, or indeed your life as a whole.)
1. Write down 3-5 things that you feel are major stumbling blocks for you right now. Possibilities might include technique, practice time, distractions, irregular lesson schedule.
2. Over the next 10 days, write down the following after each practice session or performance: What did I like least/most about this experience? How was this a satisfying experience? What would have made this more satisfying?
3. At the end of the 10 days, check your responses against the answers you gave to question #1 to look for correlations. Can you identify the ONE THING that you could start to do differently to make the biggest positive impact on your playing? If you can see the problem, but aren’t sure how to address it, ask a teacher. While you’re asking, ask your teacher to hold you accountable for your progress in developing your new habit.
Then start implementing your keystone habit, and watch the change begin!