People who exercise are more likely to eat healthy. If you make your bed, you’ll be more productive throughout the rest of your day. These behaviors that seem to create a cascade of other positive behaviors are called keystone habits. You can find lists of good habits all over the internet. Finding a professional keystone habit is more complicated than simply resolving to hit the gym before work each day.
A professional keystone habit
Professional keystone habits able to change the fundamental structure of how we do business because they direct our attention toward a core priority in our work. The Power of Habit describes how Paul H. O’Neill made Alcoa a multi-billion dollar company by driving focus simply toward “safety”. This post by Joshua Kerievsky neatly unpacks how safety provides a universal common ground that allowed employees to change the way they did everything in metalwork.
Image from Iain Farrell 2011 (license)
Educators must choose their own keystone habit. It’s hard to argue against “safety” in an industrial setting, but finding the right keystone habit for learning is not as straightforward. Jonathan Haidt has been on center stage discussing what the driving principle for higher education should be. What he describes as a telos is essentially a keystone habit. What are we here to do as educators?
Your Keystone Habit
Finding your own touchstone for how you approach your work can help prioritize tasks, frame the way you deal with problems, and identify places where your effort may not be well spent. Distill it to an essence. Cut the caveats, the clarifications, and the qualifiers. On Two Pint PLC we ask each full episode guest to define their own keystone habit, and we always share ours.
- Intent matters
- Know your students
- Stay curious
- Empower each other
- Discuss research
- Struggle well
Each leaves room for all the details of what that teacher does each day. Simultaneously it makes it immediately clear how that teacher will approach every interaction. That clarity will help us understand our colleagues. Knowing what matters most to each other ultimately helps students.
Keystone habits are critical to us as educators. While we change many things from season to season of the podcast, trust that our keystone habits will always be here.