Small Problem, Big Solution

How Paying Attention to Attendance Pays Off

Little things mean a lot. Take, for example, a “keystone species.” These are species that are crucial to their ecosystems; destroying them can wreak irreparable damage. Lions, tigers, and elephants aren’t on the list—the spotted owl and the brine shrimp are. Keystone species are often creatures you don’t notice until they’re gone. The lichen, a colonizing organism that can revitalize soil devastated by volcanic ash, fix its own nitrogen, and disintegrate rocks, may seem dispensable—it’s only a fungus, after all. But without it, the ecosystem of the Arctic region would suffer and the entire planet would be affected.

Keystone species. Keystone habits. The concept isn’t that different. In his fascinating book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg extends the concept of the inconspicuous-but-indispensable to habits. His idea is that certain seemingly insignificant habits can have a profound impact on our lives—on our success in school, at work, and even in our marriages. Research has proven, for example, that families that eat dinner together regularly have children with higher grades, better social skills, and more confidence than kids whose families don’t. Making your bed every morning is statistically linked to greater productivity. Regular exercise, even as little as one day a week, leads people to eat better, smoke less, and use their credit cards more judiciously.

Coincidentally, while...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Jo McGowan, a Commonweal columnist, writes from Deradoon, India.