Create a Chain Reaction of Good Habits With the Domino Effect

Human behavior is often related to one another. Consider the case of a woman named Jennifer Lee Dukes. Throughout the two and a half decades of her adult life, from the time she left for college until she was 40, Dukes never made the bed, except when her mother or guests walked into the house.

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At one point, she decided to try again and made the bed for four days in a row – a seemingly trivial feat. However, on the morning of that fourth day, when she finished making the bed, she also picked up a sock and folded up some of the things in the bedroom. She then found herself in the kitchen, taking the dirty dishes out of the sink and loading them into the dishwasher, then rearranging the Tupperware dishes in the cupboard and placing a decorative pig on the table as a centerpiece.

She later explained : “My making the bed entailed a chain of small household chores … I felt like an adult — a happy, legitimate adult with a made bed, a clean sink, one cleaned cabinet and a pig on the counter. I felt like a woman who miraculously escaped from the energy-absorbing Bermuda Triangle of domestic chaos. “

Jennifer Lee Dukes was experiencing a domino effect.

Domino effect

The domino effect states that when you make changes to one behavior, it triggers a chain reaction and also causes a change in the associated behavior.

For example, a 2012 study by researchers at Northwestern University found that when people cut back on their daily sedentary rest, they also cut down on their daily fat intake. The participants were never specifically told to eat less fat, but their eating habits improved, which was a natural side effect because they spent less time on the couch, watched TV, and ate mindlessly. One habit replaced another, one domino knocked down another.

You may notice similar patterns in your life. As a personal example, if I stick to my gym habit, I will naturally find myself more focused on work and sleeping more soundly at night, even though I never specifically planned to improve any behavior.

The domino effect extends to negative habits as well. You may find that the habit of checking your phone leads to the habit of clicking on social media notifications, which leads to the habit of mindlessly browsing social media, which leads to another 20 minutes of procrastination.

According to Stanford Professor BJ Fogg , “You cannot change just one behavior. Our behavior is interconnected, so when you change one behavior, the other changes. “

Inside the domino effect

As far as I can tell, the domino effect occurs for two reasons.

First, many of the habits and routines that make up our daily life are related to each other. There is a striking relationship between the systems of life, and human behavior is no exception. The inherent interconnectedness of things is the main reason why choices in one area of ​​life can lead to amazing results in other areas, regardless of your plans.

Second, the domino effect is based on one of the basic principles of human behavior: commitment and consistency. This phenomenon is explained in Robert Cialdini ‘s classic book on human behavior, Influence . The basic idea is that if people are committed to an idea or goal, even to a very small degree, they are more likely to fulfill that commitment because they now see that the idea or goal is consistent with their self-worth.

Going back to the story at the beginning of this article, once Jennifer Lee Dukes started making her bed every day, she made a little commitment to the message, “I’m the kind of person who keeps the home clean and organized.” After a few days, she began to adhere to this new self-image in other parts of her house.

This is an interesting byproduct of the domino effect. This not only creates a cascade of new behaviors, but it also often leads to a shift in personal beliefs. As each tiny domino falls, you begin to believe in new things about yourself and formhabits based on identity .

Practicing the domino effect

The domino effect is not just a phenomenon that happens to you, it is something that you can create. It’s in your power to create a chain reaction of good habits by building new behaviors that will naturally lead to the next successful action.

There are three keys to doing this in real life. Here are three rules for the domino effect:

  1. Start with what motivates you the most. Start with a little behavior and do it consistently. This will not only bring satisfaction, but it will also open your eyes to what kind of person you can become. It doesn’t matter which domino falls first, the main thing is that it falls.
  2. Maintain momentum and immediately move on to the next task you want to complete. Let the inertia of completing one task carry you straight to the next behavior. With each repetition, you become more committed to your new self-image.
  3. When in doubt, break it down into smaller pieces. When trying new habits, focus on keeping them small and manageable. The domino effect is about progress, not results. Just keep up the pace. Let the process repeat when one domino automatically knocks down another.

When one habit does not lead to the next behavior, it is often because the behavior does not follow these three rules. There are many different ways to make dominoes fall. Focus on the behavior you enjoy and let it spread throughout your life.

The Domino Effect: How to Create a Chain Reaction of Good Habits | James Clear


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