Imagine that you place a row of 10 dominoes upright, with each of them being separated by a small distance. What would happen if you pushed the first domino into the second one?
The second domino in the row would automatically get knocked over, then the third domino, then the fourth domino, and so on. Pushing the first domino would set off a chain reaction (aka domino effect) that would also cause the other dominoes to fall.
This is a great analogy to keep in mind for your habits. In this article, you will learn about something that I refer to as a domino habit and how it can set off a chain reaction of good habits or bad habits.
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What is a Domino Habit?
We often think of a “habit” as an independent behavior. However, most “habits” actually occur as part of a series of interconnected behaviors.
Instead of thinking of your habits as a bunch of independent behaviors, think of your habits as a bunch of rows of dominoes. A domino habit is my term for a special kind of habit that sets off a chain reaction of other habits.
Domino habits are extremely important for two main reasons. First of all, if you are able to form a good domino habit, you will naturally form other good habits as well. Each time that you do the habit and knock over the first “domino,” other good habits will also fall naturally.
Secondly, if you are able to identify and break a bad domino habit, you will also reduce or even eliminate other bad habits, too. Even better, you won’t need more willpower to do so. By not doing the habit and knocking over the first “domino,” the other dominoes will not fall either.
Domino habits can be good or bad. Let’s look at one example of each.
One of the Best Domino Habits
Years ago, I started the habit of exercising before work. While there are many reasons why this habit is so powerful, the biggest reason might be because of the positive domino effect that it causes.
Getting in a morning workout is like knocking over the first domino in a row of good habits. Here is what happens for me each morning. After exercising, I stretch (next domino), then I go home and take my supplements for the day (next domino). Then, I eat a healthy breakfast (next domino). Then (after showering and getting changed), I am more focused and more productive at work (next domino).
Morning exercise is a domino habit for me and many other people because it sets off a positive chain reaction of other good habits.
One of the Worst Domino Habits
In college and during the early part of my twenties, I drank a lot of alcohol with my friends on Friday and Saturday nights. This was a bad habit by itself. However, the bigger problem was that it also set off a chain reaction of other bad habits.
After a late night of drinking (first domino), I would typically devour some pizza (next domino) before finally going to bed. Then, I would not sleep well (next domino). I would also sleep late the next day (next domino). When I finally got out of bed, I would usually waste most of the day recovering on the couch and watching mindless television (next domino).
These days, I drink less alcohol in a year than I did in a typical weekend night in college. That is a benefit by itself. However, the bigger benefit is what happens as a result of drinking less alcohol: you also eat much less junk food, get much better sleep, wake up with more energy, and become more productive.
Binge drinking is a domino habit for many people (including my former self) because it sets off a chain reaction of other bad habits.
3 Tips for Using Domino Habits to Your Advantage
Here are three tips on how to use domino habits to your advantage:
- Be very intentional about how you start and end each day. Domino habits can occur at any time of day. However, your behavior at the end of each day and at the start of each day is especially likely to set off a chain reaction. A stronger morning begins the night before with quality sleep. What you do first thing in the morning also sets the tone for the rest of your day.
- Turn your existing good habits into domino habits. Before you try to form any new habit, ask yourself, “What existing habit could I use as a domino habit for this new habit?” As written here, the best way to make a new habit stick is to use an existing behavior as the trigger for that new habit.
- Identify and break your worst domino habits. Breaking a bad domino habit will enhance your life more than perhaps anything else that you can do. It will not be easy, but it will be worth it. You will not only break a bad habit. You will also reduce or even eliminate the other negative behaviors that typically follow that bad habit. This article features the best way to break a bad habit.
Summary and Final Thoughts
While we often think of a “habit” as an independent behavior, most “habits” actually occur as part of a series of interconnected behaviors. A domino habit is a special kind of habit that sets off a positive or negative chain reaction of other habits.
Domino habits have a disproportionate impact on your life and career. Here are three tips on how to use them to your advantage:
- Be very intentional about how you start and end each day.
- Turn your existing good habits into domino habits.
- Identify and break your worst domino habits.
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About the author: Pete Leibman is the Creator of StrongerHabits.com. He is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and executive recruiter, and his work has been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio, and CNNMoney.com. His latest book is titled Work Stronger: Habits for More Energy, Less Stress, and Higher Performance at Work.