The Domino Effect

The word domino is used to describe a small, rectangular block of rigid material that serves as the basis for a variety of games. Each block has anywhere from one to six pips, or dots, and can be arranged in straight lines, curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, or 3D structures like towers and pyramids.

Domino art, the practice of building and arranging an intricate domino track using a piece of paper or other material as a base, is incredibly popular. These designs can be as simple or as complex as you want, but the fundamental principle is that the first domino will trigger a chain reaction of dominoes that will continue until the entire design falls over.

As a novelist, I often use the term “domino action” to refer to any high leverage, low effort behavior that can catalyze a cascade of follow-up actions. Examples would include making your bed every morning, starting the day by writing down three things you are grateful for, or committing to reading a book a week. These are the types of behaviors that can have a profound impact on your life when they become ingrained habits.

One of the reasons these kinds of habits can be so powerful is that they capitalize on a key principle of human behavior as explained in the classic book Influence by Robert Cialdini. He calls this the Domino Effect, the phenomenon whereby people who make a commitment to a certain idea or goal are more likely to honor that commitment because it is in line with their self-image.

Another way we can think about the Domino Effect is to imagine what happens during a domino rally. A person starts by placing the first domino on a table and then pushes it over, which causes the rest of the dominoes to fall down in an orderly fashion. This type of rally is a perfect metaphor for the way our lives work. Each of us has a series of habits that make up our daily routine. If we are consistent, each new habit will automatically knock over the old ones just like the dominoes in a rally.

So if you are struggling with developing a new habit, take it slow and easy. The key to success is consistency. Try to incorporate your new behavior into your daily routine until it becomes a habit, and then just let the Domino Effect take care of itself. Remember, it may take a while for your new behavior to have an impact on other aspects of your life, but if you keep going, the results will be dramatic. Good luck! -Kristina Hevesh