My first post on the idea of creating your own domino effect was a wee bit more hippy dippy than this post will be. Whereas the first part focussed on your thoughts, this part will focus on your actions. I believe you need to manage your mind and thoughts in order to be successful but I also believe some practical adaptations here will help you be even more successful.
The first thing to investigate when you want to create your own domino effect is the idea of triggers. Triggers are simply things that cause you to think or act in a certain way. In medical terms, it might be something like pollen that cause your allergies to act. Or, in the case of a migraine, it might be caffeine or a low pressure system.
In our work today we’ll focus on environmental triggers. For example, seeing a box of cookies might cause you to think, “I really want to eat those cookies.” That’s a simple, and very personal, example. Other triggers might be the hustle and bustle of dinner time. Does that cause you to think or act in a certain way?
Triggers can also be positive. For example, seeing flowers can make you smile. Smelling lavender can make you feel more relaxed. Seeing your running shoes can cause you to go for a run.
So, if we can understand our triggers we can began to change our domino effects. We can work backwards here. First, identify a behavior/result you have that you don’t like. Let’s use our above examples.
See cookies > binge cookies > feel shame
See running shoes > go for run > feel proud and healthy
Dinner time is loud and busy > shout at kids > feel guilty > drink wine
Let’s not belabor this point. I think that you can see exactly what’s going on. You can set up your triggers to help you get TO or AWAY from your desired results. Here’s a few ideas:
See fruit > eat apple > feel refreshed
Print Sunday planning sheet > plan meals > get food > meal prep > serve dinner quickly during weeknights > enjoy family dinner at table.
So, do your homework now and think of maybe one desired habit you want to stop and one desired habit you want to start. Work backwards and see what your domino effect looks like. How can you change the initial trigger? Can you put the workout clothes out? Can you replace the bad snacks with healthy ones you’ll see? Can you keep your water bottle full and ready to go? Can you put your journal by your bed with a favorite pen?
Now, let’s create an action plan. Here’s the formula: Trigger, Action, Result.
When I wanted to start reading my bible more, I put it in my closet so I see it right when I brush my teeth in the morning. Next to it is a journal, pens, prayer cards and other things that trigger my habit to read and journal about what I read each morning. So:
Bible > Read, Write & Pray > Improved relationship with God
Another example that is much simpler is what I’ve done to improve the transition for the kids getting home:
Bus stop notification > Wrap up work ritual > Ready to receive kids when they get home > Folders, chores, hugs > Present with kids & things that needed to get done got done
That above example is quite a bit more complicated which I’m sure you noticed. In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear calls it “Habit Stacking.” Pairing a habit with a habit can help you stack habits and truly create an awesome domino effect. I found that me wrapping up work the way I needed to and me not being present with the kids and not enforcing the standards I have for them.
I found wrapping up work when the kids GOT HOME was too late. It resulted in me not really wrapping work I needed to and trying to multitask homework, folders, dishes, etc in a way that was not empowering any of us to be successful. So, I paired the habit of stopping work and keeping the kids on track as they transition into the home. In this way, it’s a really awesome, productive hour.
Likewise, the first habit I mentioned was also stacked. It started with just praying. Then eventually I added reading. Then eventually I added journaling. The habits began to stack on one another to create one awesome chain of events.
Here are some other examples from Clear’s book that involve both the concept of trigger and creating your own domino effect:
- After I pour my morning cup of coffee, I will meditate for 60 seconds.
- After I meditate for 60 seconds, I will write my to-do list for the day.
- After I write my to-do list for the day, I will immediately begin my first task.
- After I finish eating dinner, I will put my plate directly into the dishwasher.
- After I put my dishes away, I will immediately wipe down the counter.
- After I wipe down the counter, I will set out my coffee mug for tomorrow morning.
That’s a lot of awesomeness stacked in a few minutes! Do you see how you can totally set yourself up for success and set up your own domino effect?
So, let’s go back to the idea of maybe one habit you want to stop and one you want to create. What are the triggers? What are the desired results? Are there ways to stack (or unstack) them with other habits in your life? Journal about this and see what you can come up with. Then, use the power of your thoughts from part 1 and see what you can do!