How To Use The Domino Effect for a Better Habit System

In 2001, Greek investors realised the country was in financial distress. Bonds were at risk of default, which caused a change in the state of the market. Investors sold their Greek bonds, which caused a rapid increase in Greek bond yields. The complete shift in confidence meant investors lost faith in other European markets, causing a domino effect of negative impact among the European economies. The realisation that other markets were not immune had investors seeking higher bond yields.


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The problem was that when investors started to sell, other economies began to experience liquidity shortages. Other countries such as Italy, Spain, and Ireland relied on investors buying a regular quantity of bonds. The change in the market had bond yields rising, further adding to the lack of confidence in the bond market. Rising bond yields had governments cut spending and increasing their taxes. The austerity had a flow-on effect on economic growth. The slow and weak recovery provided a further fall in economic growth, which harmed tax revenues, worsening the governments’ debt position.

If there had been no crisis in Greece, this effect would have been much less noticeable in other Eurozone economies. Greece and other countries in Europe were experiencing a domino effect, where a change in one behaviour activated a chain reaction and caused a shift in related behaviours.


Applying The Domino Effect To Our Own Lives


We can use this theory in our daily lives to become more effective. A study in 2012 done by researchers at Northwestern University found that when people decrease their sedentary lifestyle, they also have a reduction in fat intake. Participants weren’t asked to consume less fat, but as they exercised more, their eating habits were naturally better. They spent less time on the couch and doing mindless activities, where one practice led to another and caused a domino effect of healthier habits.

You may have similar domino effects in your own life. I find when I’m up at 5 am, I naturally sit down and write. After my writing is completed, I go to the gym. The domino effect allows me to sleep better at night and become more focused throughout the day.

The Domino effect holds for negative habits as well. Continually checking social media finds you watching random videos and scrolling through meaningless content, which increases your ability to procrastinate. Going to bed late may cause us to wake up late and feel groggy, causing less focus throughout the day where your nutrition habits may become unhealthy. Our behaviours intertwine with each other. When we make a change in an action, other behaviours become different, no matter how big or small.

For us to first build better habits which have a positive domino effect, we must recognise our flawed habit system and rid ourselves slowly of what we want to remove in our lives. So how can we do this?


1. Recognise your small dominoes


We often try to wrestle the most significant challenge first in our habit system, where it requires the most willpower. The downside is using all our energy, which causes us to become less motivated, where we struggle to create a chain reaction. To increase our motivation, we can take a smaller approach to what requires less amount of will power. To put it simply, what are you most motivated to do? Start with a small behaviour and do it consistently. Our motivation then increases and opens our eyes on what can be achieved.


2. Carry the momentum


Let the rate of the success of one domino fall carry you onto the next. It can be as simple as removing one piece of clutter from the house or eating a healthy meal after the gym. Momentum helps build a system where our positive behaviour change becomes part of our identity.


3. Progress, not perfection


Keep your habits small and manageable. Use the momentum of the small habit changes so we can progress and continually knock down more dominoes. Once a stable habit system is formed, it becomes a lot harder to break. From what was a conscious change now becomes second nature and is embedded in our lifestyle.


Make The Change


If you want to make a change personally or professionally, start with one small habit. Find that first domino whether it’s waking up half an hour earlier to get something done, go to the gym on the weekend, or not drinking during the week. Find the thing that helps you take the first, and often difficult step to take control of how you want to be. Acting on these things will help all the other pieces inevitably fall.

When we commit to a small idea or a goal, we are more likely to become committed because the idea is part of our self-image. I used to believe I wasn’t a writer. Still, the commitment to getting up early in the morning put me behind the laptop, which had a domino effect into my work, my knowledge, my exercise routine, and which is now embedded into my identity.


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