The Domino Effect

I’ve been re-reading a book called The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, and one of the concepts that sticks out with me is what they call “the domino effect.” The whole book is full of gems that I’m not sure I’m ready to apply, but this one seems doable. Follow me…domino theory
Have you ever been faced with a list of tasks that seem insurmountable? A weekend to-do list perhaps, or a series of short term goals that set you up for success with a big goal? There likely have been times when those lists just seem impossible to work through, right? You might pick one or two of them, perhaps randomly, with the thought that, “well, Bigzig suggested that I do away with all or nothing thinking, so I might as well check off these two instead of doing nothing.” Very wise of you…

The book explains that with dominoes, any one domino can knock over a subsequent domino that is up to 1.5 times its size. At first, I had no idea what they were talking about, but after some thought and this interesting video that demonstrates a domino chain reaction, I was able to understand the concept.

Pretty cool, right? How does this apply to your life, and more specifically how can it apply to exercise and health? I’m glad you asked. Let’s start with this list as an example:
GOAL: Strength train for 30 minutes 3 times per week for the next 12 weeks.
Needs: instructions on what to do, shorts, t-shirts, new sneakers, gym membership (?!), time in schedule, etc., etc., etc.
Seems to be a reasonable list, right? But where to start? Sometimes I look at lists and think, “what on here will give me the biggest bang for my buck?” or “what on this list is the thing that I want to do the LEAST?” and then I might start with those items. Typically, though, when I start with the least likable item, I get frustrated way before the list is done (or sometimes that task!), and I quit. Frustrated, it takes me a long time to get back into the swing, or even to look at that list again. So I make another one, and repeat the process, not having learned from the initial experience. I’ve doomed myself to failure. Is this familiar to anyone?
In The ONE Thing, they talk about the domino effect as a way to get things done. All of them. How? Start with the smallest, easiest task on your list; the low-hanging-fruit, if you will. Be sure to pick the one that is best aligned to make everything else on the list easier, and not just because it looks tempting. This is the tricky part! You might find that some of the items on your list become unnecessary as a result of taking care of some of the other things first. By starting small (but meaningful!), you set yourself up to carry momentum into knocking down the other larger dominoes on your lists. See? Back to our example.
It might seem like getting a gym membership is the first thing that you should do, but upon closer look that might be a huge hurdle and facing it might deter you from the other items on the list. Why not start with some new clothes? You can probably purchase these online, which makes it very convenient, and gets the ball rolling. While online you might come across some shoe reviews and get out and go to the local sports store and get fitted for some new shoes. With that taken care of, you can check to see what the next item should be. Finding time in your schedule, or getting the membership? Perhaps it is looking for instruction and guidance for workouts? You might find that you don’t NEED a gym membership (let’s chat!), and that the workouts can fit inside your current schedule (seriously, let’s chat).
Make sense now? So go, take a look at your daunting lists or goals and see what action you can take NOW to get that ball rolling with enough momentum to keep itself going. It might take some trial and error to get your first domino to fall, but don’t give up!! You’re worth the effort.

Please share your successes or struggles below! I’m here to help…


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