I was a mess throughout my teens. For example, I didn’t snooze in the morning because I realized it was futile. Instead of hitting snooze 47 times over, I just turned off the alarm. That way, my sleep was uninterrupted, and I would still get up at the same time as I would had I snoozed.
If I was accomplished at anything, it was sleeping.
I went into a highly unproductive period of my life that was complemented by a depression. I don’t know which one was the chicken or the egg, but I was a mess. I did nothing, and wasted hours upon hours every single day. I had no goals, no direction, nothing. I didn’t know what to do. And when I say "mess," I’m talking suicidal mess. They were dark days.
I started looking for how to get out of depression. In that search, I came across this nugget of advice that changed everything: Win small every morning. One tiny act of discipline every morning has a massive domino effect on the rest of your day; a small victory right after you get out of bed drastically increases the chances of you being more motivated, excited about what the day might bring, and ready to go out and kill it. These small actions become small victories, and are what I call domino actions.
What Is a Domino Action?
They’re high-leverage actions that have a dramatic impact. You’re tipping over a single domino, and all the other dominoes fall over as a result. They’re single actions that serve as triggers for a series of following actions. For those familiar with coding, domino actions are like scripts: one command that triggers a series of commands.
Think of the ripple effect. A single drop of water creates waves in a glass. Domino actions are those simple actions you can take that create waves in your life.
A Powerful Domino Action Taught in the Military
"Make your bed."
That’s the first piece of advice Admiral William H. McRaven told University of Texas at Austin graduates in his 2014 commencement speech. There aren’t many more potent examples of a domino action than "make your bed."
Here’s what Admiral McRaven said:
Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam war veterans, would show up in my barracks room, and the first thing they would inspect was your bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled right, the pillow centered just under the headboard, and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack.
It was a simple task, mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that we were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle-hardened SEALs, but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.
If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.
If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.
If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.
For me, making my bed triggers a whole set of actions that instantly make me feel like a better person.
Using Domino Actions
Here’s an exercise to help you find your own domino actions: Make a list of three things you could do every morning that take less than five minutes to complete, but require a tiny exercise in discipline. I’m not talking about big actions that take a lot of time, but small, almost minuscule things.
For me, the list looks like this:
Make my bed.
Brush my teeth.
Walk to the gym.
All these things take less than five minutes to accomplish, and if I do them in the morning, my days become immensely more productive. When I make my bed, I create order in my life. By arranging my living conditions, I feel more disciplined, structured, and focused.
Make a list of three things you could do every morning that take less than five minutes to complete, but require a tiny exercise in discipline.
When I brush my teeth, I train myself to do things that are good for me that I don’t absolutely have to do. It becomes an exercise in discipline and helps me hold myself to a higher standard. When I walk to the gym, I get some form of exercise, and once I’m at the gym, I’ll work out because I’m already there. The simple act of walking to the gym leads to doing an entire workout.
How much better would your life be if you started doing your own domino actions? Put them into practice tomorrow morning, and the results will be fantastic.
Win early. Win small. Then win big.
This article originally appeared on Medium and was republished with the author's permission. The views expressed herein are those of the author.