When you can't push down the first domino (How to overcome when a common visualization exercise fails you)

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When you can’t push down the first domino

“But … I don’t know! I could make something up, but I don’t think that’s helpful.”

That was once my reaction to a common visualization exercise used by coaches and motivational speakers.

Knowing that one domino can be knocked down by one two-thirds its size, the exercise is to visualize a string of increasingly larger dominos leading up to the major goal you want to accomplish.

Then the question comes, “What’s that first domino that’s easy to push down and will start the string of events that will accomplish your goal?”

But sometimes that question isn’t readily answerable.

1️⃣ First, that first domino you can find may still feel too big to push down.

You may discover that you’re not yet personally in the right condition to push down that first domino. If that’s the case, then you may find that your first step is to work on yourself until you become the person who can take that first step.

Here’s a great exercise metaphor, referencing those who can’t yet “start with one pullup.”


2️⃣ Second, especially when you’re working towards a new mindset or identity shift, you can’t always visualize how the dominos are related.

And often the chain of events isn’t linear. Sometimes it takes a combination of more than one string of dominos triggered at the same time, as in this video about computer circuits built with dominos.

When you have dozens of potential starting points, you may not be able to discern which is the right “first domino” to push down.

In that case, staying in analysis trying to think your way into finding the first domino is unlikely to be helpful.

Just start pushing. See what happens. When it doesn’t reach your goal, learn, reset, and press again.

When some combination finally works and you reach your goal, it may no longer be important to know which was the first domino.

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