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Merriam-Webster defines the domino effect as “a situation in which one event causes a series of similar events to happen one after another.” Another name for this is cause and effect. We see this play out in our lives everyday. A teacher snaps at a young student in frustration; later that child pushes another child on the playground. Or a man brings flowers home to his wife, who feels so elated by the gesture that she is inclined to share an act of kindness and later bakes a pie for an ailing neighbor. For better or worse, we can trace nearly any event back to an earlier one. Virtually, everything we do, hear, see, or experience has the potential to be the catalyst for shifts in our everyday life.
When it comes to big life choices, we often consider the pros and cons, the long-term and short-term effects. But, how often do we consider the effects of our small, insignificant actions? Cutting someone off in your car on the way to work can alter her entire morning, leaving her more irritable and short tempered with coworkers. On the other hand, genuinely asking a server how his day is going may be the gesture of compassion he needed to wait on difficult patrons with a smile. Yet, we are unlikely to ever see the effects of such actions. The truth is, our actions are more powerful than we can ever know.
“Every single person on this earth is a world unto him- or herself,” says Karen Berg, “but each of us also has a sphere of influence that includes our family, nuclear and extended, as well as our friends, colleagues, and acquaintances.” Within our sphere of influence, each of us has the potential to kick-start a domino effect of positivity or negativity. We choose how we impact others through our actions. “In fact,” continues Karen, “an individual person can affect the lives of 20, 30, 40—and now with the Internet—even hundreds and thousands of people.” The opportunities to spread Light in a single day are endless.
Sometimes the greatest spiritual technology is as simple as a smile. A pair of studies conducted at Uppsala University Sweden found that when we see another person smile, we are compelled to smile back. The control we have over our own facial muscles is actually suppressed, making it harder to frown while looking at a smiling face. Smiling is literally contagious.
Yet, another study shows that the average adult only smiles seven times in one day, and one of those seven smiles may be fake or forced. Even the happiest people among us only smile 11 times a day. That doesn’t seem like a very big number considering that children smile up to 400 times a day. How do we go about changing that?
Take a moment to consider your personal sphere of influence. It is far greater than you think. What are the fruits of your actions? Are you creating positive or negative domino effects in your sphere? What changes can you make towards the positive? It’s really the small things we commit to every single day that have the greatest impact.