Triggers: Sparking positive change and making it last by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter

“What triggers me and how? And how do I control myself?” That was going threw my mind when I saw this book. And right then I knew I had to read it.  After reading it and looking back on my legendary epic failures in my responses and behavior in certain moments I understand now why that happened. We all have them, even you, maybe not in public but most probably in private in our closest circles of friends and family.  And there is a reason why we snap at work or elsewhere because of the smallest mistake somebody did, and why we can be cool and calm in the most difficult of situations we are faced with in business and in private life. So to fight triggers we first must know what a trigger is. A trigger is any stimulus that reshapes our thoughts and actions. In the book the author shares with us stories of his clients and how they set up their own triggers that triggered behavior they wanted when they became aware of triggers that could have caused unwanted behavior. For example one of his client always had a small card on which he could write down his wanted behavior. And by doing so he creates a trigger in his environment. One of the best take aways from this book was the explanation of our own responsibility for our actions and how we can fight excuses we create subconsciously so that we do not have to change. So the author gives us tools with which we build our wanted future, one of these tools are active questions, structure we have to have for new behavior to take effect – rules of conduct, creation of own triggers and more. Remember your current beliefs have great effect on your chances of success in changing your habits. So make a list of them and see which ones are good for you and which ones are not. Then get to work.

My notes from the book:

  • Fate is the hand of cards we’ve been dealt. We have a choice how we play the hand.
  • No one can make us change unless we truly want to change (keep this in mind next time you want to help somebody who doesn’t want your help.)
  • Our inner beliefs trigger failure before it happens – they sabotage lasting change by canceling it’s possibility.
  • An excuse explains why we fell short of expectations after the fact.
  • There is a difference between understanding and doing. Just because people understand what to do it doesn’t ensure that they will actually do it.
  • Few of us foresee the actual challenges we will have to face. As a result, the willpower we assume we will need when we set a goal rarely measures up to the will power we display in achieving that goal.
  • When we fail we award ourselves a free pass because we’re not the worst in the world. This is our excuse to take it easy, lowering our bar on our motivation and discipline.
  • We seldom recognize that self-control is a limited resource as we become tired our self-control begins to waver and may eventually disappear.
  • When making plans  for the future always plan for unexpected distractions. You do not live in a perfect world.
  • The belief that happiness is a static and finite goal is one of the greatest western diseases. When we reach our goal we always have to follow up, or the postitive change doesn’t last.
  • Our slow and steady improvement may not be as obvious to others as it is to us, but when we revert to our previous behavior, people always notice.
  • Many people refuse to adapt their behavior to new situation because “it isn’t me” (don’t be one of the many.)
  • If we place ourselves in an environment of impatience, competitiveness, and hostility it alters us in this way.
  • We think we control our environment, but in fact it controls us. Our environment is a nonstop triggering mechanism whose impact on our behavior is too significant to be ignored.
  • If we do not create and control our environment, our environment creates and controls us. As a result we turn into someone we do not recognize.
  • Triggers are not inherently “good” or “bad”. What matters is our response to them.
  • When it comes to our behavior, we always have a choice.
  • The more aware we are, the less likely any trigger, will prompt hasty unthinking behavior that leads to undesirable consequences.
  • Paradoxically, the big moments – packed with triggers, stress, raw emotions, high stakes, and thus high potencial for disaster – are easy to handle. It’s the little moments that trigger some of our most unproductive responses.
  • Quite often our smartest response to an environment is avoiding it.
  • To avoid undesirable behavior, avoid the environments where it is most likely to occur.
  • Our environment is a relentless triggering mechanism that, in an instant can make us lose sight of who we’re trying to be.
  • Preserving a valuable behavior means one less behavior we have to change.
  • Accepting is most valuable when we are powerless to make a difference.
  • Active questions challenges the person to describe or defend a course of actions.
  • Employees who have a sense of making progress are more engaged than those who don’t. We don’t just need specific targets; we need to see ourselves nearing, not receding from, the target.
  • Happiness goes hand in hand with meaning. When employees report that they are happy but their work is not meaningful, they feel empty – as if they’re squandering their lives by merely amusing themselves. On the other hand, when employees regard their work as meaningful but are not happy, they feel like martyrs, and have little desire to stay in such an environment.
  • One of the best ways to have a best friend is to be a best friend.
  • Self-questioning can trigger a new way of interacting with our world. Active questions reveal where we are trying and where we are giving up.
  • By asking “Did I do my best to…” you do not ask how well you performed, but rather how much you have tried. You can not blame anyone or anything else but yourself. It all depends on your effort.
  • Structure is imperative.
  • The net result in asking ourselves the “daily questions” is clarity in the fact we are forced to confront the questions we try so hard to avoid – are we getting better?
  • Under depletion’s influence we are more prone to inappropriate social interactions. We are less likely to follow social norms.
  • Integrity is an all-or-nothing virtue.
  • If you think doing folks a favor justifies doing less than your best, you’re not doing anyone any favors, including yourself. People forget your promise, but they remember your performance.
  • Awareness provides us with a little breathing space not much, just enough to consider our options and make a better behavioral choice.

Active question:

Ask yourself daily the following questions and to each question write down a number from 1 – 10 (1 being absolutly no effort, and 10 being everything I got). If you have more areas in which you need to change behavior you should absolutly add those questions to your daily routine, but remember the questions always have to start “Did I do my best to…” then fill in what you want to change. At the end of the week look at your progress. The questions you haven’t bothered with are probably not even the ones you wish to deal with and it is better to erase them from your daily questioning. A thing to remember here is that you should have a partner who will ask you each day to tell him your score. This is because you are changing your behavior, and as you start with this you may be fully commited, but without help you may stop filling out the quesitons and soon you will forget about everything. Remember, change means work, and there is nothing wrong with finding some help.

  1. Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
  2. Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?
  3. Did I do my best to find meaning today?
  4. Did I do my best to be happy today?
  5. Did i do my best to build positive relationships today?
  6. Did i do my best to be fully engaged today?

By doing so you will develop a sense of responsibility towards the results you get by daily giving value to your effort in achieving your goals. And in no time you will want to better your score, especially if you have someone else watching that score with you. I find these questions as an interesting way of taking responsibility for your own actions and will definetly try out this method. Please let me know how it worked out for you?

To sum up the book it was an interesting read, and if you are starting out in this area you should definetly read it. So like I mentioned before the best advice from this book are the active questions daily routine, creation of structure and creation of own triggers and having them close to yourself always. But then again I did expect more from it. I expected more detailed examples and explanations about triggers and how to prevent negative reactions / behavior, not just the evergreen answer that willpower and mindfulness are the keys.

Feel free to comment about the book. I would also appreciate your input about the post and the blog. If you have any suggestions what you found good, what you would like to see different, or simply any advice on what would you like to read as a review of a book let me know.

Thank you for your time. I hope you have found this post helpful. Talk to you in the comment section.



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