Do you ever find that you are not the patient, compassionate problem solver you believe yourself to be? Are you surprised at how irritated or flustered the normally unflappable you becomes in the presence of a specific colleague at work? Have you ever felt your temper accelerate from zero to sixty when another driver cuts you off in traffic?
As Marshall Goldsmith points out in Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be, our reactions don’t occur in a vacuum. They are usually the result of unappreciated triggers in our environment—the people and situations that lure us into behaving in a manner diametrically opposed to the colleague, partner, parent, or friend we imagine ourselves to be.
These triggers are constant and relentless and omnipresent. The smell of bacon wafts up from the kitchen, and we forget our doctor’s advice on lowering our cholesterol. Our phone chirps, and we glance instinctively at the glaring screen instead of looking into the eyes of the person we are with. So often the environment seems to be outside our control. Even if that is true, as Goldsmith points out, we have a choice in how we respond.
The first step to conquering triggers is to stop believing that old dogs can’t learn new tricks. Though our nature may seem rather permanent at this point in our lives, Triggers provides ample step-by-step support to conquer our stay-in-place instincts.
In Triggers, Goldsmith offers a simple “magic bullet” solution in the form of daily self-monitoring, hinging around what he calls “active” questions. These are questions that measure our effort, not our results. There’s a difference between achieving and trying; we can’t always achieve a desired result, but anyone can try.
Change, no matter how urgent and clear the need, is hard. Knowing what to do does not ensure that we will actually do it. We are superior planners, says Goldsmith, but become inferior doers as our environment exerts its influence through the course of our day. We forget our intentions. We become tired, even depleted, and allow our discipline to drain down like water in a leaky bucket.
To avoid falling back into poor behavioral patterns, Goldsmith offers six questions to ask yourself everyday to keep your goals fresh:
- Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
- Did I do my best to progress toward my goals today?
- Did I do my best to find meaning today?
- Did I do my best to be happy today?
- Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
- Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?
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