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When I first heard about Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts–Becoming the Person You Want to Be (affiliate link) by Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, I instantly told the SEJ team I wanted to cover it for SEJ Book Club. I’ve been a fan of Marshall Goldsmith since reading another of his excellent books, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful.
Additionally, the title Triggers drew me in because it reminded me of another book about habits that I’ve read recently—Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin—which was one of my favorites of 2015. Both books deal with common “markers” to make a change. The only difference is identifying triggers to change versus identifying habits to make your goals more attainable.
Dr. Goldsmith’s book was a great “read” (I listened to it on audiobook) from beginning to end. According to Goldsmith’s YouTube channel:
A behavioral trigger is any stimulus that impacts our behavior. Triggers are not inherently “good” or “bad.” What matters is our response to them. This may be the greatest payoff of identifying and defining our triggers: no matter how extreme the circumstances, when it comes to our behavior, we always have a choice!
A sentence in that description nicely wraps up the book:
What matters is our response to them.
This was a recurring theme throughout the book.
Daily Questions and Self Reflection Leads to Behavioral Change
A main cornerstone of Triggers was the concept of accountability through daily questions that you are asked by a trusted colleague or paid accountability person. These questions are designed to make you reflect daily on how you did that day dealing with your triggers and what goals you are working toward. They can be answered on a sliding scale from 1-10 or even as a yes or no. Keeping track of the patterns in your answers can highlight improvement or areas that need to change.
For instance, one example was the account of a young woman who wanted to lose a large amount of weight while still living a happy life surrounded with family and friends. Every evening, her uncle would call with her questions and she’d answer on how well she did from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest). These were things like,
- Did I do my best to be physically active today?
- Did I eat the best I could today?
- Did I make an effort to connect with my friends and family?
And so on.
The numbered answers gave the woman specific data to chart so she could identify changes easily. For instance, if she got all 3s in the exercise category, she could identify that she wasn’t doing her best to be physically active for the week. Going forward, she could decide to schedule out her workouts like she does meetings or dinner with a friend and stay accountable.
Tracking what “triggers” both negatively and positively affect you meeting your goals is the best way to make permanent changes, Dr. Goldsmith advises. By tracking patterns, you can reflect on what made you arrive at that rating and either make a change or keep things going the way they are.
For instance, if we go back to the weight loss example, if the woman noticed she got 9s on her eating habits every day she ate a smoothie for lunch, it would show that smoothies are an easy way to fit in a healthier eating pattern in her daily life. She could then make it a priority to make smoothies ahead of time or bring the ingredients to work each day.
The Wheel of Change
Another important concept in Dr. Goldsmith’s book is the wheel of change. It is the cyclical process you can go through to make changes in your life:
The quadrants of the wheel are:
- Creating: Who is the new me I want to create?
- Preserving: What is it about me that I want to keep?
- Accepting: What do I need to accept in my life?
- Eliminating: What do I need to eliminate?
The book and above video go into each aspect of the wheel in more detail, but identifying these key areas in your life is the best way to make a change. Once you do this, asking yourself daily questions will help you understand how what you’re doing affects what you accomplish.
For instance, let’s say that every day you go out to lunch with your old high school friends to complain about life. When doing this you rarely stick to your diet and end up in a terrible mood, which is something you’ve identified as a needed change in your “Creating” quadrant. If your friends are always disrupting your goals, it might be time to decrease, or altogether stop, hanging out with them. Looking for specific patterns when something makes you act negatively can help you identify what you need to either accept or eliminate.
While these are just some of the concepts mentioned in the book, I found it to be a highly enjoyable read and would not only recommend the book, but Dr. Goldsmith’s two blogs and YouTube channel as well. They all do a great job explaining key concepts when it comes to behavioral change and achieving success.
Next Month on SEJ Book Club: The Distraction Addiction by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. February’s book club will be by Caitlin Rulien, SEJ’s Social Producer. Grab your copy of The Distraction Addiction (affiliate link) on Amazon or at your local library so you can read along. It should be an interesting read!
Want to see what the SEJ Book Club has read or is planning on reading next? Check out our GoodReads profile.
Editor Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Thanks for supporting SEJ.
Featured Image by Paulo Bobita, other images via Shutterstock
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