by Marshall Goldsmith
Our lives 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.
You might think that triggers would cause you to act in new and novel ways, expanding your horizons, making you more successful with each passing moment. Hardly!
Triggers initiate a simple formulaic response in us:
trigger-> impulse-> behavior
This is difficult enough, but add in the environment and unbeknownst to us, it is holding us in a rut even more by triggering old behaviors.
How do you recognize triggers?
Well, triggers come in many forms:
Triggers can be external, or they can be internal. They can be daydreams; they can be thoughts.
What is true about all triggers is: the trigger happens, it sets off an impulse, you act.
By becoming aware of our typical triggers, we can change that sequence to:
trigger -> impulse -> awareness-> choice/adjust ->behavior
Adding awareness gives us a choice to adjust our behavior!
Once you’re aware of your triggers, you can arrange to avoid them. If you can’t avoid them, you can anticipate problems that might arise and learn how to recognize the triggers and adjust your behavior in the moment.
How do you become aware of your triggers?
The most effective way to become aware is through daily tracking. Ask yourself, “Who do I want to be?” (That’s the personal development question). Then, make up a set of questions you can ask yourself on a daily basis. They should be yes/no questions, or questions that can be answered with a number. For example, “How many times did I lose my temper at my assistant yesterday?” Every day, review the questions with a friend and write down the answers.
This simple act of tracking will keep the new you front-of-mind. This is the behavior modification part of the process. If you choose the questions to align with who you want to be, you won’t be able to fool yourself as to whether you’re making the changes you need to make to becomethe person you want to be.
Change, no matter how urgent and clear the need, is hard. Knowing what to do does not ensure that we will actually do it. Gaining awareness of the triggers in our lives gives us a chance to make the choice to adjust to triggers and create the changes we weren’t able to make before!