‘Triggers’ by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter

4 min read

Triggers is a self improvement book that aims to make your life both better and more enjoyable. As the only real way to evaluate it is to try it out I’ll start introducing my starting point.

I’ve worked freelance or from home for 20 years. I’m a creative bohemian; I don’t like routines and my desk is always messy. However, I pay attention to time management skills and I keep myself focused on my goals.

One of my most annoying foibles is that I sometimes misuse the 80-20 rule. I get the important stuff or things that could make a big difference done first and put off unimportant tasks until they become critical. I also drink too much Coke. I don’t like tea or coffee and as I don’t always get the amount of sleep I should (long story) so I drink full fat Coke as a caffeine and energy boost.

So these are two things that I wanted to change.

So how does Triggers work?

The first thing that hit me was that it’s funny. It made me laugh a number of times, not because of amusing situations – there are a few of them. It’s because Goldsmith truly understands why we don’t do things.

Goldsmith works as an executive coach. He helps successful people change themselves for the better. If they don’t change (as rated by their colleagues, family etc) he doesn’t get paid.

“Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth!” 

Mike Tyson

I imagine the book follows a very similar path to his coaching sessions and it is a very well planned and tended path. Because of this I need to be careful with the spoilers I mention here. You really need to take your own journey from beginning to end.

Why don’t we succeed in changing our behaviour?

Goldsmith starts by explaining exactly why we don’t succeed in goals when it comes to changing our behaviour. This may involves personal goals like losing weight or getting on better with a family member or ‘work’ goals usually focusing on key management skills. The part that really struck home for me was his 15 belief triggers that “trigger failure before it happens”.

I’m sure that some of these will make you either gasp or nod your head. My favourite was: “I won’t get distracted and nothing unexpected will occur”. Not an earth-shattering revelation until Goldsmith reminds us of the “high probability of low-probability events”. In any given week something is likely to happen that makes life more difficult. You just can’t predict what it will be.

Blaming the environment

After these belief triggers he moves onto blaming our environment, or rather, pointing out that we can’t really blame what is happening around us for failing to maintain the change we want to make. We need to be able to adapt to any environment (or change our exposure to it) – and those low probability events.

At this point it feels like everything is against us but Goldsmith brings in some different tools and many of them were new to me. He shows us how to lengthen a decision point. For example if I reach for a can of Coke. I don’t just think “Ah screw it. I’m tired. I’ll drink it.” I weigh up whether this is really what I want.

Another favourite of mine are the ‘active questions’. Again I don’t want to go into detail here but at the end of the day I answer a number of questions about how well I did in various situations. These include:

  • Consuming less sugar
  • Fitting admin into every day
  • Being happier

There are actually eleven more but I won’t bore you with them.

So, how am I doing?

Sugar consumption reduction has been easy so far. The elongated decision time makes it easier to avoid sugary treats. And when I do have them. I really enjoy them (I have a VERY sweet tooth).

Admin now gets done and I only drop it when I’m really under the cosh. I then make it the first thing I do the next morning.

Being happier is a strange one but you do feel better when you know you’re improving lots of aspects of your life. It also makes you try and fit something into your day that makes you happy.

So does this mean that every word in Triggers has changed my life?

Nope. Goldsmith takes his structured approach a little too far at times for me. He makes an interesting case for using structure to reduce the number of decisions you have to make during the day. However, I winced when he talks about wearing exactly the same type (and colour) of clothes when he is working to take that daily decision out of the equation. Interestingly Mark Zuckerburg recently admitted to doing the same thing.

Why should you read this book?

I’m really impressed by this book and the methods it outlines. For the sake of a small time and money investment I think it would help everyone who reads it.

The next time you realised you’ve ended up wasting time, or have got stressed by something that really wasn’t that important, you might rue not following my advice!

You can find Triggers at your local Amazon store here or anywhere else you care to buy it.

Also if you want to trigger some new beneficial habits for your business you can try out our quiz maker tools (free for 14 days) to create quizzes to collect leads from your site.

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