Wanting to change doesn’t mean that we’re going to change. That’s the enigma of behavioral change that you’ll encounter whether you’re trying to shave off a few pounds or adopt a more positive life stance. But you can find out how to change your behavior.
In Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts—Becoming the Person You Want to Be, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith discusses why behavioral change is so hard, how to change your behavior and how to create lasting behavior change. Although he discusses his corporate clients throughout the book, the suggestions throughout this book are universal.
How to Change Your Behavior
Goldsmith fills the book with doable advice on triggers and how to change your behavior. Here are five of the points that stood out to me.
“Meaningful behavioral change is very hard to do”
Marshall explains the three reasons why change is hard. The first reason: It is hard to admit that we need to change. This is either because we don’t see it or we created excuses as to why we don’t need to change. The second reason: We underestimate the power of inertia. “Given the choice, we prefer to do nothing”, writes Dr. Goldsmith. The third reason: We know we want to change but don’t know how. Remember those points when you slip up or want to give up.
“Good things happen when we ask ourselves what we need to create, preserve, eliminate, and accept.”
When we adopt new behaviors, we create positive changes. What new habit do you need to create to feel less anxious in the morning? What do you need to do make sure that you get 30 minutes of exercise five days each week? We can also keep what is already going well with your life.
For example, if you enjoy Zumba classes and you’re benefiting from them, don’t abandon that exercise because the trend of the moment is strength training. And all the popular kids say you need to lift. You can try strength training and find out what works for you. But don’t give up on activities that are already working.
Changing the negative may require you to drop the negative. For example, you could remove a stressful situation from your life. If you have a dozen activities that stress you out, get rid of at least one of them.
You can also practice acceptance. Accepting the things that you cannot change helps you face reality and focus on the aspects of your life that you can change.
Your environment has more control over your behavior than you realize.
If you’ve ever worked in retail, you’ll notice how normally nice people turn into jerks at the checkout, especially if you work in high-end stores. You’ll also notice this all over the Internet. This is because our environment can encourage or discourage us from acting in a particular way.
Consider how your environment triggers your behaviors. Is there anything that you need to change or remove from your environment? Is there anything you can add to your environment that will trigger the desired behavior?
Ask yourself the right questions and you’ll reach your goals.
Passive questions, Dr. Goldsmith explains, are those questions that describe a static condition. This makes you think about what is being done to you instead of what you are actually doing to achieve your goals. Asking yourself active question shows you how to change your behavior and how hard you are trying. What sounds more engaging?
- Did I take my vitamins? Or did I do my best to eat right?
- Have I set my intentions for the week? Did I do my best to meet my intentions today?
- Do I have my meal plan ready? Did I do my best to comply with my meal plan?
These questions give you a sense of accountability. It ensures you attempt a step towards your goals. For even better results, recruit an accountability buddy to ask you these questions at the end of the day.
Put it into practice: At the end of the day, ask yourself if you did your best to meet each one your goals, individually. Then give yourself a 1 to 10 rating (with 10 being you the best).
How many times have you engaged in a knee-jerk response to an emotional trigger? How many times have you yelled colorful names at a hypothetical jerk who cut you off during your morning commute? How many times have you said something you didn’t mean to a loved one at the end of the day?
If this sounds familiar, ask yourself this: “Am I willing, at this time, to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic?” Dr. Goldsmith turns the first five words of this saying into the acronym AIWATT. This phrase creates much-needed space and time between an emotional trigger and your response, preventing you from doing things you don’t want to do.
You are a trigger.
If you ever thought that they key to your goals—and happiness for that matter—was to change someone else’s behavior, consider this: When you consistently work to improve your behaviors and meet your goals, you become a trigger for other people to do the same. You become an inspiration to the people around you.
Overall, I have found Triggers enjoyable. This book is chock-full of advice on not only how to overcome inertia and work towards your goals; but also how to overcome the negative influences of your environment.
A little bit about the author of the book: Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is an executive coach and author other books such as What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There and Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It and How to Get It Back When You need It. To learn more about Dr. Goldsmith and get more information on how to change your behavior, click here to visit his website.