Get Better Faster by Managing your Triggers
Book Summary: “Triggers,” by Marshall Goldsmith
Blog By Jonathan Casiano
Marshall Goldsmith’s “Triggers” offers up valuable tips for creating an environment that is primed for accomplishing goals. Goldsmith’s three-step plan guides us to change what we can, anticipate and prepare for what we can’t and engage in self-reflection to monitor and accelerate progress toward our desired behaviors and actions.
Environment is everything
In the nature versus nurture debate, Goldsmith asks us to take a radical “nurture” stance. Imagine—even if you don’t fully agree—that all of your productive and unproductive traits are the product of your external environment. Through this lens, the world around us is full of triggers that prompt us to act in positive or negative ways.
How do we create an environment that guides us to behaviors we deem healthy and those we consider harmful? Goldsmith says that the first step is to consciously reflect on your desired behavior and consider all of the triggers, even unconscious ones, that cause you to engage in actions that are detrimental to your goals. Then, eliminate those triggers.
Maybe you’re trying to build a more positive relationship with a difficult student? Consider all of the barriers or triggers that could keep you from accomplishing your goals. Perhaps your interactions with the student in question occur right before lunch, and hunger pangs add to your frustration. A negative trigger in this instance is your empty belly.
In addition to identifying and eliminating negative triggers you have the power to control, you must also anticipate and prepare for triggers you have no power over. One way to do this is to spend a minute—be sure to set a time limit—each morning pondering the counterproductive triggers you might encounter during your day. Write them on a notecard and place it in your pocket as a reminder of these triggers and consider actions you might take that will help you deal with them in healthy ways.
After identifying and eliminating triggers you can control and anticipating and preparing for triggers you can’t, you must fill your environment with positive triggers. For example, you could keep some healthy snacks in your desk to stop hunger from adversely influencing your mood. Doing so would contribute to a more positive attitude, which can help to keep your frustration in check during challenging student interactions.
Goldsmith also says we should surround ourselves with people who promote or engage in the behaviors we strive for. This is something we intuitively know we should do, but often find difficult to accomplish. Professional learning and collaboration platforms like Sibme that enable us to be surrounded by people modeling, sharing and encouraging positive behaviors—like excellent teaching—can help.
Self-reflection is crucial
If you want to keep yourself on a path of positive, goal-focused behaviors, you need a structure that keeps you from veering off course and back to familiar, unproductive habits. Goldsmith suggests spending some time each night reflecting on whether you did your best to engage in a desired behavior.
He also suggests creating a spreadsheet with one column of desired behaviors. The next 31 columns represent the days of the month. Each night, for each behavior, ask yourself on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest effort, how much you did to engage in your desired behavior. Seeing scores at the low end for a period of several days might prompt you to consider taking further actions to accomplish your goals.
Sibme’s guiding principle is that regular and accurate self-reflection is key to continuous self-improvement and effective goal-focused behavior. Through tools like video time-stamping and virtual Huddles with instructional coaches and colleagues who share best practices, Sibme can be a valuable trigger to keep teachers and students on the road to success.