Apr 23, 2020 | 3
Minute Read

Read With Dr. Ron: Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith


One human quality that is both rewarding and at the same time frustrating, is our ability to make connections and draw conclusions. So, when I saw a book titled “Triggers”, I immediately pictured a book that would allow me to identify those handful of annoying occurrences that regularly cause negative reactions.


What Does a Trigger Look Like in a Pandemic?

Unless Marshall Goldsmith had a crystal ball, I doubt he ever could have imagined how timely his book would be in our present economic and social situation. Let me expose these insights that may well open you to a new level of understanding of our altered environmental work and living situations are influencing our very behaviors.

Marshall Goldsmith redefines triggers by pointing out that every change in our daily life creates a new environment. We react and yes, alter our behaviors in response to these new settings.  In other words, we are not the same person at home as we are at work and we are not the same driving on the freeway as we are during happy hour.

More importantly, now that many of us are living and working in the SAME home environment, TOGETHER, we are all feeling these new pressures or triggers, and in many cases, it ain’t pretty.  We are trying to work with school age children running around the house and we attempt to concentrate while our significant other just needs to ask a simple question that interrupts two hours of thought building! The kitchen table just became a multipurpose work and entertainment center. And on and on.  I am starting to understand what retirement might look like and I am NOT PREPARED!


What Can You Learn From Triggers?

While many of us have a sense of these behavioral shifts and may even have reflected on new frustrations, are we truly aware of how this new environment is affecting our everyday behaviors? And if we were more aware, could we proactively prepare and modify our behaviors in response to these constantly changing environments. Here are some takeaways Marshall provides his readers. 

  • “You might not have the wisdom to assess your own behaviors”. Nope, you don’t.  Marshall points out that 70 percent of professionals believe that they are in the top 10 percent of their peer group and 98.5 percent place themselves in the top half. (They must all live in Lake Wobegon where all the children are above average.)
  • “Our environment is a nonstop triggering mechanism whose impact on our behaviors is too significant to be ignored”. This statement has particular significance to me because our assessments are taken online, in settings that we have no control over.  This means that we MUST pay special attention to our instructions to at least attempt to control the mindset and the environment of the assessment taker. It also means that in this time of social distancing, we need to create some degree of control over these nonstop triggers. 
  • “If we do not create and control our environment, our environment creates and controls us”. This requires that we first become aware of the triggers associated with each of our multiple environments, and then establish feedback loops that move through four stages: evidence, relevance, consequences and action. 
  • We each have explicit and implicit memories and as a result, we may not fully understand the behavioral impact our deeply held implicit beliefs have on our conduct and decisions.  Our feedback loops may require outside help.  Now more than ever, we need to work at communicating our feelings and our reactions.  These triggers do not go away by ignoring them.  
  • “When it comes to our behavior, we always have a choice”. We can continue to do what we have been doing and we will no doubt continue to get what we have been getting. Or, we can take responsibility and be personally responsible for our actions.


Move Forward With Awareness in Your Environment

Triggers is one of those books that draws attention to our blind spots and then offers real advice for making meaningful changes in our behavior.  Buying and reading this book might just save your job and your marriage. (Now I can unlock the door and let this new environment I find myself living in flood the room!)


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Dr. Ron Bonnstetter