Triggers and our behavioural responses — Are we as innocent as we think we are?

I normally keep whatever I learn from books to myself. I still take notes, sometimes leave reviews on Goodreads, and use the things I’ve learned in my day-to-day life, but very rarely I write about them on my blog. I touched upon a book in another blog post before that I encourage you to go take a look at, but today, I’m going to review a book that was on my Wishlist for a while now. Buckle up for a short review of Triggers: Creating Behaviour That Lasts — Becoming the person you want to be!

Triggers is a fantastic book written by an expert author, Marshall Goldsmith. Goldsmith is a leadership coach that has coached multiple world renown leaders, the likes of Alan Mulally of Ford Motor Company and Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank. He points out some very simple behaviours and reactions that we do day in and day out, but we don’t notice how profoundly they affect us or the people around. His book tries to give us an insight into how we manage to let ourselves down when we know how to lift ourselves up, whether we are the CEO of an international conglomerate or not.

Goldsmith starts with presenting a clever 4-quadrant matrix of “what we want and need,” “what we don’t want, but need,” “what we don’t need, but want” and “what we neither need nor want.” Trying to do more of the first category and less of the last is something we could always work on and Triggers gives us some insights based on previous experience.

The book categorizes leadership into four different styles. Some employees need directing. You need to give them exact instructions and make sure they follow them to the period. Some need coaching: you give them the instructions and ask them what they think and if they want to tweak it before getting their hands dirty. Some need supporting. That’s when you tell them what the task is and ask for their input on instructions and how it should be done. And there is delegating. You give the assignment. You are there if they need any help, but they are on their own for the most part, because they have proven that they can do it.

Triggers talks about how different employees, based on their level of satisfaction with their jobs, their personalities, etc., could fit into the “employee engagement wheel.” An employee can be committed, i.e. genuine with clients/customers. That’s when (s)he is actively and positively engaged. If the employee is passively but still positively engaged, (s)he is a professional. However, employees could also be cynical or hostile. When they are indifferent to customers and bored with their jobs, they become the former (passive and negative) and when they dislike their jobs and can’t tolerate customers, that’s when they are the latter (actively negative). We encounter employees from all four of the these categories everyday and it’s not a surprise that we fit into one of the four as well. Knowing which one we fit into could help us improve and move to a better category that will not only help us become a better person, but also help people around us be happy as well.

Another concept I really liked in this book is the “wheel of change.” It shows us how the concepts changing, keeping, positive and negative could be combined to end up with creating positive changes, preserving current positive attributeseliminating negative attributes and accepting the negative aspects we can’t change. This might be a simple idea or just a reminder of what we already know, but we rarely act on it and put together a list with these titles in it.

Goldsmith also teaches us the distinction between asking passive vs active questions. When we ask how well someone performed, we are asking passive questions and this gives the person the ability to use their environment as an excuse. But, when we ask how much they tried, they have to think about what they did themselves. This, once again, emphasizes the fact that we are superior planners, but inferior doers: something the author likes to point out every so often.

I’m the type of person that doesn’t need constant supervision or follow-ups to get something done, excluding some friendly nudges here and there of course, but that doesn’t mean I can be successful without structure. This book made me rethink the importance of structure. In Goldsmith’s own words, “structure not only increases our chance of success, it makes us more efficient at it.” Having a routine doesn’t make us or our lives boring, it gives it structure. Developing a daily active questions list helps us in giving our lives even more meaning. One of the reasons is that we perform better when we know we will be tested, regardless of who the tester is and if we know the questions ahead of the time.

“Marginal motivation produces a marginal outcome,” is another great quote in the book. If we want to improve, we have to accept that we have flaws and weaknesses and then start woking on ourselves. Most of us deceive ourselves into thinking that the real us is the one that has all our strengths, not the one that also includes our weaknesses. Just because we don’t acknowledge the existence of our flaws, doesn’t mean they are nonexistent. We drag them with ourselves wherever we go.

I also like how Goldsmith suggests a cycle for behaviour and trigger called “circle of engagement.” A trigger leads to an impulse that leads to awareness. We make choice(s) based on that and a behaviour comes out. That behaviour itself becomes a trigger and the cycle continues.

If you want to know more about each of these concepts and more, be sure to get your hands on a copy of the book and start reading. You won’t regret it!

Forty Reasons to Stay Alive

Life is tough, but it is also beautiful. It can put you in pain for some time and make you feel happy some other time. It can give you a reason to cry some time, but it can also make you laugh. As you can see, there are a lot of sides to life and the way to experience them is to stay alive. Having heard a lot about a book by Matt Haig, I started reading “Reasons to Stay Alive.” It is not a long read (in fact less than 200 pages on the version available through my city’s library). Although I wish he would have talked more about his journey of recovery from the elephant in the room, i.e. anxiety and depression, I enjoyed every bit of it, especially because it comes from someone who has had a first-hand experience of how tough life can get. There is a section in the book that lists 40 reasons to stay alive and I wanted to share those with the readers of my blog along with some comments of my own (my comments start after the dashes). So, here it is:

  1. Appreciate happiness when it is there.
  2. Sip, don’t gulp. – When we are gulping through any drink, we are not enjoying what that drink has to offer, it is as if we are in a hurry to be done with the glass. But when we are sipping it, we give time to our organs, whether internal or external, to understand what that drink really is.
  3. Be gentle with yourself. Work less. Sleep more. – We are living in a world today that work is defining who we are. Think about your answer to the question “Who are you?” Aren’t we answering with our job title any time we are asked that question? The reason most often being that we spend a lot of time working, we forget how else we can be defined. Maybe we could go on that vacation we’ve been dreaming about for a long time or get that good night’s sleep we’ve been craving for the last few weeks.
  4. There is absolutely nothing in the past that you can change. That’s basic physics. – Then why worry about changing what’s already been done.
  5. Beware of Tuesdays. And Octobers.
  6. Kurt Vonnegut was right. ‘Reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found.’ – I can attest to this through personal experience. I feel great whenever I read or write.
  7. Listen more than you talk. – Good listeners make great speakers. Don’t quote me on that though! 🙂
  8. Don’t feel guilty about being idle. More harm is probably done to the world through work than idleness. But perfect your idleness. Make it mindful. – Personally, I don’t like being idle, and I would argue that if you are making your idleness mindful, you are not really idle!
  9. Be aware that you are breathing. – This is a great reminder. There are a lot of things that we take for granted in life. I think this one tops the list!
  10. Wherever you are, at any moment, try and find something beautiful. A face, a line out of a poem, the clouds out of a window, some graffiti, a wind farm. Beauty cleans the mind.
  11. Hate is a pointless emotion to have inside you. It is like eating a scorpion to punish it for stinging you. – Washing blood with blood is not going to work. Sometimes, educating the hater might be a good idea, but sometimes you have to leave the hater alone. You can’t teach the scorpion not to sting, for example!
  12. Go for a run. Then do some yoga.
  13. Shower before noon.
  14. Look at the sky. Remind yourself of the cosmos. Seek out vastness at every opportunity, in order to see the smallness of yourself.
  15. Be kind.
  16. Understand that thoughts are thoughts. If they are unreasonable, reason with them, even if you have no reason left. You are the observer of your mind, not its victim.
  17. Do not watch TV aimlessly. Do not go on social media aimlessly. Always be aware of what you are doing, and why you are doing it. Don’t value TV less. Value it more. Then you will watch it less. Unchecked distractions will lead you to distraction.
  18. Sit down. Lie down. Be still. Do nothing. Observe. Listen to your mind. Let it do what it does without judging it. Let it go, like the Snow Queen in Frozen.
  19. Don’t worry about things that probably won’t happen. – i.e. don’t overthink!
  20. Look at trees. Be near trees. Plant trees. (Trees are great.)
  21. Listen to that yoga instructor on YouTube, and ‘walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet’.
  22. Live. Love. Let go. The three Ls.
  23. Alcohol maths. Wine multiplies itself by itself. The more you have, the more you are likely to have. And if it’s hard to stop at one glass, it will be impossible at three. Addition is multiplication.
  24. Beware of the gap. The gap between where you are and where you want to be. Simply thinking of the gap widens it. And you end up falling through. – I think it’s good to remind yourself of your goals, but only when you have done something to get closer to it, which will give you even more motivation to get even more closer. But, if you haven’t taken any action recently, reminding yourself of your goals is not going to make things any better and it might even make them worse.
  25. Read a book without thinking about finishing it. Just read it. Enjoy every word, sentence, and paragraph. Don’t wish for it to end, or for it to never end. – Refer to number 2 above as well!
  26. No drug in the universe will make you feel better, at the deepest level, than being kind to other people.
  27. Listen to what Hamlet, literature’s most famous depressive, told Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. ‘There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’ – There is still a lot of debate on the topic of good and bad and whether things are innately good or bad or are we making them so. I think this quote sums it up really nicely.
  28. If someone loves you, let them. Believe in that love. Live for them, even when you feel there is no point. – That point might come later. Not every point in life starts showing itself as a point or purpose.
  29. You don’t need the world to understand you. It’s fine. Some people will never really understand things they haven’t experienced. Some will. Be grateful. – As a social person, I’m guilty of this. I try to make connections with a lot of people and when they don’t understand me, I get upset or think about what I did or said. We have to let them be. Not everyone we meet is going to end up being our BFF or SO or even our acquaintance!
  30. Jules Verne wrote of the ‘Living Infinite’. This is the world of love and emotion that is like a ‘sea’. If we can submerge ourselves in it, we find infinity in ourselves, and the space we need to survive.
  31. Three in the morning is never the time to try and sort out your life. – But it might be the time for the brain to try and sort out all the inputs it has received during the day and get rid of the tiredness that comes with those.
  32. Remember that there is nothing weird about you. You are just a human, and everything you do and feel is a natural thing, because we are natural animals. You are nature. You are a hominid ape. You are in the world and the world is in you. Everything connects. – Speaking of nature, I agree that most of the things we do are natural. They are in our nature. We are all weird and normal at the same time. Whether you want to be a weirdly normal or a normally weird person, is the choice you are going to make.
  33. Don’t believe in good or bad, or winning and losing, or victory and defeat, or up and down. At your lowest and at your highest, whether you are happy or despairing or calm or angry, there is a kernel of you that stays the same. That is the you that matters.
  34. Don’t worry about the time you lose to despair. The time you will have afterwards has just doubled its value.
  35. Be transparent to yourself. Make a greenhouse for your mind. Observe.
  36. Read Emily Dickinson. Read Graham Greene. Read Italo Calvino. Read Maya Angelou. Read anything you want. Just read. Books are possibilities. They are escape routes. They give you options when you have none. Each one can be a home for an uprooted mind. – And as the famous saying goes ‘you have lived as many lives as the number of books you have read.’ Each and every book gives you a perspective on life. You look at life from the point of view of a different person and you could be one of those different people one day. That day you will have at least as many options as that person had in that book.
  37. If the sun is shining, and you can be outside, be outside.
  38. Remember that the key thing about life on earth is change. Cars rust. Paper yellows. Technology dates. Caterpillars become butterflies. Nights morph into days. Depression lifts. – And change brings happiness. Wear that tie you haven’t tried on since you bought, change the decoration of your office, change the way you look at people, change your point of view on things you do everyday and you will see happiness dripping through your life.
  39. Just when you feel you have no time to relax, know that this is the moment you most need to make time to relax. – ‘I don’t have time’ is basically a euphemism for ‘It’s not a priority.’ Make time for priorities. We need somethings to be able to even perceive ‘time’ and relaxing is one of them.
  40. Be brave. be strong. Breathe, and keep going. You will thank yourself later. – I don’t know why, but this reminded me of what Ed Latimore said on a podcast I listened a while ago: Running is not always enjoyable, but neither is being physically unfit. Working out can be painful and having a non-fit body can be painful as well. The difference is that you will have a fit body if you go through the pain of working out, but you won’t see any changes going through the pain of having an unhealthy body. So choose which pain you want to experience.

I really recommend reading the complete book, not only to those who sometimes feel low in life, but to anyone, because this book can also give you an idea of what some people might be going through and will maybe help you help someone who is in need of your support. On a related note, let’s tackle the issue of mental health and make sure we are paving the way to finally destigmatize it!