By: Tom Abbatiello, Senior Client Executive Posted: Aug 28th, 2015

Back in June I had the pleasure of participating in a day long workshop that was delivered and facilitated by Dr. Marshall Goldsmith.  The topics and frameworks that were reviewed and discussed in a lively, interactive manner are laid out in Marshall’s new book, TRIGGERS: Creating Behavior That Lasts—Becoming the Person You Want to Be, which remains #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list, Business category.  

Triggers provides practical suggestions, tools, and structure to follow through on what we want and need to do to get better.  For those of us who have been fortunate enough to participate in one of Marshall's classes, we know that changing our behavior in a meaningful way can be difficult.  Identifying what we want and need to change about ourselves may not be, but effecting that change is indeed very difficult.  It takes a lot of energy, focus, and will power. At the end of each day it is important to reflect, measure, and seek feedback from someone we trust to hold us accountable. 

Yes, this improvement thing requires focus and a positive attitude, and, let’s face it, it can also be emotionally and physically draining to maintain that focus as we go about our daily tasks. We are often conditioned to think we must continuously act and do more to improve.  However, sometimes it’s better to focus on doing less in order to keep energized and focused.  Sometimes it's better to avoid than to engage when we cannot have a positive impact.

What can we do to simplify so we retain energy rather than expending it on superfluous tasks?  This can be something as basic as simplifying our wardrobe so we don’t have to spend too much time deciding what to wear each day or to buy each month.  It’s no coincidence that Marshall’s entire work attire consists of a green polo and khakis!  

Often we can be sidetracked, and ultimately depleted, by negativity and we end up blaming others.  Why can’t so and so just change to make my life easier?  It’s easy to do.  We all do it, and we know deep down most of the time it’s a fool’s errand.  Ultimately, the only way we can get the most out of ourselves each day is to make sure we are fully engaged to do our best.

So, how do we do that?  I have found that the most powerful Triggers takeaway is to ask ourselves these six questions each morning:

  • Will I do my best to set clear goals today?
  • Will I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?
  • Will I do my best to find meaning today?
  • Will I do my best to be happy today?
  • Will I do my best to build positive relationships today?
  • Will I do my best to be fully engaged today?

We can get even more specific and apply questions to help us achieve our goals:

  • Will I contribute positively during meeting at work?
  • Will I do something, or at least say something kind to my spouse, child, or friend?
  • Will I do my best to have a healthy diet?
  • Will I exercise?
  • Will I be thankful?

And at the end of the day, reflect or engage with a trusted colleague or friend and change the “will” to “did.”  Rinse and repeat every day.

In addition to the six engagement questions, Triggers provides helpful examples of other questions we can ask ourselves and a scoring chart.  This provides structure, reinforces commitment, and helps to track progress.

Yes, change can be difficult, but will we be able measure up every day to ourselves and to others?  Probably not, though with Marshall’s help, we can get things moving in the right direction.  Life is good!

Marshall Goldsmith has been an adjunct professor with Tuck Executive Education for over 12 years and regularly teaches in several of Tuck’s executive programs including Tuck Executive Program and the Leadership & Strategic Impact (LSI) program.

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