A leopard can’t change his spots. A tiger can’t change his stripes. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Change can be difficult. There’s a reason why most people are not living the life they want to live. They want to exercise more, they want to lose weight, they want to shift careers, they want to be a better mother or father to their children – the list goes on and on. Goals, however, are easy to derail. An exhausting day at work means no gym for today – and maybe tomorrow, too. Diets don’t count on birthdays. Watching television is more relaxing than writing out resumes.
Ultimately, goals are left on the backburner for years, if not decades. People who lose track of their goals are often filled with regret. What would their life look like if they had actually followed through?
In his latest book, “Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be,” executive coach Marshall Goldsmith describes why people fail to maintain behavioral changes and what they can do to achieve their goals and minimize their regrets.
No time like the present
Goldsmith opens the book with an anecdote about his friend, Phil. After falling down a set of stairs and hitting his head, Phil realized that he wasn’t friendly with any of his neighbors. How was he supposed to call for help when he didn’t know the people he was calling out to? He ended up phoning a woman who lived several houses away who – despite barely knowing Phil – volunteered to drive him to the hospital. Touched by her kindness, Phil vowed to become a friendlier person, the kind of person who would wait with a near-stranger in the emergency room. The leopard decided to change his spots.
Most people don’t experience a revelatory moment like this one, a burst of inspiration during which they recognize their flaws as well as how to fix them. In fact, most people wait for an experience like this at the expense of the present. Why start writing a novel today when some watershed moment in the future awaits them? Goldsmith outlines myths like this one (i.e., goals will be easier in the future) that prevent people from taking action right now. By recognizing these fallacies, it becomes easier to discount them and take real steps toward becoming the people they want to be.
Managing what fate dealt
The main meat of the book, however, is about triggers. Triggers are defined as any stimulus that reshapes a person’s thoughts or actions. Environmental triggers, Goldsmith theorizes, are the main reason why people are unable to maintain their goals. Examples of environmental triggers include a bad experience at work, the delicious smell of bacon during a diet or the release of an enticing new television show hours before a major deadline. Not all triggers are bad or distracting – a thoughtful compliment can make people work harder toward their goals. The technique espoused by Goldsmith involves minimizing the impact of negative triggers while maximizing the impact of positive triggers.
“Fate is the hand of cards we’ve been dealt,” Goldsmith writes. “Choice is how we play the hand.”
Simple, but not easy
Goldsmith’s new book is a valuable tool for all who are looking to make a positive change in their life or in the lives of others. The writing is vivid and engaging, at times reading more like a novel than a self-help book. His advice is straight-forward and simple. However, Goldsmith makes sure to caution his readers that simple is far from easy.
“Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be” was released on May 19 and can be found on Amazon in hardcover and digital form.