Navigating Your Personal Triggers: Advice from Marshall Goldsmith

Reading Time: 3 Minutes

You’re striving to become a better version of yourself, but you’ve hit a plateau. Every so often, external forces or “triggers” divert you from your path to improvement. Marshall Goldsmith‘s Triggers shines a light on these often-overlooked forces that influence our behavior. Buckle up as we delve into the actionable insights of this transformative book.

The Intricacies of Triggers

At its core, “Triggers” revolves around the idea that our environment influences our behavior. External stimuli, or triggers, can push us toward or pull us away from our goals.

The Behavioral Equation

Goldsmith presents a straightforward equation: Trigger + Impulse = Behavior

Understanding this equation is vital. Every trigger we encounter elicits an impulse, and if we aren’t careful, that impulse transforms into behavior.

Two Types of Triggers

Goldsmith breaks down triggers into two categories:

  • Creating Triggers guide us toward positive behavior.
  • Inhibiting Triggers hinder our progress.

By identifying and classifying the triggers in our environment, we can make them work for us, not against us.

The Wheel of Change

Goldsmith introduces the Wheel of Change, a model that helps us recognize how we can respond to triggers and the resulting behaviors:

Positive Leadership and Keeping

We should cherish and maintain positive behaviors, especially when they align with our goals.


Sometimes, introducing a new behavior is what’s needed. Maybe it’s a new routine or a fresh perspective on challenges.


Not all behaviors serve us. Some need to be purged from our lives to create space for positive growth.


There are times when change isn’t feasible. In such cases, acceptance can be a powerful tool.

Engaging with Triggers

How we react to triggers can determine our personal and professional trajectory.

Anticipation is Key

To master your reactions, you must first anticipate triggers. Recognize the situations or people that provoke certain responses in you. By being aware, you can devise strategies to navigate these triggers effectively.

Accountability Matters

Take ownership of your actions. Remember, triggers aren’t the culprits; they’re merely catalysts. Our responses, whether reactionary or controlled, are our own.

Daily Questions Ritual

Goldsmith suggests a ritual of asking yourself pointed questions every day, gauging if you behaved in line with your values and objectives.

For example:

  • Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
  • Did I do my best to make progress towards my goals today?

This self-assessment can provide clarity on where you’re excelling and where you’re faltering.

Structuring Your Environment

Goldsmith emphasizes that while you can’t always control your environment, you can often structure it. By designing an environment that’s conducive to your goals, you reduce the number of negative triggers you encounter.

The Power of Feedback

Feedback is a crucial environmental factor. Regular, constructive feedback can serve as a “creating trigger”, guiding you towards positive change.

Clearing the Path

Eliminate distractions and inhibiting triggers from your environment. This could mean decluttering your workspace or distancing yourself from negative influences.

Adapting and Evolving

Change is inevitable. As we grow, our triggers and responses to them will evolve. Goldsmith suggests a proactive approach:

Regular Self-assessment

Continually assess and reassess your goals, values, and behaviors. This isn’t a one-time task but an ongoing process.

Embrace Lifelong Learning

The world changes, and with it, the triggers we face. Commit to learning and adapting, ensuring you’re always equipped to face new challenges.

Seeking Support

There’s strength in numbers. By engaging with a community or seeking guidance, such as through Deliberate Directions’s executive business coaching, you can gain valuable insights and strategies to navigate your triggers effectively.

Transform Triggers into Triumphs

Marshall Goldsmith’s Triggers is a roadmap for mastering our environment and responses, turning potential pitfalls into platforms for growth. Triggers will always be around. But with self-awareness, a structured environment, and the tools Goldsmith provides, you can make them catalysts for positive change. And for those moments when the journey seems too challenging, remember that platforms like Deliberate Directions are always there to guide and support you.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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