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14 July 2015

Book Review: Triggers: Author: Marshall Goldsmith

Book Review

The book, Triggers, that Mr.Marshall Goldsmith has co-authored with Mark Reiter is the third book written by Mr. Goldsmith following the success of his previous books 'What got you here won't get you there' and 'Mojo'. Marshall Goldsmith is considered to be one of America's top 50 thinkers. He is a world renowned expert in 'Adult Behavioral Change'.

The book is published in India by Hachette and the paperback edition costs Rs.399.

As is the case with his books, the key theme of this book is to identify the triggers that can spark positive, lasting change in adult behavior. The book covering  22 chapters is divided into 4 parts.

Part One is titled 'Why don't we become the persons that we want to be'. As the title suggests, the objective of this section is to identify the triggers that spark both positive and negative behavior on our part and either support or impede our progress. Author starts off with two universal truths. One, meaningful change is very hard to do and two, no one can make us change unless we want to. Author identifies two kinds of triggers. Belief triggers are a set of beliefs that we hold that prevents us from making positive changes. Mr.Goldsmith has identified 15 belief triggers, including 'I won't give in to temptation', 'I have all the time in the world', 'I don't need help' etc. Environmental triggers are those millions of stimuli in the external world, few of which we are conscious of and most of which we are not even aware are impacting our behavior.

There are different kinds of triggers. Two key groups are Encouraging - Discouraging and Productive - Counter productive. Combining these two groups lead to four combinations. These are:
  • Encouraging / Productive
  • Discouraging / Productive
  • Encouraging / Counter productive
  • Discouraging / Counter productive.
We should always try to identify and strengthen those triggers that are both encouraging and productive. These triggers provide what we want in the short-term as well as providing us with long-term positive results. If that is not possible, our focus should be to strengthen 'Productive' triggers. 

One of the concepts in this book is the wheel of change. It classifies our behaviors in terms of whether they add or reduce value and if we need to keep or change them. The wheel has four sectors. 'Creating' sector deals with those behaviors that we should create new. 'Preserve' deals  with those which we need to keep. Behaviors in both these groups add value. We need to identify and 'Eliminate' those behavior that are reducing value. These could be all those bad habits that you have been wanting to get rid of for a long time. Finally, there are some behaviors and situations that you need to 'Accept'. Author gives example of how he accepted the fact that he is 'follicly challenged'.

Wheel of change - Marshall Goldsmith - Triggers
How can we put these ideas into action? Parts 2 and 3 gives us the methods of adopting the changes. There are two aspects to change adoption. One is to be aware of our need for change. We should 'want' to have to change. Second is to continuously engage ourselves in the change process. To ensure these two, author suggest that we asks ourselves engaging questions on a regular basis. Engaging questions start with 'Did I do my best to.....' thereby bringing in the aspects of 'self-ownership' and 'trying' into the occasion. In addition, we should also be asking hourly questions of ourselves to remind that we are on the right path as we go through the day.

Every moment, we are faced with situations where we have a choice to respond. So which are the situations where one should respond and and which are those which one should walk away from? AIWATT, rhyming with 'Say What' helps us take the correct decision. AIWATT stands for 'Am I willing, at this time, to make the required investments, to make a positive change on this issue?'. If the answer to the above question is 'Yes', one should engage, if it is 'No', one should walk away from it.

And finally, author emphasizes the need for structure in our lives. The concept of structure is not strictly defined in the book, rather, the idea is brought about through set of examples. Structure brings in both self-discipline and self-control, two basic requirements for ensuring long-lasting, sustained, positive adult behavioral change.

Part 4 rounds off the book by discussing three reasons why Mr.Goldsmith wanted to write this book. First reason is to help readers achieve long-lasting positive behavioral change. Second is for helping readers to be aware of their need of change and the third reason is to help readers engage in the change process.

Mr.Goldsmith had released concepts and ideas of the book prior to its release through a series of LinkedIn posts. So if you were a member of LinkedIn, you would have read those teasers before you read this book.

I had read the other two books of Mr.Goldsmith. That was some time ago. Still, I feel that this book did not impact me as much as his other works did. One of the problems that I felt was that this book lacked conceptual rigor and clear definitions. The word 'Triggers' was used loosely in my opinion. At various pages in this book you came across Belief triggers, environmental triggers, behavioral triggers etc. I was not very clear of which type of trigger I was reading about at any point in time.

Another area where I did not get clarity was the difference between behavior or habits. Were they the same? The author tries to bring in a subtle difference between them. For example, you trying to stop smoking is a change in habit. This book do not try to address that. But if you do not delegate properly, or tend to add unnecessary value, those are changes in behavior that you need to undertake, and this book tries to help you in your endeavor..

All in all, I will give three marks out of five for this book.

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