How to keep your new year’s resolution

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When I first read “What got you here, won’t get you there“, I thought it was the best coaching book.

As luck would have it, Marshall Goldsmith was invited as the keynote speaker at the Singapore Management Festival. My colleague Stephen was also in the audience, and encouraged me to take a photo with Goldsmith and ask him to sign my book. Thank you Stephen. Thank you Goldsmith. I did not have the courage to sign on to be one of Goldsmith’s coaches.

Talk about Planned Unplanned.

Why is behaviour change so difficult? Even when we acknowledge the need to change what we do. Triggers examines the external factors (or ‘triggers’) – both negative and positive – that affect our behaviours.
The book also offers some simple, practical advice to help us navigate the negative and make the most of the triggers that help us to sustain positive change.

Marshall Goldsmith is a world-renowned business educator and coach, recognised in 2013 as one of the Top Ten Most Influential Management Thinkers in the World – and the top-ranked executive coach – by Thinkers 50.

A trigger is any stimulus that reshapes our thoughts and actions. If we do not create and control our environment, our environment can control our behaviour.

How?
1. Measure important behaviors 

To make progress toward any goal, it helps to track our behaviors. Monitoring and accountability are the keys to behavior changes, “If you want to eat more healthily, get more exercise, track your spending.”

Every evening, Goldsmith reviews a 40-item spreadsheet consisting of every important behavior he hopes to achieve, including the number of words he wrote; the distance he walked; and the number of nice things he said to his wife, daughter, and grandchildren. He reviews this list with someone he employs to phone him.

2. Ask yourself DAILY active questions on the items.

Did I do my best to …

“The [Daily Questions] announce our intention to do something and, at the risk of private disappointment or public humiliation, they commit us to doing it”.
They are a ‘commitment device” and force us to articulate what we really want to change in our lives”. After 10 consecutive days of saying “NO, I did not do it”, the question is whether we are serious in wanting to make the change?

Am I willing at this time to make an investment in a positive behaviour change? “The [Daily Questions] announce our intention to do something and, at the risk of private disappointment or public humiliation, they commit us to doing it.

Daily Questions focus us on where we need help, not where we’re doing just fine. Humility to recognise that we need a simple structure, even writing down the items every day. It helps us take action one day at a time and reduce our objectives into manageable twenty-four-hour increments”.

3.  Recognise our environment can be a trigger

Most of us go through life unaware of how our environment shapes our behaviour. If we do not create and control our environment, our environment creates and controls us. A simple way is to set reminders of our goal. In my case, the example he gave about how being around his mean neighbours one evening, triggered his behaviour to behave likewise.

I have willpower and won’t give in to temptation. We not only overestimate willpower, we underestimate the power of triggers in our environment that lead us astray. Especially when I am tired, I tend to eat carbohydrates or engage in mindless net-surfing to relax.

When we make plans for the future, we seldom plan on distractions, even though this may trigger our behaviour. Example, lunch with friends who turn up late and I get upset, because I don’t like such behaviour. I could have anticipated this, and plan how to effectively use the 20 mins when my friends are late.

4.  Get Accountability -we need a coach and feedback

Myth that I have the wisdom to assess my own behavior. Goldsmith is of the view that we are inaccurate at assessing ourselves. He pays someone to call him every day to hear him go through the 40 items question and answer. As a top coach, if he is willing to admit that he does not have the discipline and self control. “Self-discipline refers to achieving desirable behavior. Self-control refers to avoiding undesirable behavior”.

Feedback—both the act of giving it and taking it—is our first step in becoming more mindful about the connection between our environment and our behavior”. Sometimes we give ourselves an excuse. Today is a special day. If we really want to change we have to accept that we cannot self-exempt every time. In my case, tracking how often I eat carbs, even though I know I should not. Tracking caused me to realise its every day, and sometimes its twice a day, not just a special day.

5. Avoidance as a measure

To avoid undesirable behavior, avoid the environments where it is most likely to occur. Or as Judge Ruth Bader suggested, sometimes pretend to be a little deaf, especially when someone made an unkind remark at you.

This is not a book for the unmotivated.  His book answers the “HOW to change”. He does not attempt to answer the “What to change and WHY”. I guess I need to read it with “What got you here, won’t get you there.”

Sometimes the negative can be a positive motivator. Photo in the Book of Goldsmith in Mali with the Red Cross, where the Red Cross had to do a triage on starving children, measuring their arms. Only those between ages of 2-15 yrs old would be given food. Picture reminded him of how blessed he was, to be born in the US, and not to get upset with inconsequential stuff. The photo is a trigger for positive behaviour.

Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts–Becoming the Person You Want to Be
By Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter (2015). Book Length: 272 pages

Other resources by Goldsmith
MOJO

Marshall Goldsmith

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