“I’ll Be Happy When ___________.”

Dear Followers: My new book Triggers is published! Order it now at Triggersthebook.com! Life Is Good. — Marshall

Go ahead and fill in the blank. There are no “right” answers. This isn’t a test. It’s just a gauge of where you’re at.

You might say, “when my kids graduate,” “when I have a million dollars in the bank,” “when I retire,” “when we can move into a bigger house,” “when I get that promotion,” “when I have that relationship,” etc. Your answer can be whatever you like. It can even be more than one thing!

The list of ways we can fill in the blank is endless, but it’s an illusion. When we get the million dollars, we’re not satisfied — we want another million. When the kids are finally out of the house, we’re not really free; some other responsibility soon demands our attention. When we get that promotion, we have more work than we can handle and can’t make it home before 10 on any given night.

While we believe achieving a goal will somehow make us happy, the goal line always moves slightly beyond our reach. There’s nothing wrong with that. Without goals we would never achieve anything. Yet, the Great Western Disease of “I’ll be happy when…” – meaning we fixate on the future at the expense of enjoying the life we’re living now – is something we’d do well to look at.

Frequently, we believe that happiness is a static and finite goal, within our grasp when we get that promotion, or buy that house, or find that mate, or whatever. It’s inculcated in us by the most popular story line in contemporary life: There is a person. The person spends money on a product or service. The person is eternally happy…

This is called a TV commercial. The average American spends 140,000 hours watching TV commercials. Some brainwashing is inevitable. Is it any wonder that we become so attached to any change we make that we think it will change us forever? We set a goal, and mistakenly believe that in achieving that goal we will be changed forever, happy at last. But this just isn’t so in most cases.

So, what’s the solution?

It’s more simple than you think – but not that easy for most of us to do. The solution is to detach from the goal, to let go of the end result and focus on the effort and the process rather than achieving the goal.

When we distract ourselves from our obsession with results and outcomes, we are free to appreciate the process of change and our role in making it happen. We’re no longer frustrated by the languid pace of visible progress—because we’re looking in another direction. And, we’re not expecting a “happily ever after…” we get the car, the house, the relationship, etc., but living each day doing our best to change our lives and our behavior for the better of ourselves and of those around us.

See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series and please order Triggers at Amazon!

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What Successful People Know that You Need to Learn!

Dear Followers: My new book Triggers is published! Order it now at Triggersthebook.com! Life Is Good. — Marshall

This might surprise you, but success is all about structure. As a matter of fact, we do not get better, we do not change our behavior, and we do not become successful without it! Yet, most people don’t. Not only is having and utilizing structure a challenge, but you have the added test of incorporating the right structure – meaning a structure that fits the situation and personalities involved, including yours.

Yet, it’s critical. In my years of coaching and research on change, I have learned one key lesson, which has near-universal applicability: We do not get better without structure.

My friend and former coaching client Alan Mulally knew this and used his concept of organizational structure when he was CEO of Ford. It was off-the-shelf structure, but it was his shelf. It mirrored his training and mindset as an engineer. It was a structure of zero tolerance—for personality clashes, for putting self above team, for any deviation from the rules. It worked for him and Ford spectacularly.

No idea looms bigger in Alan’s mind than the importance of structure in turning around an organization and its people. I believe that the Business Plan Review (BPR) process that he has developed is the most effective use of organizational structure that I have ever observed.

When Alan arrived at Ford he instituted mandatory weekly Thursday morning meetings, known as the Business Plan Review(BPR) with his sixteen top executives and the executive’s guests from around the world. No side discussions were allowed at the meetings, no joking at the expense of others, no interruptions, no cell phones, no handing off parts of the presentation to a subordinate. Each leader was expected to articulate his group’s plan, status, forecast, and areas that needed special attention. Each leader had a mission to help—not judge—the other people in the room.

Alan began each BPR session in the same way: “My name is Alan Mulally and I’m the CEO of Ford Motor Company.” Then he’d review the company’s plan, status, forecast, and areas that needed special attention, using a green-yellow-red scoring system for good-concerned- poor. He asked his top sixteen executives to do the same, using the same introductory language and color scheme. In effect, he was using the same type of structure that I recommend in my coaching process and applying it to the entire corporation. He was introducing structure to his new team. And he did not deviate, either in content or wording.

At first a few executives thought Alan must be joking. No adult running a giant corporation could possibly believe in this seemingly simple disciplined routine, repeated week after week.

But Alan was serious. Structure was imperative at a thriving organization, even more so at a struggling one, which Ford was at that time. What better way to get his team communicating properly than by showing them step by step how great teams communicate?

Yet even with their jobs on the line if they didn’t cooperate, two executives refused to change their behavior in the BPR. It wasn’t long before these two resisters decided to become former Ford executives.

Why would executives be willing to pull the rip cord on their careers rather than adapt to such a simple routine? My only interpretation is ego. In the same way that some surgeons reject the simple proven structure of a checklist for washing their hands, many executives are too proud to admit they need structure. They consider repetitious activity as mundane, uncreative, somehow beneath them.

However, “routine” is one of structure’s major contributions to any change process. It limits our options so that we’re not thrown off course by externalities.

Here are some more examples of the benefits of structure…I’ll bet you can think of some yourself!

  • When we follow a recipe we’re relying on structure to simplify the complexity of cooking—and improve our odds of delivering an appealing dish.
  • When we formulate our bucket list we’re imposing structure on the rest of our life.
  • When we join a reading group, we’re imposing structure on our reading habits (and possibly restructuring our social life).

Successful people know all this intuitively. The rest of us discount structure when it comes to honing our interpersonal behavior. We tell ourselves, I’m a confident, successful adult. I shouldn’t have to constantly monitor if I’m being nice or if people like me. Or we’re so satisfied with how far our behavior has already taken us in life that we smugly reject any reason to change. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Well, if that’s you hat’s off. Me, I want to be better and I know that having structure and doing my best to stick to it is the way to do that!

See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series and please order Triggers at Amazon!

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If They Won’t Change, You’d Better Move on!

Dear Followers: My new book Triggers is published! Order it now at Triggersthebook.com! Life Is Good. — Marshall

You know the people I’m talking about: she says she wants to change, but when it comes time to do so, she makes excuses and doesn’t follow through; or he says he’s eager for a new life, and then defends his old ways at every turn. It’s exhausting to keep up with the denial tactics, finger-pointing, arguments, and justifications that people who really don’t want to change can come up with!

If I’ve learned one thing over my 35 years as an executive coach, speaker and author, it’s this: change has to come from within. It can’t be dictated, demanded, or otherwise forced upon people. A man or woman who does not whole-heartedly commit to change will never change.

That seems self-evident, but I didn’t absorb this simple truth until my twelfth year in the “change” business. By then I had done intensive one-on-one coaching with more than a hundred executives, nearly all successes but a smattering of failures too.

As I reviewed my failures, one conclusion leapt out: Some people say they want to change, but they don’t really mean it. I had erred profoundly in client selection. I believed the clients when they said they were committed to changing, but I had not drilled deeper to determine if they were telling the truth.

Not long after this revelation, I was asked to work with Harry, the chief operating officer of a large consulting firm. Harry was a smart, motivated, hard-working deliver-the-numbers alpha male who was also arrogant and over-delighted with himself. He was habitually disrespectful to his direct reports, driving several of them away to work for the competition. This development rattled the CEO, hence the call to me to coach Harry.

Harry talked a good game at first, assuring me that he was eager to get started and get better. I interviewed his colleagues and direct reports, even his wife and teenaged children. They all told the same story. Despite his sterling professional qualities, Harry had an overwhelming need to be the smartest person in the room, always proving that he was right, winning every argument. It was exhausting and off-putting. Who could say how many opportunities had vanished because people loathed being pummeled and brow-beaten?

As Harry and I reviewed his 360° feedback, he claimed to value the opinions of his co-workers and family members. Yet whenever I brought up an area for improvement, Harry would explain point by point how his questionable behavior was actually justified. He’d remind me that he majored in psychology in college and then analyze the behavioral problems of everyone around him, concluding that they needed to change. In a mind-bending display of chutzpah, he asked me for suggestions in helping these people get better.

In my younger days, I would have overlooked Harry’s resistance. Mimicking his arrogance and denial, I would have convinced myself that I could help Harry where lesser mortals would fail. Fortunately I remembered my earlier lesson: Some people say they want to change, but they don’t really mean it. It was dawning on me that Harry was using our work together as another opportunity to display his superiority and to reverse the misperceptions of all the confused people surrounding him, including his wife and kids. By our fourth meeting I gave up the ghost. I told Harry that my coaching wouldn’t be helpful to him, and we parted ways. (I felt neither joy nor surprise when I later learned that the firm had fired Harry. Evidently the CEO had concluded that an individual who actively resists help has maxed out professionally and personally.)

I often call up my time with Harry as a stark example that, even when altering our behavior represents all reward and no risk – and clinging to the status quo can cost us our careers and relationships – we resist change.

See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series and please order Triggers at Amazon!

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The Real Harm of Goal Obsession!

Dear Followers: My new book Triggers is published! Order it now at Triggersthebook.com! Life Is Good. — Marshall

So much has been written about ways to achieve goals. And my new book Triggers is all about the ultimate achievement, becoming the person you want to be. There is a fine line, though, between setting and achieving goals and goal obsession. When we become obsessed with achieving our goals, it can do more harm than good!

Goal obsession is one of the greatest problems that I encounter in my interactions with successful people. Goal obsession occurs when we become so focused on achieving our goal (or task) that we forget our larger mission.

Let me give you an example from Wall Street. “Mike” was always complaining because he worked too hard. When I asked him why he worked so hard, he replied, “Why do you think? Do you think that I love this place? I am working so hard because I want to make a lot of money!”

I continued my inquiry, “Do you really need this much money?”

“I do now,” Mike grimaced. “I just got divorced for the third time. With three alimony checks each month, I am almost broke.”

“Why do you keep getting divorced?” I asked.

The answer came out with a sad sigh, “My wives kept complaining that I worked all of the time. They had no idea how hard it is to make this much money!”

Over the last 30 years, I have noticed a clear trend. Almost everyone that I meet feels as busy – or even busier – than they have felt in their entire lives. I see too many older people wrecking their health in pursuit of their next achievement. I see too many younger people who are missing their youth, then postponing their love life, then not having children – all in service of their career.

For what?

There is nothing wrong with hard work. I do it myself. There is nothing wrong with choosing to dedicate your life to your career, if that makes you happy. The problem occurs when the price we pay for achieving goals, is not worth the cost we incur in our lives. Only we can determine the costs and benefits to our own lives.

One of my favorite movies is the Academy Award winner, The Bridge on the River Kwai. In this movie, the star, Colonel Nicholson (played by Alec Guiness) becomes so obsessed with his goals – build a great bridge and improve troop morale – that he completely forgets his mission – winning the war. At the end of the movie, he realizes that he has been building a fantastic bridge to support the wrong army and exclaims, “What have I done?”

Your life is your life. It is not my place to tell you how you should live it. I would just suggest that you ask yourself two challenging questions:

  1. What are the most important values in my life? Are my values reflected in the way I spend my time?
  2. What is my mission – as a human being? Am I becoming so focused on achieving my goals that I forget this mission?

At the end of your life, you don’t want to look back like Colonel Nicholson and ask yourself in dismay, “What have I done?”

See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series and please order Triggers at Amazon!

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If They Don’t Care, Don’t Waste Your Time!

Dear Followers: My new book Triggers is published! Order it now at Triggersthebook.com! Life Is Good. — Marshall

My job is to help people achieve positive, lasting change in behavior. Every once in a while I run across someone who doesn’t want to change. What do I do to convince them that the change is good for them?


Have you ever tried to change the behavior of an adult who had absolutely no interest in changing? How much luck did you have with your attempts at this “religious conversion”? Have you ever tried to change the behavior of a spouse, partner or parent who had no interest in changing? How did that work out for you?

My guess is that if you have ever tried to change someone else’s behavior, and that person did not want to change, you have been consistently unsuccessful in changing their behavior. You may have even alienated the person you were trying to enlighten.

If they don’t care, don’t waste your time.

Research on coaching is clear and consistent. Coaching is most successful when applied to people who want to improve — not when applied to people who have no interest in changing. This is true whether you are acting as a professional coach, a manager, a family member, or a friend.

Your time is very limited. The time you waste trying to change people who do not care is time stolen from people who do want to change.

As an example, back in Valley Station, Kentucky, my mother was an outstanding first grade school teacher. In Mom’s mind, I was always in the first grade, my Dad was in the first grade, and all of our relatives were in the first grade.

She was always correcting everybody.

My Dad’s name was Bill. Mom was always scolding “Bill! Bill!” when he did something wrong. We bought a talking bird. In a remarkably short period of time the bird started screeching “Bill! Bill!” Now Dad was being corrected by a bird.

Years passed. When Mom corrected his faulty grammar for the thousandth time, Dad sighed, “Honey, I am 70 years old. Let it go.”

If you are still trying to change people who have no interest in changing, take Dad’s advice. Let it go.

See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series and please order Triggers at Amazon!

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What Is the Greatest Challenge Leaders Face?

Dear Followers: My new book Triggers is published! Order it now at Triggersthebook.com! Life Is Good. — Marshall

In my work, I have the opportunity to talk with many leaders every day and I am frequently asked the question, “What is the greatest challenge that leaders face?”

It’s simple: Our greatest challenge is overcoming our own egos.

As a leader, you likely have a sincere desire to help and care deeply about developing others. You have learned a lot, have great qualifications, and believe in yourself. Unfortunately, these positive qualities can get in our way when it comes to helping!

Our Client’s Dedication Means More Than Our Wisdom

Of all of my coaching clients, the client who improved the most was the client with whom I had spent the least amount of time! He was the CEO of a huge organization and managed about 50,000 people. After our coaching engagement, I said to him, “I have spent less time with you than any client that I have ever coached, yet you and your team have shown the greatest improvement. What should I learn from my experience with you and your team?”

He thoughtfully replied, “Marshall, you should realize that success with your clients isn’t all about you. It is about your clients, the people who choose to work with you.” He continued, “In an important way, my situation is the same. I manage about 50,000 people. Every day, as a leader, I tell myself, ‘The success of our organization is not about me. It is about them-the great people who are working with me!’”

This remarkable leader was Alan Mulally, former CEO of Ford, who was recently named #3 on Fortune’s list of the 50 greatest leaders in the world. Alan taught me a powerful lesson. That the difference in my clients’ improvements wasn’t about me, it was about them. The difference was about their dedication to achieving positive, lasting change-not my great insights or wisdom.

One of My Most Embarrassing Screw-ups

In spite of understanding the theory of ‘make it all about them, not you,’ I can still let my own ego get in the way of my work.

For example, I am sometimes honored by wonderful organizations and this makes me feel good! I love what I do, and when I am appreciated for it I feel great! Sometimes I cannot believe how lucky I am.

Although it is good to be thankful and grateful about our own lives, it is not always good to assume that our blessings are the major topic of interest for the rest of the world!

Some time back, after I received an award, I was interviewing the team members of a client executive that I was going to coach. I really loved the company and was looking forward to working with the executive. As I introduced myself to each team member during our one-on-one sessions, I was so enthusiastic about myself, the great honor I’d received, and my wonderful life that I forgot why I was there! The person who had hired me called to send her regrets, noting that the team thought I seemed to be more interested in myself than I was in them. To put it bluntly, I was fired!

I should have been fired.

And, that’s the lesson for today: The next time your start feeling ‘smart,’ ‘qualified,’ or ‘wise,’ remember this warning:

Get over yourself!!!

See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series and please order Triggers at Amazon!

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The #1 Joy Killer and How to Avoid It

Dear Followers: My new book Triggers is published! Order it now at Triggersthebook.com! Life Is Good. — Marshall

In my travels, I run across thousands of people all over the world who aren’t happy. In fact, some of them are downright miserable. It’s hard to be an engaged, productive person at work if you’re not happy. And, it can be even harder at home.

So, what is the #1 joy killer today? What is killing our happiness and engagement on such a wide-scale? It’s that series of little things that we put on our plates, that pile up over time, compounding to the point of being way too much for any one person to handle.

The #1 happiness killer today is saying yes too much when you should really be saying no. Have you ever heard the old saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”? It makes sense. It’s obvious they are able to get things done. But there is a fine line between taking on a lot and taking on too much.

People in corporate situations often fall into this over-commitment trap. It’s easy to see why. If you like what you do and you’re good at it, it shows. Everyone wants you to be at their meeting; they seek out your opinion; they ask you to run a project for them. Busy people find no shortage of opportunities. And, this happens at all levels. It’s how junior employees advance more rapidly than some of their cohorts. Their ambition and enthusiasm is contagious. Their bosses pile on the work—the employees don’t cry uncle (until it’s too late). And that’s when their work quality deteriorates and they begin to falter. It’s a predictable and vicious circle.

Self-employed people really fall for this joy killer. That’s because without the cushion of a steady paycheck, every opportunity could be their last. So, they take on everything even though it’s impossible to do it all. I do this. As a speaker, I show up for the day, share my knowledge, and get paid for my time. It’s a straightforward pay-for-work opportunity. If I show up I get paid. If I don’t, I don’t get paid. I look at un-booked periods as valuable time during which I can catch up on my reading and writing, or simply relax with my family.

Then someone will want to hire me for the day. I’ll say no at first, because I’ve planned to do these important things. But often the client will persist and I soon find myself saying yes to a gig a few months away, rationalizing that who knows what the economy or my future bookings will look like, I’d better take what comes. Really though, I might be better served to say no and write my next book! I’m lucky to have this problem. And, I know that if I say yes too many times when I should be saying no, the feeling will compound to dangerous levels and will turn into burnout.

That’s the lesson of the #1 Joy Killer. For those of us who tend to over-commit, we have to watch out. Over-commitment is liable to make our spirit sag on the inside and soon will become obvious on the outside to everyone else. Our great job will turn rote, our execution sloppy and apathetic. It will make us appear under-committed and this is rarely appreciated by our customers or colleagues.

Practically everyone feels over-committed on occasion. It’s a hard thing to admit for lots of reasons. Maybe we don’t want to look like we can’t handle the challenge. Maybe we want the validation of being told we’re doing a good job. Maybe we think that taking on too much is no excuse for dropping the ball.

The key is before you reply with another enthusiastic “yes” to that request, think of the long-term impact it will have on you. Is it right for you in the long-term? Are you just saying what will make others happy in the short-term? And, is what you are about to commit to going to increase the long-term happiness and meaning that you experience in life? Or not? The answers will help you avoid the #1 Joy Killer – over-commitment.

See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series and please order Triggers at Amazon!

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Two Immutable Truths that Will STOP Successful Change

Dear Followers: My new book Triggers is published! Order it now at Triggersthebook.com! Life Is Good. — Marshall

As we gear up for publication of Triggers (my new book, which will be out May 19th!), I’m spending a few weeks answering some questions that people ask me frequently about the book, its content, message, and the research that’s gone into it.

This week’s blog is the third of this short series and answers the pertinent question: Do you think Triggers will change people’s lives?

The simple answer is an emphatic “Yes!” Let’s explore my enthusiastic response to this question.

Do you think Triggers will change people’s lives?

The sole purpose of this book is to help you become the person you want to be, to help you change your life. In Triggers, I won’t tell you who you should want to be. I won’t judge you or tell you who should become.

I will tell you why we don’t become the people we want to be. And, I do this for the sole purpose of helping you become the person you want to be. For instance, I explore the Two Immutable Truths of Behavioral Change. These will stop change in its tracks!

  • Meaningful change is very hard to do. It’s hard to initiate behavioral change, even harder to stay the course, hardest of all to make the change stick. Adult behavioral change is the most difficult thing for sentient human beings to accomplish.
  • No one can make us change unless we truly want to change. This should be self-evident. Change has to come from within. It can’t be dictated, demanded, or otherwise forced upon people. A man or woman who does not wholeheartedly commit to change will never change.

What makes positive, lasting behavioral change so challenging—and causes most of us to give up early in the game—is that we have to do it in our imperfect world, full of triggers that may pull and push us off course.

How do triggers work?

Belief triggers stop behavioral change in its tracks. Even when the individual and societal benefits of changing a specific behavior are indisputable, we are geniuses at inventing reasons to avoid change. It is much easier, and more fun, to attack the strategy of the person who’s trying to help than to try to solve the problem.

We fall back on a set of beliefs that trigger denial, resistance. and ultimately self-delusion. They sabotage lasting change by canceling its possibility. We employ these beliefs as articles of faith to justify our inaction and then wish away the result. These are called belief triggers and a few of them (there are many!) include:

  • ‘I have willpower and won’t give in to temptation.’
  • ‘Today is a special day.’
  • ‘At least I’m better than…’

The environment also triggers us. Most of us go through life unaware of how our environment shapes our behavior. When we experience “road rage” on a crowded freeway, it’s not because we’re sociopathic monsters. It’s because the temporary condition of being behind the wheel of a car, surrounded by rude, impatient drivers, triggers a change in our otherwise friendly demeanor. We’ve unwittingly placed ourselves in an environment of impatience, competitiveness, and hostility—and it alters us.

Some environments are designed precisely to lure us into acting against our interest. That’s what happens when we overspend at the high-end mall. Other environments are not as manipulative and predatory as a luxury store. But they’re still not working for us.

The environment that is most concerning is situational. It’s a hyperactive shape-shifter. Every time we enter a new situation, with its mutating who- what- when- where- and- why-specifics, we are surrendering ourselves to a new environment—and putting our goals, our plans, our behavioral integrity at risk. It’s a simple dynamic: a changing environment changes us.

The Solution

The solution I describe is to identify our behavioral triggers (any stimuli that impacts our behavior). These can be direct or indirect, internal or external, conscious or unconscious, etc.

The more aware we are, the less likely any trigger, even in the most mundane circumstances, will prompt hasty unthinking behavior that leads to undesirable consequences. Rather than operate on autopilot, we’ll slow down, take time to think it over, and make a more considered choice.

We already do this in the big moments. It’s the little moments that trigger some of our most outsized and unproductive responses. The slow line at the coffee shop, the second cousin who asks why you’re still single, the colleague who doesn’t remove his sunglasses indoors to talk to you.

Isn’t it time to learn how to be who we want to be in every moment possible? If your answer is “Yes!” then this book is for you.

See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series and please order Triggers at Triggersthebook.com!

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Feeling Tired & Depleted? 3 Steps to Overcome Both!

Dear Followers: My new book Triggers is published! Order it now at Triggersthebook.com! Life Is Good. — Marshall

Finally just around the corner (May 19) is the publication of my new book Triggers! This week’s blog is the second of a short series that is going to be all about the book, its content, and its message. More specifically this week, I’m going to share with you how you can overcome feeling depleted (and succeed anyway) and how I use the material from Triggers in my coaching practice.

Do I see the themes from Triggers elsewhere in thought leadership?

Yes, I do. There’s a lot of exciting new research being done in the areas of goal-achievement and depletion and why we do and don’t achieve our goals. As a matter of fact, Triggers is the product of about two years of thought and research I’ve done. To date, I’ve done 79 different studies with 2537 participants. The studies are ongoing and the pool of participants keeps growing! There’s been a lot of work behind Triggers – so it’s not something I just thought of in a day or two.

For instance, in the book, I talk about depletion and its effect on us in our daily lives. As you might know, one of this book’s central arguments is that our environment affects us in powerful, insidious, and mysterious ways. Depletion is one of those environmental hazards. Viewing depletion as an external trigger is a way of seeing the world anew and appreciating the demands placed on us by our constant efforts at self-regulation.

For example, say you wake up later than usual with insufficient time for your morning workout. You tell yourself you’ll hit the gym that evening after work. But at day’s end, carrying your briefcase and gym bag from the office, you think, “I can skip today. I’ll work out tomorrow morning.”

What’s going on here? Why do our discipline and decisiveness fade at the end of the day, to the point where we opt to do nothing instead of doing something enjoyable or useful? It’s not because we’re inherently weak. It’s because we’re weakened. By the end of the day, we’re worn down and vulnerable to foolish choices.

Depletion isn’t limited to self-control. It applies to many forms of self-regulated behavior. Most obviously it affects our decision making. The more decisions we’re obliged to make, whether it’s choosing among the dozens of options when buying a new car or reducing the list of attendees at an off-site meeting, the more fatigued we get in handling subsequent decisions. Researchers call this decision fatigue, a state that leaves us with two courses of action: 1) we make careless choices or 2) we surrender to the status quo and do nothing. Decision fatigue is why the head-scratching purchases we make on Tuesday get returned on Wednesday; we’re more clearheaded the next day when we’re not depleted. It’s also why we put off decisions; we’re too drained to decide now.

So, given that depletion is an external trigger that can lead us not to achieve our goal of becoming the person we want to be, what do we do? How do we combat this treacherous trigger?

Step 1: Track your day: Once your eyes are opened, new courses of action immediately come to mind. Most obviously, you can start tracking our days in terms of depletion.

Step 2: Assemble a list: We can’t measure or quantify our depletion—we’re not even aware of it—but you can assemble a useful list of what is or isn’t depleting.

Step 3: Structure your day: Structure is how we overcome depletion. In an almost magical way, structure slows down how fast our discipline and self-control disappear. When you have structure, you don’t have to make as many choices; you just follow the plan. And the net result is you’re not being depleted as quickly.

Do I plan to use the research in the book Triggers in my coaching work?

I am definitely going to use the findings in my coaching! I have already used them many times. In fact, I did so again today.

Today I worked with the President of the New York Public Library. I’m a volunteer for the library and I worked with his top five people. We used material from the book Triggers. We talked about the environment they’re trying to create, and talked about my friend Alan Mulally’s process. Alan is the former CEO of Ford), and I talk about him and his process and its benefits in the book. I used a lot of the material from Triggers today, and after reading the book, I hope you will too.

I’m looking forward to sharing more of my thoughts on Triggers with you next week!

See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series and please order Triggers at Triggersthebook.com!

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Are You Unhappy at Work? Change Your Default!

Dear Followers: My new book Triggers is published! Order it now at Triggersthebook.com! Life Is Good. — Marshall

Triggers is based on the fascinating realization I had a few years ago at an NAHR meeting that the key variable in behavioral change, in coaching, in life, is you!

At this meeting there were many great HR leaders presenting. During the presentations, I had an epiphany: every single one of them focused on what the company could do to engage the employees – not one of them focused on what the employees could do to engage themselves. They were missing half of the equation!

The problem with this focus is that as a person working for the company, I am reinforced into believing that the company should be making my life better. As a result, I don’t make the effort to change my life, my behavior, or my situation. I get stuck in the rut of thinking, ‘If only it would change, my life would be better.’ And, while it may get better for a short time with a new program or higher pay, in the long term when the novelty of it wears off, I go back to my default – dissatisfied and unhappy. Unfortunately, this becomes an endless cycle that I am destined to repeat until I examine my half of the equation.

So, with that as our foundation, let’s get started learning more about the concepts behind the writing of Triggers! I am so excited to share this new material with you, because it will help you become the person you want to be.

Marshall Goldsmith on Triggers: Part 1

Over the past few months, I’ve been asked many questions by people interested in the book. I’ve distilled these down into a few general questions and these will be the focus of my next few blogs. I hope you enjoy them and find them helpful!

What does the title “Triggers” mean to me?

Triggers came to me because in my coaching I realized the following:

My first inclination as a coach was to think that people would get better because of me, because I was a good coach. I gave them clever advice. Why not? Then I realized that the key variable wasn’t me. It was the person I was coaching. Some people got a lot better with my coaching, some didn’t. I’d used the same process, not done anything differently, why was this?

As I got further into coaching, I realized that the key variable wasn’t just the person, and it wasn’t just me. It was also the environment the person lived in. It had a lot to do with how the environment influences us.

Take as an extreme negative example, a drug addict. They go to rehab. They clean up. Things are looking good. When you put them back in that same environment with the same triggers that pushed them in the wrong direction in the first place, the chances are very high that they’ll go back in the wrong direction again.

Because of this insight, today I focus a lot on triggers in the environment in my coaching engagements and how these triggers can change our behaviors, often in ways we do not want.

What are some of your other books?

I’ve written and edited 34 books, which have sold about two million copies.

I have two mega-best sellers. One of them is called What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. It has had fantastic success. It was the Harold Longman Winner for Business Book of the Year, has been translated into 30 languages, and is a bestseller in 12 countries.

The other mega-seller, Mojo, is also a New York Times best seller and has been translated into about 20 languages. I wrote both of these books with my partner Mark Reiter, who is also my co-author on Triggers.

Why did you choose the subject matter in “Triggers”?

I wanted to write Triggers because it’s different.

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There is about inter-personal relationships, leadership behavior, and how to develop relationships with people. Mojo is much more of an intra-personal perspective on the world as I see it. Its focus is how I look at myself and how I find meaning and happiness by looking at myself internally.

Triggers is about how the environment influences us and how we can become the person we want to be in spite of and even because of its affect. It takes as its foundation my philosophies on relationships between people and the importance of gaining perspective about myself. It marries these with how the world out there influences me and how I influence the world out there, so that I can become the person I want to be.

See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series and please order Triggers at Triggersthebook.com!

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