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I am reading Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith, and one of his recommendations has made a big impact in my life. He recommends a system to keep us on track to achieving our goals that involves asking questions of ourselves each evening. (Actually, Goldsmith pays someone to call and ask him his questions, so I that’s an option.)

In his earlier books, he put the questions in a yes- or- no format. For example, one question might be “Did I exercise today?” You could also ask yourself, “Was I a good spouse today?” I have to admit that the questions in this format did not resonate with me.

In Triggers, he modifies the system. Instead of yes/no questions, each question begins with “Did I do my best today to…” He got the idea from his daughter, Kelly. They did some research around the new format’s effectiveness, and those types of questions work better.

The new format also works for me. “Did I do my best to…” gives me a lot more information than just asking if I did it or not. It also makes me feel like less of a failure if I don’t get something done.

I came up with a list of questions. One of them is “Did you do your best to maintain an orderly and peaceful environment?” I have had a relatively crazy week and a half. I made an unplanned trip to help with a minor family emergency. I returned home and then spent the next day on last-minute details for two workshops. The next morning, I packed up, facilitated a workshop, stayed in a hotel one night, facilitated another day, and returned home. Needless to say, my home was a bit of a mess, with piles of clothes and papers scattered about. I would have to answer “no” if you asked me if I had maintained an orderly and peaceful environment.

However, on the morning that I left for the workshop, I was ready about 20 minutes before I had to leave. I took the time to put a few things away and load the dishwasher. My condo wasn’t perfect, but I did do my best on that day to maintain an orderly environment – and felt good about it. I didn’t do perfectly, but I did do my best under that day’s circumstances.

I told my friend about the question system, and she came up with a good one that I am now also using: “Did I do my best to stay healthy and vibrant today?” I’ve been slacking off on my exercise and eating habits. This question gets me to reflect on how I’ve supported my health daily.

So far, I don’t record my answers as Goldsmith suggests. I can see the value of monitoring trends and progress. I might set up a system that works with my calendar. I do not see myself setting up an Excel spreadsheet, as some of Goldsmith’s clients did.

He has a list of 22 questions. That feels overwhelming to me. I cannot focus on that many things at one time. I have three questions right now. There are the two mentioned above and this one: “Did I do my best to earn one million dollars today?” I feel an urge to apologize for such a grandiose goal, but I like it. In my mind it encompasses stewarding money, getting on top of my investments, and creating new business.

Earning money is a top priority in my life right now. Doing my best to make ends meet or make more money aren’t inspiring to me. Making my personal worth equal to at least one million dollars is.

I find it amazing that these questions are as motivating as they are. I look for opportunities to do my best. When I was organizing the workshops across the living room floor, I took a minute to do a plank. Instead of reaching for my iPad and playing Plants vs. Zombies as a break from writing, I get up and pick up a few things or start laundry. The questions are also motivating me to stick with getting my podcast going, despite some frustrating technical issues. (My podcast is going to help me earn a million dollars – in case you were wondering.)

It seems that the key is to pick areas where you want to change behavior and focus on those areas. I don’t have a question about being a good friend because I have a nice pattern and relationships with my friends. I’ve picked three areas for now and want to change my behavior around those.

Behavior change is not easy! Think about past attempts at diet, exercise, and saving money. Goldsmith focuses on behavior change and talks about how environment conspires to keep us stagnant and tempt us. That’s a whole ‘nother topic, but the questions are helping me overcome my environment. I have a great big TV and an iPad sitting next to me that offer mindless breaks.

The questions are helping me be more intentional in my actions and moving me towards my goals. That feels better than watching an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation – and I really like watching Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

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