Success is something that everyone strives for, yet for all the various factors that hinder you from achieving it — your own behavior is something that is in your control. So, what if you could manipulate your environment so that it triggers your most desired behavior and drives you towards success instead?
A behavioral trigger is any stimulus that impacts our behavior.
Before you can achieve “control” and trigger your desired behavior, first, you have to understand more about the different types of behavioral triggers that can influence your behavior.
1. Direct or Indirect Trigger
Direct triggers are stimuli that immediately and obviously impact behavior. There are no steps in between the triggering event and your response. For instance, a child chases a ball into the street in front of your car — so, you slam on the brakes.
Indirect triggers take a roundabout route to influence your behavior. For example, you see a family photo, it triggers thoughts and memories, leading you to remember to call your sister.
2. Internal or External Triggers
External triggers come from your surrounding environment and are picked up by your five senses as well as your mind.
Internal triggers come from your thoughts and feelings and are not connected with anything on the outside. It’s not prompted from the outside, but if it stimulates behavior then it’s as valid as any external stimuli.
3. Conscious or Unconscious Triggers
Conscious triggers require awareness from the individual. For example: When you accidentally touch a hot plate, you withdraw your hand immediately.
On the other hand, unconscious triggers are beyond our awareness. Most people are oblivious to how much the weather influences their moods. People tend to be happier on days with good weather than during a bad weather day.
4. Anticipated or Unexpected Triggers
You can identify an anticipated trigger easily before it even happens. For instance, we know right now that the National Anthem will be played at the Super Bowl next year.
On the contrary, unanticipated triggers can take us by surprise, and often stimulate unfamiliar behavior — possibly even a drastic desire to change.
5. Encouraging or Discouraging Triggers
Encouraging triggers can push you to maintain or expand what you are currently doing. It reinforces you, just like when a marathon runner sees the finish line up ahead.
Discouraging triggers demotivate you and cause you to stop or reduce what you are doing. The perfect example would be when you are chatting quite loud inside a theater and then hear a barrage of “Shhh!” from other people in the room.
6. Productive or Counterproductive Triggers
Productive triggers push you toward becoming the person you want to be, while counterproductive triggers pull you away from that goal.
Related Read: 8 Signs of A Toxic Workplace (And Your Role In It)
The Behavioral Trigger Exercise
Those are the six distinctions of behavioral triggers that will help improve your understanding of how triggers influence your behavior. Now it’s time to put this knowledge into action. This behavioral trigger exercise can help you connect certain triggers to your behavioral successes as well as failures — allowing you to learn and change the way you behave.
Step 1: Pick a behavioral goal you’re pursuing (losing weight, being more patient, calling your parents once a week, etc).
Step 2: List the people and situations that influence the quality of your performance/progress towards these goals (Stick to the one or two triggers that relate to one specific goal).
Step 3: Define them based on the 6 types of triggers we discussed above. Are they encouraging or discouraging, productive or counterproductive?
Step 4: Create a chart to see if you are on the positive or negative side of your goals.
While this exercise may not solve the puzzle of achieving behavioral change – it will point you in the right direction.
Starting off in the right direction may be the greatest payoff in identifying and defining your triggers. It is an occasional but necessary reminder that no matter how extreme the circumstances when it comes to our behavior, we always have a choice.