Triggers Book Summary

One Paragraph Book Summary The book Triggers shows us a way to make positive changes in our lives. Some want to earn more money, some want to exercise more, and some want to learn a language. We make plans, set goals, and then … we often do not follow through. Knowing what triggers are and how to use them will help you to own your change and act consistently on your plans.

Triggers Book Summary

A book by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter

This post is based on the Blinks I listened to while walking to work. I learn from Blinkist's content each and every day. So if you enjoy this post, you will like their content even more.

What Are Triggers?

Triggers are everywhere in our environment, and they are very powerful. The book will give you a powerful tool to rid yourself from unwanted behavior.

Just because people understand what to do doesn’t ensure that they will actually do it.

But before we come to that, we need to know what triggers are.

The definition is quite easy. A trigger can be anything that leads to an action.

There are what we call good triggers, inducing desired actions. And bad triggers, which results in unwanted behavior. Bad triggers have the power to sabotage our best efforts.

There are internal and external triggers. An internal trigger might be a craving for chocolate. An external trigger might be a call from a friend asking you to go out for some drinks.

The most common triggers you will see are ads. Ads are everywhere around us. And all of those try to trigger certain behaviors in us: buy this shiny 4k television, make a trip to Hawaii, …

Triggers come in various forms and flavors. Friends and family members can be triggers. Smells, sounds, and images can spark behavior. Triggers can have so many characteristics that it is impossible to list them all. But every trigger will have an effect on what you do or say. That is why it is so important for us to become aware of those causes.

It is important for you to notice when you have been triggered. When we become aware of those triggers, we can use them to our advantage. With this mindfulness, you will be able to replace bad triggers with good triggers.

How Can You Identify Triggers?

Usually, we do not know that there are triggers in our lives, we are not aware of them. Knowing what triggers you is probably the hardest thing you have to do when you want to use triggers as a tool. I know it is hard for me.

But once you know your triggers you will know what sabotages your efforts. You will be able to align your intentions with your actions.

So, how do you find your triggers? The answer is easy: ask yourself questions.

For example, the next time you do not follow through on your plan to exercise at 6:30 in the morning, you might ask if the time is right. Maybe you are not a morning person and should find a time spot which better fits your persona.

By asking questions, you will raise your awareness. Ask yourself active questions like: what can I do to make it easier for me to start exercising? Who can support me in this endeavor?

When having the awareness what triggers you, it will be much easier to control your actions.

Only by being aware that there are triggers in yourself, and your environment will have a huge impact on your life. The next time you do something which does not align well with your plans and goals, you can identify the trigger by asking yourself what the reason was you broke your good intentions.

Never wrestle with a pig—because you both get dirty but the pig loves it

Having the awareness that there are triggers and identifying those triggering you, will allow you to make changes without effort. It will be much easier to control your actions. It will be even easier to control what you say in certain situations.

How Can You Use Triggers To Your Advantage?

Now that we know what triggers are and how to find those triggers in our lives, we need to know how to use this knowledge to support ourselves.

When we presume that we are better than people who need structure and guidance, we lack one of the most crucial ingredients for change: humility.

Many triggers are bound to certain environments. Changing a non-supportive environment will be hard, or even impossible. It will be easier to control your behavior in such scenarios. Try to assess the situation before you enter it. Then decide what you can do to avoid the bad triggers in those surroundings. You even might consider avoiding that environment altogether.

Often you cannot avoid certain environments. But there are tools you can use to prepare yourself beforehand. Asking active questions is one such tool. Keeping a scorecard is another useful tool you can use. Controlling your willpower is yet another tool. The book goes into more depths about those tools and how to use them.


I read this book in 2005 when it was published. By reading the book, you will learn a lot about triggers and how to use them as a powerful tool. You will notice what triggers lead to your good and your bad behaviors. It will also help you implement new, positive triggers.

It’s the little moments that trigger some of our most outsized and unproductive responses.

The book helped me to rid bad behavior from my life. Furthermore, it helped me to form positive habits. Let me give you an example: in 2005, I wanted to try meditation but did not know how to find the time to meditate. Then I read about walking meditations. My way to work leads me through a park where I walk for 30 minutes before I enter the city’s center. An ideal opportunity to exercise my walking meditations. On that day, I decided that entering the park should be my trigger to start the meditation. The trigger is still in place today.


Do you have trouble following through on your goals? Have you started to implement a writing habit, for example, only to find you abandon your plans a short while after you set your goal? If so, this book has the power to change this. You can find awareness through the tips found in this book and make it a lot easier for yourself to make your goals a reality.


  • Become aware of the different environments you enter daily
  • Become aware of the triggers in those environments
  • Make decisions about surroundings you will avoid
  • Identify bad and good triggers by asking questions

Triggers Book Summary—related resources

Read more about Marshall Goldsmith on his website.

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Marshall Goldsmith has also written these books:

  • Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back If You Lose It
  • What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful

If you liked reading the Triggers Book Summary, you should also read the Atomic Habits Summary.

Posted on CuteMachine in self-improvement and business.

Jo's Profile ImageWritten by Jo who lives and works in Frankfurt building digital doodah. Stalk him on Twitter.

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