CC360 Blog

Trigger Happy?

What’s triggering me? When I get upset, discouraged, stressed OR excited, energized, joy-filled, what is the precursor to those emotions? Simply pausing to ask the question can be of great value, perhaps not in changing that particular moment but certainly to provide many enhanced future moments.

Last year, we introduced the concept of “freed will” in this column, noting the fact that most of the choices we make in life aren’t actually choices – they’re pre-programmed steps we perform without thinking. Our breakfast of choice, commute route, music selections and more – some researchers indicate upwards of 95% of our daily actions – are on autopilot. Stephen Covey reminded us of the microsecond of opportunity that exists between stimulus and response, but only if we tap into that opportunity!

Triggers – both positive and negative – are rarely outliers. However, they’re also rarely recognized… unless we take the time to ask the question “what happened before what just happened?” (note: this can be extremely difficult in the moment and may involve sitting down later with a journal, coach, counselor or trusted friend to consider). The questions we ask determine the lives we live – and this is a big one due to the compounding value our resultant reflection can have on our futures – and the futures of those around us.

Ok – I’ll get personal. Yesterday was an extremely stressful day at work. Without getting into details, I didn’t exactly handle things with a calm, collected demeanor. As I reflected on what happened, it had little to do with what actually happened and much more to do with my own mental extrapolation of how “what happened” could lead to horrible, life and future-shattering consequences if not fixed immediately!  

Upon further review (a few hours later), it was clear to me the disasters I envisioned in the moment were about as likely as a dragon flying from a castle in England to our home in Colorado to capture our Australian Shepherd Sky (e.g., pretty low odds). What was the real trigger? What was added to the A+B equation in the moment to create Z rather than C or D? Sorry, I’m not going to get THAT personal, but the reflection was valuable. It didn’t change yesterday, but it did help create a little better toolbox for the next time something similar occurs.

During the period considered to be the Old West (1865-1895), a quick trigger-finger was a valuable trait. But that was also a time when the average lifespan in the US was 40.1 years, and perhaps the two are related. As we move through 2024, perhaps the better trait is the ability to consider what’s leading us to put our finger on the proverbial trigger in the first place?

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