I have read a lot of books on productivity and habit creation and most of them leave me disappointed as they just rehash the same advice that never really works (at least not for me). That is until I found Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith. The thing that I found most useful from this book is the concept of active questions. Prior to this book I would use statements rather than active questions to organise my day and achieve my goals. For example, “edit essay”, “go for a run”, or “study biochemistry”. If you follow the advice in this book then these statements change into active questions:
“edit essay” –> “did I do my best to edit my essay today?”
“go for a run” –> “did I do my best to go for a run today?”
“study biochemistry” –> “did I do my best to study biochemistry today with no distractions?”
The beauty of these types of questions is that it puts the responsibility on you. There are many reasons why you may not achieve a task in a day, lots of them out of your control. But there is no reason or excuse for not trying to achieve the goal. The six active questions that are helpful in changing behaviour are:
- Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
- Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?
- Did I do my best to find meaning today?
- Did I do my best to be happy today?
- Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
- Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?
Marshall suggests that at the end of each day we score ourselves on a scale of 1-10 for each question. I must admit, even though I love the idea of daily questions I haven’t managed to implement it in my life, something that I am working on.
The other principle introduced in this book is the AIWATT question which stands for Am I Willing At This Time To _______. I love this because it gets to the heart of effort. The question doesn’t ask “am I going to do ___” it asks “am I willing to do”. Right there is the question about effort. I believe asking active questions and framing goals in terms of effort is so powerful because there are many reasons goals may not be achieved, but there is no excuse for not putting in effort.
Effort drives everything and without effort there is no success. I am trying to put effort first and results second, maybe you should try that too?