Book Summary and Analysis |

Economics, Business and  Finance |

Popular Psychology, Personal Growth and Self-Help

Summary and Critique of
Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter’s

Creating Behavior That Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be

by I.K. Mullins

Copyright©2015 I.K. Mullins. All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means without the written permission of the author.

Should you have any questions, please contact us at


I.1. Twelve Belief Triggers That Can Sabotage Your Success

People often avoid behavioral change by retreating into their sets of beliefs. These beliefs are different from the stories that we use to explain our behavior to the people that we have disappointed. According to Goldsmith, belief triggers are inner beliefs we use to explain the behavior that disappoints us and to justify our failure to act or our failure to meet our own expectations. Goldsmith categorizes these belief triggers as follows:

  1. Tomorrow, I will be the same person as today.

This belief makes us give promises today that we cannot keep in the future. It triggers excessive and unreasonable confidence in our ability to achieve our objectives.

  1. If I change, then I will not be true to myself.

This belief encourages people to refuse to adapt their behavior to changing circumstances because it makes people think that they will not be themselves later on. It triggers inflexibility and stubbornness.

  1. I have great stamina.

This belief encourages people to overestimate their own energy and strength for making the change. It triggers exhaustion.

  1. I am wise enough to assess my own behavior.

People are notorious failures at assessing their own behavior. Many people are inclined to give themselves credit for their victories and blame other people for their failures.

  1. I understand what needs to be done.

This belief encourages people to ignore a difference between understanding what needs to be done and actually doing it. It triggers uncertainty and confusion. Even when people understand what needs to be done, it is not guaranteed that they will do it.

  1. It is possible to have it or make it perfect.

This belief encourages people to think that it is possible to achieve perfection. It triggers despair and acceptance of failure.

  1. I live in a meritocratic society.

This belief encourages people to think that they live in a society that rewards people in accordance with their performance, talents and achievements, rather than because of their social position and/or given wealth. It triggers resentment when people realize that the society is not fair. When people come to the conclusion that the game is rigged, they tend to quit playing the game.

  1. I can achieve my own happiness and success by myself.

This belief encourages people to think that their happiness and success depend only on them, and that other people have nothing to do with their happiness and success. It makes people disregard the value of other people’s support, thus triggering isolation.

  1. My advancement toward the completion of my objectives will not be interrupted by unexpected events.

This belief encourages people to underestimate the likelihood of unexpected events that can impede their work. It triggers unrealistic expectations.

  1. Even though I am going through a difficult time, I am still better than some other people.

This belief encourages people to take it easy and lower their self-control, self-restraint and determination. It triggers a false feeling of invulnerability.

  1. People do not pay attention to lapses in my behavior.

Even though your gradual behavioral improvements may not be obvious to other people, they do tend to notice when you relapse into your previous behavior.

  1. I do not have to commit to change on this “special day.”

This belief encourages people to excuse the moments of their failure to commit to change, considering such moments as unusual and exceptional events. It triggers people’s willingness to approve and accept their own  self-indulgent inconsistency.

These belief triggers result in denial, resistance and failure to recognize reality. Goldsmith recommends that readers make a note of every situation in which they use any of these trigger beliefs, developing greater awareness of the triggers.

I.2. The Impact of the Environment on Our Behavior

Goldsmith writes in his book that his coaching experience made him realize that the environment plays a significant role in shaping people’s behavior. In fact, he proposes that environmental triggers are the main reason why people fail to achieve their goals. He argues that people frequently dismiss the major impact of our environment on our behavior. And even though we cannot control or modify many aspects of our environment, we are capable of controlling our reaction to them.

We also have to learn how to be aware of the triggers in our environment that can steer us in the wrong direction, and we have to learn how to adjust our reactions to such triggers. Goldsmith emphasizes the importance of becoming aware of the environmental influences that affect us on a daily basis. He argues that learning to deal with these influences can help us achieve behavioral changes and become better people.

Our environment often affects us by triggering our old behaviors. External triggers include sounds, smells and other people’s behaviors. Internal triggers include our habits, thoughts and daydreams. In order to achieve behavioral modification, we can change the way we perceive these external triggers and react to them. Typically, when a trigger occurs, it sets off an impulse, and the impulse determines how a person acts. When we become aware of the triggers when they happen, we can avoid acting on impulse and make a conscious choice of how we should behave.

Moreover, when you learn about your triggers, you can find ways to avoid them. If you cannot avoid the triggers, then you can anticipate problems caused by the triggers and adjust your behavior in accordance with what may happen.

If you want to become a better person, you have to make behavior modifications. One of the ways to accomplish this is by creating triggers in the environment that can help you become a better you.

I.3. Making Behavioral Changes

We encounter various triggers everywhere and pretty much all the time. Very often, they make us feel like we do not have control over our own behavior. Yet, Goldsmith argues that we have a choice in how we react to the triggers. He asserts that we can learn how to overcome them, thus making permanent and profound changes in our lives.

In his book, Goldsmith discusses the triggers that make people behave the way they do. Goldsmith describes the situations that frequently trigger a reflexive reaction instead of a thoughtful and careful reaction. He then explains that the first step to behavioral change is to identify and understand the triggers that prevent us from changing. According to Goldsmith, our environment is the most powerful trigger. Hence, even a small change in our physical environment (for example, lower air temperature or a level of noise) can lead to a substantial change in our behavior.

Goldsmith suggests that we always have a choice of how to respond to triggers, and we are capable of channeling any trigger toward a more positive outcome. For this purpose, we have to learn to monitor our behavior on a daily basis. We have to keep track of all our deviations from the direction toward becoming the person we want to be.

Goldsmith points out that the most essential thing about making a change is trying to make it. He proposes that behavioral change can be achieved by means of daily self-monitoring that involves asking “active” questions. These questions are intended to measure our effort instead of our results (what we try to do instead of what we achieve). He reminds readers that real change takes time, and the daily engaging questions help us to hold ourselves responsible for our success or failure, rather than blame our environment or other people. Goldsmith recommends that someone else ask you these questions and record the scores.

Goldsmith addresses in his book the significance of structure for any of your attempts to change. The daily questions make up the core of this structure. Structure has to address the roadblocks we encounter on our way to change. For example, we should be realistic about how depletion of our energy during the day affects our performance. Consequently, we have to be prepared to fight it.

It is very difficult to permanently change behavior, which is why Goldsmith advises readers to be patient with themselves and make changes on a daily basis in small increments. It is also important to positively acknowledge our own efforts.

I.4. Important Takeaways from Goldsmith’s Book

Change doesn’t happen fast. Success is the sum of small efforts made on a daily basis. In order to become better, we have to make an effort. To achieve behavioral change, we have to be motivated, self-disciplined and seriously committed to our intention to change.

  • Goals can be easily derailed. People may feel regret when they wonder about what their life would be like if they had actually achieved their goals. People may also feel regret when they evaluate their current circumstances and reconsider the path that brought them to these circumstances.
  • In the 1990s, Roy F. Baumeister, the social psychologist, introduced the term ego depletion. He pointed out that our ego becomes depleted in the course of a day because we spend our energy on making trade-offs, resisting temptations, constraining our desires, controlling our thoughts and words and following other people’s rules.
  • We can achieve meaningful behavioral change only when we ourselves really wish to change.
  • We become victims of our environment even when we are aware of its effect on us.
  • A behavioral trigger is any stimulus that affects our behavior.
  • If we do not shape and control our environment, then our environment shapes us and controls us, significantly changing our behavior.
  • Apology is an important part of any behavioral change.
  • Intrinsic motivation to do something takes place when we enjoy that particular activity. Extrinsic motivation to do something is based on external rewards. We are exposed to endless extrinsic motivators from birth.
  • We sometimes set marginal goals that do not motivate us enough.
  • If your motivation for a task or goal is not strong enough, then set another goal that you have greater motivation for.
  • Professionals strive to meet the highest standards. Amateurs settle for good enough. We have to act as professionals when we want to achieve behavioral change.
  • People usually are more mindful when making big decisions. However, less significant moments in our daily lives can trigger some undesirable responses.

Go to Part II A Critical Analysis

Go Back to Introduction and Overview

Go Back to Table of Contents   

Related content

Dead Wake by Eric Larson

Clinton Cash

Promoted links from around the web

Dead Wake by Eric Larson

Clinton Cash