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Please mind the gap!



I am currently reading this awesome book by Marshall Goldsmith called “Triggers”. Its triggering a whole lot of ideas in my mind and adding a lot of value to my coaching practice. Who better to learn from than the master coach himself !!

One of the things that Marshall Goldsmith speaks about in the book is about the environment and how the changes in the environment act as triggers for us. Sometimes the change in the environment is positive and triggers a good, positive reaction from us, but many times the change in the environment derails our plans, and moves us away from our goals for the day. I completely relate to this insight. I always would say to my peers, team folk and colleagues that we are not a different person at home and a different person at work. If something happens at home, it has a bearing on the way you behave at work and vice versa. Marshall Goldsmith has put a further spin on that – we change our reaction depending on the environment. We do. I wouldn’t yell at my boss like I would yell at my mom …. the damage is similar, I might lose my job if I yell at my boss, and I would really hurt my mom if I yell at her. Actually the damage to my relationship with my mother would hurt me far more than what happens at work, but I assume it won’t because she is my mom. That is a mistake ! Guess all or many of us make that mistake… taking our loved ones and the close relationships for granted.

Between the environment triggering an action and my reaction, there is a possibility of a nano gap or pause, just enough to choose my reaction. The late Stephen R. Covey says this beautifully in his first book “Seven Habits of highly effective people”. He says “I can pause between the stimulus and my response. I can choose how to react based upon principles.” The golden gap between stimulus (trigger) and response (reaction) is priceless. If I can take that nano pause, my reaction would be so different !!

I have had the opportunity to apply this several times in my life with positive results and equally have missed applying it several times too. The one person with whom I just don’t apply it, is my Mom. Today morning the environment triggered a repeat of my old behaviour but I didn’t let that happen. For breakfast we had decided to make “Poli” which is roti (Indian flat bread) filled with either sweet potato+sugar or dal (lentil) +sugar. My mother kneaded the dough with very less water, which makes it difficult to stuff the sweet potato+sugar paste and roll it out thin. My normal reaction was about to take place – I got irritated when the sweet potato+sugar filling started to spill out of the edges and the “Poli” was like a biscuit rather than soft and moist. But Marshall Goldsmith and his book were fresh in my mind and I just decided to change the trigger. I never said a word to Mom, just kneaded some more wheat flour to the consistency that I wanted and made the “Poli” the way I like them made – soft and moist.

Much after Mom, Krishnan and I had eaten our breakfast, I told her conversationally that the dough she had kneaded can be used to make “puri” tomorrow morning as it was not moist enough. She thought I was upset and got defensive but quickly understood that this time I wasn’t upset and that I had made a fresh batch of the dough the way I wanted it. What could have been an unpleasant morning with a lot of yelling just continued to be a normal happy morning.

Long Moral of the long blog – The environment around you keeps changing and triggers different behaviour from you. Use the nano pause/gap between stimulus and reaction to take a deep breath and decide on what your reaction should be. It will save a lot of relationships and make you a lot more in control of the environment rather than the other way around. Imagine, if you are able to apply this while driving to work in the crazy traffic … you will arrive at work with a lot more energy and in a more positive frame of mind than the way you do today.

Please mind the gap … borrowed with thanks from the Delhi Metro announcement.

Please mind the gap … between stimulus (trigger) and response (reaction).

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Categories: Book Reviews, Corporate musingsTags: , , , , ,

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