One of the favorite lessons I teach students in my coaching training is the distinction between trigger and cause. “Cause” is what we all know from science: it’s the cause and effect relationship. When “A” happens, “B” has to follow. No choice. No variation.
For example, if I tossed a glass of water into your face during a normal dinner conversation, in a scientific cause and effect relationship, you couldn’t avoid getting wet. Your face would be wet, right? Here is the interesting question: How will you react to the fact that I made you wet?
You have lots of options. You could become angry, take your glass and toss the water in my face as well. You also could start to laugh and say, “Thank you! It’s so hot in here that I needed that.” Or you could stand up angrily, leave the room and never talk to me again. These are the possible responses triggered by my action.
So here is the takeaway distinction from this example. If I throw water in your face (cause), you will always get wet, and you can’t change that (effect). However, the (triggered) response to the thrown water varies from person to person, and you have a choice of how to respond.
When people integrate this distinction, it opens up a totally new paradigm of freedom because most people misunderstand what I define as a trigger—it’s a cause and effect relationship that means e.g. “When my boss says this or that to me I have to feel angry and I have to refuse to do the task that he asks me to do.”
They think that what they feel and what they decide to act upon is not coming from free choice. They believe, “The other person forced me to feel that way and to do XYZ”.
When you get this distinction, you can really see it—“Oh my gosh that’s me! I’m making the decision about how to react! Do I laugh about it? Do I throw the water back into the other person’s face? It’s my choice!!!”
This is a distinction for more self-management and for better emotional management. It gives people the insight and power to react out of free choice in a conscious way and not just from being on autopilot when someone pushes a button.
So again, a variation of the question from the title: Do you choose to be “right”—to believe that external factors or people are responsible for your mood and actions? Or do you choose to be free and take on the responsibility to choose how you to feel and act?
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Note: If parts of this text sound familiar to you, the main text is a quote from my chapter “Leaders With Four Hearts” from the book Bushido Business—The Art of the Modern Professional. You got my chapter as an ebook when you signed up for this newsletter! Have you read it, yet?