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Simple Triggers

There’s a pull-up bar at the bottom of my stairs.

My writing space is upstairs, so each time I head downstairs I bust out six quick pull-ups: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. These six take less than 20 seconds, no time at all in the grand scheme of things.

That’s not the point, though: the point is each time I go downstairs—on my way to the kitchen, the shower, or the great outdoors—I do some pull-ups. One triggers the other. It’s habitual. Now on an average day I sneak in an extra 60-or-so pull-ups.

Every habit has its trigger. Most of the time we don’t know our triggers, though, and much of the time we unconsciously trigger bad habits: finishing a meal triggers a cigarette, arriving home triggers hours of TV viewing, incessant alcohol consumption triggers arguing with loved ones.

We can, however, change our behaviors. Be it exercise or diet or even flossing our teeth, we can trigger positive habits—using positive triggers. Small triggers create tiny habits that produce huge results over time. The right triggers can flip your life upside down—in a good way.

Descending the stairs is one of my simple triggers. What are some of yours?

Read this essay and 150 others in our new book, Essential.