A friend’s recent Facebook post stated that during the week of the devastating Texas winter storm she felt a strong compulsion to move. Nothing was wrong with her house; she just felt the need to move NOW. Fast forward less than three months later, and she and her husband are happily settled into their new house, sold their previous house, and are enjoying decorating their new place.

As we’re starting to come out of the collective trauma of the pandemic (and everything else that happened in 2020 and the beginning of this year), I wonder if it’s changed the way people are motivated and inspired into action.

In January I wrote about how people seemed to be more cautiously stepping into the new year rather than bursting in screaming that it’s “THEIR YEAR,” which feels fun in the beginning but can lead to quick burnout. Many people seem more introspective, and many of us are questioning what we prioritized in the past. We’re seeking fulfillment in other ways or are still trying to figure out what gives us joy.

Have we moved from being motivated by goals to being triggered into changing, or is it a mix of both?

Here’s how I see triggers and goals:
Triggers– Things in the current state that propel us toward change. For example, someone is throwing a roundhouse kick to my face. I’d better block it. That keeps happening for some reason. Maybe I need to do something differently when I spar.

Goals– Aspirations in the future that pull us toward distant change. I want to roundhouse kick people in the face. I need to learn how to do that and change my behavior so I can successfully kick people in the face.

“Trigger” has become a bit of a loaded word. In current context it’s most often related to a response to something traumatic or offensive. The Texas winter storm triggered my mental illness and drove me back into therapy (it was more of a last straw among a string of straws).

But a trigger can also be a catalyst or a beginning to something positive. It signals the start of something new. Something has compelled us to change. We get stuck and are mired in the pain of the trigger if we suddenly see the need for change but are too upset or overwhelmed to figure out what to do next. We hate the current state but don’t see a way out of it.

That’s how I felt for a while during the beginning of this year. At first I huddled inward with my pain and desperately wished for something around me to change. Every day I felt anxious and miserable, waiting for a deus ex machina to swoop in and save me. The problem was, I didn’t know what I wanted to do or what I wanted things to be like after being “saved.”

Eventually I began to see that I’d be better off more objectively assessing my situation and figuring out what I could change either in myself or what I could actually control about the situations surrounding me. Being triggered helped me set some goals. I’m learning how to save myself.

While triggers can be uncomfortable, they may also be opportunities for us to become unstuck and set new goals we hadn’t imagined before. We can use them to our advantage.

So even if we’ve all been more triggered lately, we may be able to turn the tables on fate and use them to drive needed change in our lives.


Learn more about me and the story behind the black belt in my book Kicking and Screaming: a Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts

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