top of page

What Are Your Tripwires?

You’ve been going to the gym every weekday morning for three months. You’ve lost ten pounds. You’re sleeping better. You feel strong. You no longer get winded going up a flight of stairs. It’s the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself. Then one morning, you press snooze on your alarm. And you do it again the next morning. And the one after that.

You decide to speak up more in meetings. It’s a little awkward at first, but soon, you’re pretty good at voicing your opinions. And, to your delight, you’re being taken seriously. In fact, a couple of your ideas have been implemented. Then one day, an opportunity to say something arises, and you don’t speak up. Nor in the next meeting. Or the one after that.

You commit to being more collaborative with your team. In your next team strategy session, you announce your intention. The team is pumped, and the ideas begin to flow. You acknowledge that as a team, better solutions are found, and implementation goes far more smoothly. Then one day, a problem arises, and you rush to solve it on your own. And that’s how you handle the next problem. And the next one.

You vow to show up to work each day with positive energy. The first day you try it, you’re amazed by how effective it is. Your colleagues respond well and your overall mood is improved for the rest of the day. Then one day, rather than greeting your coworkers with a smile and a hello, you keep your head down and slump into your chair. And you do the same the next day. And the next.

Sound familiar?

Why did you stop doing the thing that was working so well?

Chances are, you hit one of your tripwires.

Our trip wires are manifestations of our limiting patterns of belief and behavior. They are almost always fear based – that is, they arise out of fear – but they disguise themselves as something else; usually rationalizations, distractions, and vague plans to start again on Monday.

Here are some classic tripwires:

  • Setting unrealistic expectations/goals – This new product will make $100 million by the end of the year

  • Rigidity – There’s one way to do things, one right answer, one right kind of person

  • Procrastination – I’ll do it next week

  • Fuck it mentality – Pleasure now vs. fulfillment of future self

  • Self-medication – Food, alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping

  • Defensiveness – Sharp tongue when fearful, refusal to take advice

  • Impatience – If it doesn’t produce results immediately, it’s not worth doing

  • Distraction – Inability to stick to something for an extended period of time (chasing the next new thing)

What to do about tripwires:

Chances are, you’re already aware of at least one or two of your trip wires. Think of the last time you weren’t able to fully fulfill a promise or commitment that you made to yourself. What was going on in your life right before things went pear shaped? Did you trade your future happiness for immediate pleasure? Did you lash out when feeling threatened? Did you refuse to explore alternate ways of meeting your goal?

Now think of other times you broke a promise or commitment to yourself. Did those same conditions exist? Hmm. Maybe you’re onto something.

Now you know what your trip wires are, you can watch for them, and plan a way to step over them without falling down.

  • To ensure I’m not setting unrealistic expectations, I will… (pass them by friends and colleagues for a reality check).

  • If I catch myself being overly ridged, I will… (come up with at least 3 alternatives to every problem/solution)

  • To keep myself from procrastinating, I will… (do the least fun things on my to-do list first thing in the morning)

  • And so on

Will you still trip? Yup, from time to time. But, with practice, you’ll get pretty good at leaping over your tripwires. And that sure beats falling flat on your face.

P.S. Here's a cool idea: Sign-up for my weekly newsletter (green box in right-hand sidebar on desktop, or under this post on mobile) so you'll never miss a post. I promise I'm not a spammy nightmare. One per week, and that's it.

The Unstuck Leader book is now available.
Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Follow Me
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
bottom of page