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Do you remember the heavenly smell of the warm, ovenbaked cookies your grandma used to make?

Or maybe you drive by a certain row of trees and they instantly transport you back to the little street you grew up on.

Did your aunt have a peculiar brand of excessively-applied perfume, which you can still detect on a woman from 30 yards away?

Or is there some kind of odor that nearly makes you sick because of a really terrible experience long ago?

I want you to pick one of these trigger smells that really turns you on, or even turns you off.  Just choose the most powerful one and we’ll come back to your specific smell later…

For me, it’s the smell of red clay soil.  The dank smell of this red-orange funky stuff immediately takes me back to playing in the dirt around the house my family built.  You see, Dad is an engineer who overbuilds everything, including our own home.  He found nearly 100 acres of dense, pristine woods when I was a kid, bought “the farm” for our family, and laid out his vision for a grand retreat in the woods.

This project took years from start to finish, partly because the family did all the work personally, except for pouring the concrete foundation and laying the brick. It was remarkable how our entire family helped bring this vision to life.  Yet I was the youngest in the family, and I wasn’t exactly a skilled laborer. I could, however, serve as an excellent gopher, amateur sous chef, stereo relocator/antennae magician, and cleaner-upper of endless tools and supplies left outside… usually in the ubiquitous red clay dirt. 

I swear some days it looked like three vending machines and a Home Depot exploded.

It’s funny looking back at this little experience because now I see how I was destined to solidify this dirt-memory-thing later in life. (I worked in landscaping because my brother is a landscape architect, plus one of my best friends started a landscaping company.  It was hard work that came with benefits like freedom, being outside all day, working with friends, meeting and serving all kinds of people, learning how to sell, taking something from idea to vision to plan to fruition, and all aspects of entrepreneurship.  It was incredible.  Except when it was freezing or 110 degrees outside.  No thanks then.)

Anyway, I obviously worked in this specific type of red dirt frequently. To this day, if I smell anything remotely close to that distinct, musty, ancient, earthy smell of Indiana clay/soil I immediately think of two things: 

1.  Picking up Pepsi cans and brick fragments in orangish mud as a kid.

2.  Long days with hard workers.

Maybe you’re nodding your head in agreement as you read this about something you always think of when you smell a particular fragrance (or odor). 

Even if you have never enjoyed the weird fragrance of Hoosier earth broken open, you probably relate on some level that our noses have a phenomenal memory. 

Here’s the whole connection you’re probably waiting for… what does our sense of smell have to do with anything?

Remember that smell you chose earlier?  If you smelled it in this very moment, what would you INSTANTLY think about?  Really, what specific place, person, food, or thing would it immediately bring up inside your mind??

Are you picturing it in your mind?

Just like I can’t always help thinking about Pepsi cans, brick fragments, and long days when I smell red clay, you probably can’t help thinking about whatever you just pictured.


That’s what this whole blog is really about… how something as innocuous as one little smell can be a real trigger for us, and how that creates INSTANT changes in our thoughts and behaviors.

Stimulus, meet instant response. 

Catalyst, meet reaction. 

Spark, meet fire. 

Trigger, meet thought…

All of these ideas occurred to me today because I was working in my landscaping and guess what happened… I moved a couple large rocks and opened up a fresh can of all the red clay smells: BOOM.  Triggered.

It was like my mind couldn’t control itself from thinking about those memories from building the house.  Just like an untrained dog, my mind went straight for it and didn’t hesitate to consider whether this was helpful or harmful for me in the moment.

And isn’t that how powerful real triggers are for us? 

Trigger, meet thought… no seconds in between.  No pausing to see if this thought actually serves us or not.  Just go. Cause and effect, trigger then thought.

So what I really want you to consider today is just how often we’re letting all sorts of things trigger us.  Where in your life are you getting triggered regularly in a way that doesn’t serve you??  Are they distracting you, creating a mindset you don’t want, affecting your productivity, harming your relationships, causing you to avoid something, etc?

What triggers are consistently in the key areas of your life?  Are there times or circumstances that really trigger you in a great way?  For example, do you light up and do a dance every time you sign a new client or book a trip?

Can you discover times when you are really triggered in a harmful way?  Maybe a certain person pisses you off before they even speak, unexpected traffic turns you into a raging hulk monster, or does a snide comment instantly make you feel inferior and like you want to hug a half gallon of Ben & Jerry’s tonight??

This is where “the work” comes into your unique, triggerful situation. 

You may not be able to go back and change the past and the circumstances that created your particular memory around a trigger any better than I can change my associations around red clay, HOWEVER, you still have immense power in the six inches between your ears!  Become aware of your triggers, examine the thoughts causing them, and work to eliminate or reorganize those associations so you can create a more powerful version of yourself!

Did I lose you there?

If that sounded confusing don’t worry.  Part of a coach’s role is to help you identify what is hidden for you.  For example, I could help you understand what I meant if that whole thought elimination/reorganization bit caused you to raise an eyebrow or tilt your head.  It would take a conversation, some work on actually discovering what is triggering you and why, and then specific steps to change those thought/behavior patterns. In other words, coaches help you discover the roots and create new results.

Confused person, meet coach.

Your sense of smell is the strongest sense associated with memory, so it follows that smells can easily create strong triggers for you.  Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they aren’t. Just make sure you’re doing the work you need to in order to identify your own triggers.  Once you identify and manage them, you can really live your best life and maybe even create a business that serves you and the world. 

And always savor the heavenly smell of grandma’s cookies, Aunt Debbie’s weird perfume, or some red clay to remind you of this little lesson.

Trigger, meet new & powerful version of you.


** No red clay, Pepsi products, nor Home Depots were harmed in the making of this blog.

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