T he start of a new semester reconnects you with possibilities. Expectations are high. You aren’t yet behind, at least for commitments unique to this term. Students aren’t yet frustrated and jaded with their courses. During this brief time in the semester when optimism is higher than usual, take time to reflect on what accomplishment you’d like to be celebrating when the semester ends.

Yes, really! Reflect on your “toast-able celebration.”

  • Imagine what you will say.
  • Imagine how you will feel.
  • Consider who else will benefit from your accomplishment.
  • Imagine what that accomplishment will enable you to do next.

Your actions each week of the semester will tip the balance either toward realizing the “toast-able celebration” or experiencing regret and frustration when the semester ends.

Your actions—whether conscious or unconscious; intended or unintended; planned or spontaneous—will be triggered by something on this Trigger List:

Action/Habit Trigger List:


  • Thoughts (conscious or subconscious)
  • Feelings
  • Memories
  • Other habits

Your environment–physical and virtual/electronic

  • Alerts from your phone and/or computer
  • Desk (visual prompts)
  • Broader (office/home) environment (visual prompts)
  • Calendar/s (electronic or paper)
  • Lists: to-dos and checklists (electronic or paper)
  • Written plans (electronic or paper)
  • E-mail
  • Physical and voice mail
  • Phone calls

Other people

  • Colleagues/boss/team (via virtual or face-to-face)
  • Family, friends, & unexpected strangers

Success Enhancing Exercise:

**To enhance your probability of success, complete this brief exercise using the trigger list above as you reflect on these questions.

Write down your “toast-able celebration.” Then . . .

  1. Brainstorm a list of DESIRED actions—those you need to take consistently to enhance your probability of success
  2. Brainstorm a list of UNDESIRED actions—those you need to avoid or limit because they will diminish your probability of success

Using the Trigger List above:

  1. Identify your triggers for the DESIRED actions listed in Question 1.
  2. Identify your triggers for the UNDESIRED actions listed in Question 2.


  • Enhance your A-list triggers
  • Limit your B-list triggers

Power of Habit—Wonderful!

This exercise offers you valuable insight needed to tweak your actions, which are or could become habits, that propel and hinder your success. Habits are powerful because they require little effort, executing them this is easy. When habits support your goals, this power of efficient automation accelerates your success. That’s why students, who cultivate the habits of reading, practicing problem-solving, and applying new learning to their existing knowledge, experience much greater academic success.

Power of Habit—HELP!

But wait, the power of habit has a shadow side. Habits that hinder success require just as little effort and are just as easy to execute. Thus, students, who cultivate the habits of binge-watching entertainment, constant connectivity with their social network, and googling for prewritten essays and past tests as short-cuts, struggle to focus and develop easily- retrievable memories of core ideas essential in their discipline.

Habit Triggers

All habits, as the research compiled in Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit demonstrates, begin with a trigger and end with a reward.

Whether you want to keep, stop, change, or create a habit, you benefit from recognizing the habit trigger.

Knowing the habit trigger helps you immediately know what to protect and nurture as well as what to avoid and limit.

Bottom Line:

Intentionally protect and nurture the desired triggers, and intentionally avoid and limit the undesired trigger to enhance YOUR probability of YOUR “toast-able celebration” at semester’s end.

elizabeth lies