Ask yourself these 3 questions to stay focused on purpose, not on fears
by Daniel C. Finley
During his last coaching session with me before the holiday break, Donald P. said, “I think it was my fear of success that held me back this past year.”
It is common for any financial adviser to evaluate himself or herself as one calendar year ends and another begins. However, I had heard Donald say this numerous times, so I knew that discussing the challenge wouldn’t help him long-term because although he knew what his fear was, this knowledge hadn’t been enough for him to overcome it. It was time to get him to focus on a better solution—what I call “growing into greatness.”
“What is your purpose for being in this business?” I asked him. Initially silent, he eventually replied, “That’s a good question. I guess I just want to help people. The money is nice but it’s not what motivates me.” He paused again trying to find another possible purpose, but simply reiterated, “That’s it, I just want to help people.”
“How are you living your purpose of helping people if you are afraid to succeed?” I asked.
“I’m not,” he admitted. “I need to focus more on my purpose and not on consistently avoiding my fears. Helping others is more important than my fear of reaching a level of success that I feel I’m capable of.”
As a business coach, his story is one that I hear often. It’s the story of a veteran financial adviser whose career has been on a plateau for an extended period. This is due to the adviser being afraid of actually reaching the next level of success, and it’s coupled with losing sight of why he or she got into this business in the first place.
Early in the new year, Donald was in a group coaching session with peers when I asked him if he would give a summary of our aforementioned conversation. After he shared his story, one by one his colleagues started to open up and discuss their purposes for being in the business. The dialogue quickly deepened when one adviser stated, “It is great that we know why we are in this business, but what happens tomorrow, the next day, or even next week when we get caught up in our own unconscious fears again?” In response, I mapped out three important questions that all advisers should ask themselves daily to make sure they continue to focus on purpose and not fears.
- How can I live my business purpose today? Start your day off by asking yourself this question. Take a moment to think about your answer, and then write it out. The answer may be the same each day, or it may shape itself by slightly changing as each day offers a new slate from which to begin.
If you are like Donald and your purpose is to help people, then things such as being afraid to prospect because of a fear of rejection, or wasting time because it is a fee-based month and you have already hit your goals, or surfing the net because you can’t seem to get yourself motivated simply don’t serve the greater good. If you are completely honest with yourself you will realize that you are holding yourself back from success when you spend precious time doing unimportant and non-urgent activities.
- How can I have fun living my business purpose today? Why not turn work into play? Why not add passion back into your practice by mapping out activities that you love to do and serve your business purpose?
If you love to prospect, start your day off prospecting. If you love to talk to your clients, begin the day with a call to one of your favorite clients. The point is that you have a business purpose and if you ask yourself this question, you’ll prompt your conscious mind to come up with ways you can have fun fulfilling that purpose.
- How have I lived my business purpose today? It is important to take a minute or two to reflect on how you have spent your time before you wrap up a day’s work. Did you whittle away the hours with non-productive activity, or did you accomplish tasks that helped you support your purpose? Did you look for your next great client, or were you afraid to pick up the phone? Answering these questions will help keep you accountable and soon you will see the domino effect of how your daily actions produce daily results, those daily results produce weekly results, and those weekly results produce monthly results, which by the end of a year can supply you with terrific outcomes.
Characteristics of Success
Over the past 20 years in the financial services industry, both as a financial adviser and as a business coach, I’ve noticed that those who are viewed by their peers to be at the pinnacle of success seem to have common characteristics that further support the importance of asking yourself these questions.
Great advisers live their business purpose. Great advisers seem to know why they are in this business, and they use that passion to fuel their practice. They instinctively know the answers to the questions posed in this article, and those answers help consciously and unconsciously drive what they do each day.
Great advisers think creatively. Average advisers typically do just enough to survive. Rarely have I found average advisers loving what they do because they are always seeking ways to do as little as they can while still keeping themselves afloat. (This is not to be confused with a rookie trying to get to the next level, or a veteran who has had a personal or emotional setback. These types of situations are temporary, and soon they get back to the business of doing what they love).
Average advisers are making a comfortable living, like what they do, but are not living their business purpose on a consistent level. Donald found himself in this category, letting his fear of success hold him back from his ultimate purpose of helping others. Now, with a paradigm shift, he knew what to focus on. If you find yourself in this category you know you need to define (or re-define) your business purpose and think creatively.
Above-average advisers look for ways to get their message out to their target market. They educate on topics that no one else is covering, or they hold client appreciation events that other advisers want to attend; they take time to do the “little” things, such as sending flowers to a client’s hospital room when they learn of an illness, surgery, or baby. Great advisers don’t think creatively because they have to, they do it because they want to.
Great advisers always do business with integrity. Regardless of your compensation model, the road to greatness must be traveled by doing business with integrity; not most of the time but all of the time. Our industry is a business based on trust; clients trust you to hold their best interests at heart, and prospects must trust you or they won’t become clients.
Taking shortcuts by not explaining details, telling half-truths, or taking just one small step over the line is a slippery slope to what could be the end of your career. Don’t ever put yourself in that situation.
Great advisers know their value. Part of becoming great in this profession is taking time to gain the technical knowledge to help your clients. It’s easy to get complacent by using a cookie-cutter approach to investment recommendations and treating your business like an assembly line of new prospects coming in and going out. Instead, become a master craftsman who takes pride in his or her craft. Learn everything you can about those who see the value in your services. Adopt this frame of mind and soon you will view yourself not as a commodity, but as a unique and valuable professional.
Great advisers have and become great mentors. Nobody finds success without learning from others. Sure, it’s okay to look at a wheel, improve on it, and call it a tire, but take the time to find a great mentor. The true test will be how they react when you ask them for their advice. Usually, those who are truly successful are happy to help others who desire to succeed, because they don’t view their peers as competition. Then pass your wisdom on to others who want to be where you are. Becoming a mentor is equally as important as having one.
Do you see yourself in some of these situations but not others? If so, take steps this year toward embracing a better you.
Daniel C. Finley is a former adviser and current president of Advisor Solutions Inc., a business development consulting and coaching service. He is the author of 101 Advisor Solutions: A Financial Advisor’s Guide to Strategies that Educate, Motivate and Inspire. Contact him at email@example.com.