Why do advisers feel their firms are capable of much more, but find themselves challenged when they try to tap into that potential?
In my 20 years of consulting, I've noticed that there are only 2 types of activity: energy-draining and energy-creating. Knowing the difference is the secret to loving your work.
When you started your firm, you were filled with excitement, enthusiasm and boundless energy. This passion pushed you through the long, tedious work of starting a new business and managing the many competing demands on your time. You were on a mission, so you persevered.
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With this perseverance came success, which continues to build over time. But as you achieve success, you get busy doing the work that results. Some of this work you enjoy immensely, but much of it you don't. The work you enjoy is energy-creating. It is aligned with your passion, style and talents. It's not hard for you to engage in it for long periods of time. You can get lost in this work, enjoying what some call "flow."
The work you don't enjoy is energy-draining. You're capable of doing it, and perhaps you can do it better than others. Or maybe you just don't have anyone to do it, so "tag, you're it."
Regardless of the reasons, this is dreary, uninspired work that you have to force yourself to do — after spending an appropriate amount of time avoiding it, of course. This work drains you, physically and emotionally, stealing your most valuable resources: purpose, passion and perseverance.
One of my current clients has a wildly successful lifestyle practice that leaves him intellectually bored. While he values the people he works with, his work is no longer intellectually or creatively challenging for him. He's not progressing, so he isn't fulfilled.
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Another client, the founder of a multimillion-dollar firm, finds himself avoiding his assistant, procrastinating and feeling overrun by the piles of paper in his office. After 20 years, the idea of meeting with another typical client leaves him feeling like he'd rather put a pencil in his ear.
Both advisers are doing high quality work. Their challenges in no way reflect their character, commitment or care for their clients. What they do reflect is that they no longer spend their time creating. Their work has become rote and routine, and leaves little opportunity for new growth, challenges and the ever-important progress.
For those of you who share this dilemma, set your guilt aside. This isn't a "you" thing; it's a human thing. Stagnation isn't fulfilling for anyone, anywhere, ever. After a certain number of years, if your work leaves little left to explore, learn and grow into, you will be bored. Anything you've done 1,000 times and can do with your eyes closed becomes energy draining.
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From a business perspective, the energy-creating activities are the very things that will help your firm grow and thrive if you can find ways to leverage yourself so that you start reclaiming your creative focus. The key to greater success and fulfillment is spending ample time in creation mode, focused on energy-creating activities. This will require you to withdraw from the energy-draining work that keeps you trapped in "doing" mode.
We need two things to experience personal and professional fulfillment: purpose and progress. One without the other will ultimately leave you feeling a lack in one or more areas of your life and business.
Stephanie Bogan is the CEO of Educe Inc. and has spent 20 years helping advisers unleash their potential to build successful firms and lives they love. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.