It's hard to believe we're already more than a month into the New Year. How are you doing with your New Year's goals? I've found that one of the biggest obstacles financial advisers face is sticking to their goals for a full 12 months. By February or March, many advisers find that their New Year's goals are already slipping away.
Maybe you haven't begun executing on your New Year's goals yet. Or maybe you've begun executing, but you now realize you're way behind where you intended to be. And you're losing momentum, losing motivation, losing hope that 2015 will be the big year you wanted it to be.
How do I know this may be the case? Because after almost a decade of consulting financial advisers, I've seen the same patterns play out year after year. I hear all kinds of goals in late December and early January.
But a month or two later, I often start to hear the excuses creeping in. By the time spring rolls around, I've heard all kinds. “Hey Brad, I know I said I was going to do this, but I got busy … I just haven't had time … I had to pay my taxes … I had issues with an employee.” You name it, I've probably heard it.
WHY MOST ADVISERS GIVE UP
Anytime an adviser starts offering up excuses for why they've not hit their goals, there is often one thing missing. Can you guess what it is?
I'll tell you the answer, but first I'll tell you what's not missing from adviser goals: dollar figures. Most advisers are focused on revenue or how to grow the bottom line. So most of the goals they set are based on specific dollar figures.
For example, an adviser will tell me he wants to bring in $10 million, $15 million or $20 million in new assets. Sometimes, instead of being focused on new assets, an adviser will be focused on revenue. So he'll tell me he wants to generate $500,000, $1 million or $1.5 million in revenue.
There's nothing inherently wrong with setting a goal that's tied to a specific dollar figure. But there's still one big thing that's missing, and that's the reason why.
You see, dollar figures by themselves are never going to provide you with enough motivation to keep going when the going gets tough.
Think about that for a second. When you realize how much hard work it's going to require to hit your goal, it's easy to start negotiating with yourself to back out of your goal. “I don't really need to make $1 million this year,” you say to yourself.
And your goal falls by the wayside.
Until next year, when all of a sudden you're inspired to set another goal — which, unless you are driven by a serious “why,” will probably start to fade in February or March. (Need proof of how easily New Year's resolutions wear off? Take a picture of your gym's parking lot in January, then another a month or two later.)
You need a reason why. And you need it now. Because it's the only thing that's going to keep you motivated when the emotions wear off and the reality of hard work begins to set in.
A REAL-LIFE STORY
I assume you've seen the trailers for the movie "Unbroken" playing in theaters now. (If not, here's the official trailer.) The movie is based on the true-life story of Louie Zamperini and his experiences as an Olympic athlete and a soldier in World War II.
Regardless of whether you've seen the movie or not, there is an important lesson you can learn from the life of Mr. Zamperini. It is the lesson of the importance of having a powerful “why.”
You see, Mr. Zamperini was on a search-and-rescue mission when his aircraft crashed at sea. Thus began a harrowing tale of survival. Only he and two other men survived the crash, the pilot Russell Phillips and tail gunner Francis McNamara. The three men survived by climbing into two inflatable life rafts.
The men were stranded for weeks with few provisions on the open ocean. They survived on rainwater and the few fish they were able to catch. One of the only planes they saw was a Japanese bomber that strafed one of their little rafts, forcing all three men to climb into the only one remaining.
To pass the long days on the sea, Louie and Phil (Phillips) started a daily ritual of discussing their best memories of home, their families and favorite sporting events, but eventually every conversation led back to food. Louie would describe his mother's favorite recipes in great detail and by the time he was done, the boat's occupants could literally picture each of the dishes. Each day was spent discussing what they missed from home, but most importantly “why” they couldn't wait to get back and what adventures their future held.
An excerpt: “For Louie and Phil, the conversations were healing, pulling them out of their suffering and setting the future before them as a concrete thing. As they imagined themselves back in the world again, they willed a happy ending onto their ordeal and made it their expectation. With these talks, they created something to live for.”
In contrast, Mr. McNamara usually sat in silence. Once again, another excerpt: “Though all three men faced the same hardship, their differing perceptions of it appeared to be shaping their fates … Mac's (McNamara) resignation seemed to paralyze him … though he did the least, as the days passed, it was he who faded the most. Louie and Phil's optimism, and Mac's hopelessness, were becoming self-fulfilling.”
After 33 days at sea, Mr. McNamara died.
After drifting nearly 2,000 miles and spending 47 days at sea, Mr. Zamperini and Mr. Phillips (they had lost over 60% of their body weight) were captured by a passing Japanese Navy ship. In spite of his many brushes with death (he had yet to survive captivity by the Japanese), Mr. Zamperini survived, got married and lived to a ripe old age of 97 before he finally passed on.
HOW TO FIND YOUR 'WHY'
You may not be facing a life or death situation, but I'm sure you can dig deep to find something that truly motivates you.
As I mentioned before, dollar figures by themselves don't provide sufficient motivation. Ask yourself what those dollars really mean to you. Do those dollars mean that you can pay for your kids' college educations and give them a better future? Do those dollars mean that you'll be able to give more generously to your favorite charitable causes? Do they mean financial independence so you can retire?
Maybe your “why” is something fun, like a new Tesla Model S that all your buddies will drool over, a European vacation with your wife (the vacation you've always wanted to take but never felt like you could afford), or a beach house where you can go a couple times a year to make memories with your family.
Whatever it is that really motivates you, you need to get crystal clear on it. Write it down in detail or put up a picture that represents the thing you're really working toward. Then, when you're hitting that next obstacle between you and your goals, now you'll have a reason “why” to push through.
My challenge to you: Eleven months from now, if you were calling 2015 your best year ever, what would you have accomplished? How would life be different? What bucket list items would be checked off?
Keep that vision in front of you constantly, and you'll be unstoppable.
Best wishes and good luck on making the rest of 2015 your best year ever!
Brad Johnson is a vice president at Advisors Excel and can be reached at email@example.com.