Same goes for your clients
Now is the time of year when it’s easy to lose your discipline and let everything slide. From your waistline to your credit line, you know there will be hell to pay in January. But, when everyone around you seems to be succumbing to Holiday temptations, it’s easy to give in to your weaker self.
Tis the season to be even more disciplined
Ah, the Holidays! “Just get me through the next month,” you tell yourself, “and I’ll start hitting the gym again, lose 10 pounds, clean out my office, clean out my inbox and be back on track for 2020.
You have to start on those New Year’s resolutions right now—as in early December. Not to be a Holiday killjoy, but you can’t just aspire to stick to your resolutions. You need to WRITE THEM DOWN and display them publicly for extra accountability. Otherwise you won’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of masking them stick.
The idea is to test out your resolutions now, before the calendar flips to 2020, so you have time to work the bugs and make adjustments to your goals before you hit the ground running in January. You need to be brutally honest with yourself about your willpower, your stamina and how reasonable your goals are. The key is to own your resolutions; don’t let them own you.
Research shows that half of Americans set New Year’s resolutions, but only one out of eight are still sticking to them by March 1st.
Instead of declaring a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) on January 2nd, start small, reach it, and then build from there. When you set your goals too high, or too far off target, you’ll feel the crushing weight of defeat after you inevitably fail to reach those goals.
If you’re a couch potato, which resolution are you more likely to stick to—running a marathon in six weeks or walking/jogging for 20 minutes three times per week? If your goal is to be a published author in 2020, which plan are you more likely to stick to—having the first six chapters of your new book done by July 4, or starting a weekly blog that goes out each and every Thursday, even when you’re traveling?
Why resolutions don’t stick
Harvard Business School professor, Amy Cuddy believes resolutions don’t stick because too often we’re setting ourselves up for failure and self-loathing. “We tend to set unreasonable aims for ourselves and then experience negative emotions and a lack of motivation when we don’t reach them,” she observed. “Failing to meet the unreasonable goals we set for ourselves can in turn take a negative toll on our self-worth,” added Cuddy.
Researcher and author Richard Wiseman, agrees with Cuddy that we set goals that are too high or too audacious and that we also tend to be too impatient. He believes another big cause of resolution failure is that we tend to sprint out of the gate in search of immediate “returns” rather than taking “baby steps” that will take some time before they move the needle.
Beating the odds
Trying to get your clients to modify their financial behavior in the new year can be quite challenging, too. But it can be highly rewarding if true changes result, Dr. Glenn Freed told me. Freed, chief investment officer of Los Angeles-based LourdMurray believes you’ll further cement your status as a client’s most trusted advisor if you can “frame” your legal, charitable or financial planning discussions around New Year’s resolutions. “You can have discussions in person or through a client newsletter. The key is to use these resolutions as a way to check in with clients throughout the year,” added Freed.
The experts seem to agree on one thing: to make any resolution stick, it has to become an ingrained habit. For example:
- Resolution: Quit smoking vs. Habit: Stop smoking that one cigarette you have every morning after breakfast.
- Resolution: Eat healthy food vs. Habit: Start substituting that one daily morning pastry for a banana.
- Resolution: Lose weight vs. Habit: Every evening after work, go for a two to three minute run or walk around the block.
- Resolution: Manage stress vs. Habit: Meditate for two to three minutes every morning after you wake up.
- Resolution: Improve finances vs. Habit: Save an extra 2 percent of each paycheck and put half into my 401(k)s low-cost index fund and the other half into a high-yield savings account at my bank.
By immediately breaking down each resolution and seeing what the smallest habit could be, experts say your chances of succeeding will be 50 percent higher. And if even these incremental habits are hard to stick to, don’t give up. Tweak them so they’re manageable.
High performing advisors help their clients follow up on resolutions not only in December, but throughout the year. Framing the financial planning discussion in this way at the start of the year and then following up consistently can be an effective way to help clients stay on the path to financial resolution success. Make 2020 a great year no matter what the markets, the economy and geopolitical factors throw at us.
But you’ve got to start NOW—when temptations and distraction abound–not after the Holidays. Why? Because there will always be temptations and distractions that are a breeding ground for excuses. C’mon. We’re better than that. One of the best gifts you can give yourself and your clients is the power to break bad habits and adopt healthier new ones. Go for it!
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