Accentuate the positive
If I ask you to tell me off the top of your head what’s not working in your business, I bet you could rattle off a dozen things fairly quickly.
However, if I asked you to tell me a dozen things you’ve achieved in the last 12 months, for many people the task is much harder.
Why is that the case?
Israeli-American psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman first discovered the concept of loss aversion. This shows people tend to prefer avoiding losses than making gain, e.g. it’s better not to lose £5 than find £5. Some studies also suggest that psychologically losses are twice as powerful as gains.
Perhaps that’s why we remember the things that might cause us loss, our business challenges, rather than those that have brought us gains, our business wins.
My experience, working closely with hundreds of owners of Financial Planning firms, is that they really struggle to recall all the things that have moved ahead. Yet they can always see the challenges that, in their minds, remain ‘still to be done’.
As a result, if we’re not careful we can start to get weighed down by the constant feelings of needing to be better than we currently are. This is a recipe for depression, and it’s not helpful in achieving your business goals.
There are even some people that take pride in how hard they are on themselves; “harder on themselves than they are on others” is a phrase often touted by the successful. It sounds macho and hugely accountable. Yet, as someone who has tried this approach, it’s eventually a little self destructive. We learn best in an environment that is nurturing and encouraging, not one in which we have a constant fear of being good enough.
What to do?
There are a couple of concepts that are vitally important, not only to achieving your goals, but to enjoying your journey while you do so.
- Take time to notice and acknowledge the good work you’ve doneAt FP Advance we do this formally once every quarter at our Quarterly Review days. We review the goals we set for the last 90-day period and see how we did in achieving them. We also check in with our Business Plan to see how we’re tracking against our 12 month goals, three-year picture and ten-year target. When we can, we try to celebrate any success.We also do it as part of our weekly leadership team meeting. When we open the meeting we take five minutes to share something positive. Whilst this can also be something personal rather than business related, often the stuff that is fresh in our minds are the things we’ve achieved or walked forward on the business front. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate the small wins every single week.We also like the break between Christmas and New Year. It’s like a natural full stop at the end of the year and it’s a great time to naturally slow down, appreciate what you’ve got, and to allow yourself some reflection time on what you’ve achieved in the last 12 months.
- Focus on incremental improvementThis sounds so obvious, but I’ve found it to be a very powerful tool. As I wrote in a recent blog, Get Better, Not Bitter: Small wins and business growth, I’d read a book on fitness called Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle by Tom Venuto. As I read through each chapter I was struck by how Tom’s mental approach to getting fitter and stronger could be applied to any endeavour, including your business.He made the point that if all we did was one more lift, jump, metre (insert your training exercise here) each day, in two years time we’d be amazing. Yet most of us quit when it gets tough and miss out on the spectacular progress we can make from small incremental improvements. Now, as I go and lift a few weights in the gym, if I can do just one more repetition than my last workout I record it as a personal best. It’s amazing how that mindset of incremental improvement helps me stay positive and wanting to return again.This change of mindset has proved very powerful in many areas of my life, not just in the gym.
“There is no such thing as failure. Only feedback, only results.”
- Do the calculation for yourself. If your business currently turns over £500,000 p.a. and you grow by just 10% p.a. year on year, in five years time you’ll be turning over £805,000 p.a. and in ten years time £1.3M p.a. If your incremental growth rate is 12% or 15% it looks even more interesting.
You can do those sorts of growth numbers.
Too much, too soon
The danger is in trying to do too much too quickly, and failing to celebrate your success on the way. If the day-to-day journey itself is not fun, you can lose interest or get burnt out, and that’s not good.
If you’re already in a bit of a hole and feeling burnt out, then these concepts can be used to get yourself back on track quick smart and feeling good again about your business.
Let me give you a good example of those two concepts in practice.
Angela Jia Kim who created The Manifest Method and the Savor the Success course describes her own journey as a concert pianist:
As a young child she was encouraged to learn the piano. Her mother, knowing that the key to success and enjoyment is doing the practice, provided her with an incentive programme. Every day that she practiced she received a sticker. After achieving seven stickers she was allowed to rummage through a box of treasures and toys that she loved, and pick one as her reward.
This motivated her to practice, which she did. A good example of celebrating success.
By her mid-to late teens she had discovered her own passion for the piano and no longer needed the rewards, so they were stopped. She had discovered that she wanted to be a concert pianist. This was now her motivation.
However, after several years of playing professionally, she became burnt out and quit.
Because she had forgotten to celebrate the success along the way. It had all become too much like hard slog. It was why she ended up creating the Savor the Success programme, to help other aspiring entrepreneurs. She wants to make sure they enjoy the journey along the way, rather than focusing on the end results all of the time.
Blow your own trumpet
The lesson here is simple enough to understand. You’ve got to ensure that you are celebrating your successes and milestones along the way; big or small. If you can get this right, you’ll find a real joy infuses all of the work that you do.
See if you can celebrate a few mores successes in your business, and let me know how you go.
Aretha Franklin – Ac-Cent-Thu-Ate the Positive
This article expands on Number 9 in the 26 Standards of Performance for Financial Planning Greatness document I created and shared recently.
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