If change were easy, I wouldn’t be writing this article. If change were impossible, I wouldn’t be writing this article. Regardless of whether we perceive it as possible or not, or welcome or not, the fact is we often resist it.
People who are able to make lasting changes never question whether it’s possible, or look for reasons why they can’t change. Instead, they decide to change and do whatever it takes to make it happen. Change always begins as a choice and with a decision. The first step is to commit to the changes you wish to make.
Because the financial services business is constantly changing, advisors are often forced to change on a regular basis out of sheer necessity. At some point in their career, most advisors feel the need to change their habits, strategies, assets and production.
There’s no question that the most difficult aspect of change is starting. In fact, when it comes right down to it, procrastination, a common deterrent to change, is nothing more than “starting avoidance.” Start small but start. Don’t fall into the “if I can’t talk to 50 people a day I won’t bother picking up the phone at all” trap. If something is worth doing, do it for whatever amount of time you can in the beginning.
After 17 years as an advisor and three as a producing branch manager, I’ve isolated what I believe to be the “9 Indisputable Laws of Change.” My hope is that by understanding and accepting the following laws, your journey of change will be more efficient and you can potentially avoid giving up on a successful change effort prematurely
1. Focus your change efforts. You can’t change everything at once. Setting too many simultaneous goals is an exercise in futility. If you attempt multiple changes simultaneously, you will become exhausted very quickly and chances are, you will abandon your efforts too soon. Be conservative and methodical in the change you’re after. Give your change effort considerable thought. What you choose to change initially, often has an impact on what changes are possible later. Have a plan. Concentrate your efforts on one, possibly two goals at once. Focus on making real lasting change in these areas first before moving onto others.
2. Change is something you do, not something that happens to you.Change is a result of effort. If you wait for change to come to you or for your circumstances to change, you are likely in for a very long wait. Likewise, if you wait to be in the mood or to feel motivated to change, you can end up postponing it indefinitely. Your mood shifts as a result of the actions you take. Activity is the most reliable and proven method of changing your mood. Take control of your mood by doing.
3. Change requires that you persist even when it looks as though your efforts are having no immediate effect. Probably the #1 reason people don’t succeed in their efforts to change is because this law is not completely understood or accepted. It’s important to always keep your expectations in line with reality. In fact a good rule of thumb is to continue your efforts not expecting any immediate effect. This will help you stay on task regardless of the outcome and with minimum disappointment or frustration. Remember, change does not happen overnight. It’s a process.
4. Change requires a long-range perspective. Speed in accomplishing our goals is often not as important as we may think. Disappointing early results do not necessarily mean you’re on the wrong path, just as exciting early results don’t always mean you’re on the right one. A long-range perspective involves persistence and a real commitment to making permanent changes. When speed is emphasized, it’s often at the expense of some critical steps in the process, the elimination of which can make lasting change unsustainable. To change is to permanently alter your behavior.
5. The past is over. If you feel your business has been mediocre in the past, you can’t go back and change that. You can learn from your mistakes and change your direction from this point forward. What’s happened in the past does not determine what you can accomplish in the future. It simply determines where you start. Act from where you are now with the resources and talents you have available. Use what you’ve got and commit to taking advantage of every opportunity from this day forward. Choosing not to take advantage of an opportunity is actually worse than failing. When you try and fail, at least you were in the game. When you let an opportunity pass you by, you chose to not even play. Opportunities are all around you. Seek them out and then cultivate them.
6. Change involves setbacks. Setbacks are not only an integral part of the change process, they’re tangible proof that you are changing. Don’t worry or get frustrated. If you look on obstacles as a big deal, they become a big deal and can often be used as a justification for quitting. Approach your victories from an emotional perspective but approach obstacles, setbacks and perceived failures from a purely analytical basis. Learn from them and determine ways to prevent them from recurring. Do not allow them to inhibit your forward progress.
7. Change is easiest in small manageable increments. When change is made gradually and incrementally, it gives you time to fully integrate your new skills into your life. Change is best accomplished through a series of small, manageable adjustments to your everyday routines—baby steps. Small, fully integrated changes give you the power to leverage these changes into larger ones next time.
8. Change builds on itself. By making one seemingly simple change, you increase the probability of making more in the future. When you make a change, no matter how small, your mentality changes. Whenever you cross a threshold to change, it becomes substantially easier to cross the next time.
9. There is an irregular pattern to change. Change does not occur in a straight line. It tends to ebb and flow. The pace of change can vary quite a bit. Sometimes you progress quickly, sometimes slowly and sometimes change is barely observable at all. Expect this and prepare yourself for this law in advance.
Change means growth. Embrace it but remember it’s a process. Keep your expectations in line with reality and you will enjoy your journey of change far more.
“It’s never too late to become what you might have been.” —George Eliot