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Focus on the 'right' objectives

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Many financial advisors tell me that they suffer from sleep disorders. I too have experienced disruptive sleep patterns since my childhood. Often, I will wake up at 3 or 4 a.m. and have difficulty getting back to sleep. My mind just will not rest as I think about my business and the challenges we face.

Like many high achievers, I am driven to achieve business goals and my focus is on what we need to do to accomplish our objectives. At times, my desire to achieve those goals gets in the way of my performance.

My wife Wendy is a marital and sex therapist. One of the things she has taught me is that anxiety is blocked excitement. Whenever we experience anxiety, it is a result of losing touch with our excitement. Many successful financial advisors have difficulty in differentiating between goals and working to the best of their abilities. They don’t wake up in the morning and say, “I’m going to work to the highest level of my capability today.” They start out with a goal. It is the goal that motivates them.

The profound point of difference is in the pursuit of doing your best versus needing to achieve an outcome. You learn to give up your attachments to results. If you are true to your purpose, what will happen is meant to be. If you do your best and do not achieve your goal, it is the right outcome. This is a powerful insight and yet we are often left with the question, “What do we do about it?”

For many financial advisors, the drive is to reach a desired revenue goal — $150,000; $500,000; $1,000,000 — not to be the best they can be. You change the inner game when you pursue your goals as a means of fulfilling your capability. The paradox is that pursuing a goal often gets in the way of peak performance, especially when anxiety comes into play. We begin to obsess and worry about the achievement of the goal.

As a result, we lose touch with our excitement about what we are doing and why we are doing it.

There is nothing you can do to get better output than by being non-attached to it. If you are doing your best, then being attached to output can only reduce it along with your quality of life. Goals are useful in that they give us a target to pursue. When we convert those goals into objectives (i.e., specific measurable results within a stated timeframe) we can track our progress. What is important is to keep the endgame in perspective.

Our work is not about reaching a goal. At its best, work makes us whole. It is a means of expressing what is important to us and gives us meaning. We spend more time at work than in any other area of our lives. If we are not enjoying our work, it takes a toll on the rest of our lives. So, next time you wake up at 4 a.m. and find yourself obsessing about work, take a minute to re-connect with your excitement about what you are doing and why you are doing it. This will allow you to fall back into a pleasant and restful sleep.


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