our efforts is what makes us happy, but this is a flawed approach. Every
time you achieve a successful outcome — for instance, you get a new cli-
ent or you hit a sales target — your brain essentially “moves the goalpost”
for what success looks like. When you get that new client, your brain says,
“Don’t get excited — now you need to go out and get five more!”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? If you view happiness as being on the
opposite side of success, your brain never actually gets to a place of true
happiness. The only way to achieve it is to hit a target that doesn’t stop
moving. It’s why many advisors and other professionals who are at the
top of their game say they still aren’t very satisfied. Instead, try thinking
of happiness as a precursor to success, not the result of success. When
your brain is positive and trained to emphasize happiness while you are
in the process of achieving goals — not waiting until the end result — your
eventual outcome will improve.
If you wait for happiness to come after you achieve success, you will
miss out on both. This applies to how you run your practice, of course, but
it also applies to how you discuss financial issues with your clients, especially those who think they’ll be satisfied if they beat the market.
As it turns out, 90% of our happiness is determined by how we view
the world. Reality can predict only 10% of our happiness. Change the lens
Many advisors and other professionals
who are at the top of their game say they
still aren’t very satisfied.
through which you view your situation and you can increase your level of
happiness and, ultimately, your level of success in business and in life.
Achor’s research has important implications for financial advisors. You
can choose to be more successful by choosing to be happier and more
positive. What’s more, you can steer your clients toward greater success
by helping them view the world in more positive ways. He suggests five
ways to start imprinting lasting positive patterns on yourself, your team
and your clients. Don’t attempt all five at once. Rather, choose one and
implement it every day for 21 consecutive days.
List three gratitudes. Write down three things that happened in the
last 24 hours for which you’re grateful. By looking for gratitudes rather
than stressors, the brain builds new pathways that turn pessimists into
optimists — and turn optimists into even greater optimists. Achor worked
with bankers to implement this strategy, and their teams’ efficiency and
effectiveness rose within three weeks and remained elevated six months
later. (This approach also caused people to report that their spouses had
become more attractive than before — not a bad bonus.)
Journal. This is helpful for people who dive into their to-do lists and
get frustrated when they don’t get to everything. Task-based thinking
has been shown to lead to lower job satisfaction. To combat it, each day
think back over the past 24 hours for one meaningful experience you had
and spend two minutes writing down every detail
you can remember. This helps the brain connect
the dots. The result is that you starts to look for
meaning in each of the many tasks on your list,
recognizing the happiness that comes from the
process instead of the results.
Exercise. Exercise does more than release hap-piness-generating endorphins. It tells your brain
that you’ve been successful in one area and that
you can probably be successful in other areas, too.
Meditate. Our brains can multitask, but our
success rate drops significantly when we try to do
two or more things at once — even if we excel at
doing each task separately. The best way to correct this is to sit quietly for two minutes a day and
observe your breath going in and out. That’s it.
Over a three-week period, this trains your brain to
focus on the task at hand.
Say thank you. Social support is a huge driver
of happiness and success, especially during challenging times. Yet our friends and other people
close to us are often the first people we jettison
when things get busy or stressful. We eat lunch at
our desks and stop connecting with people, and
end up feeling cut off and unhappy. You don’t
need to go out for dinner with people every night
to maintain effective social support. Instead, when
you get into work, write a quick email (spend two
minutes or less) praising or thanking someone in
your social support network — such as a client,
co-worker, boss, family member or friend. Pick a
different person each day. In 21 days, your brain’s
perception of your social support will skyrocket
— and improve your odds of being successful in
all your actions.
Achor admits that none of these strategies is
new. Most of us know that being grateful is good
for us, for example. And yet, ask yourself: How
often do you do any of these things? The fact is
common sense doesn’t mean common action.
These five steps will generate an ROI that can
ultimately influence your bottom line and the
relationships you build and maintain with your
clients and your team for years to come. FP
John J. Bowen Jr., a Financial Planning
columnist, is founder and CEO of CEG Worldwide of
San Martin, Calif., a global training, research
and consulting firm for advisors.