The Inner Game: Advisors, Heal Thyselves

Negative thoughts can be professional death for an advisor. Here's how to avoid them.

For many advisors the voice of self-doubt is everywhere these days: “I can't pull this off…I'm not sure what I would say if I were introduced to a high-net-worth investor…What do I have to offer that clients aren't already getting from someone else?”

Though such feelings are understandable in today's economy, in the end they amount to little more than thinly disguised excuses. Unfortunately, at a time when advisors most need to be thinking positively, many have fallen into what I call a negative programming cycle. The cycle begins with negative thoughts, and it ends with such thoughts actually taking control of an advisor's career.

Happily, there is a way to break the cycle. It begins with understanding the tangible effect negative thoughts can have on behavior. In his book, The Self-Talk Solution, Shad Helmstetter explains: “One of the most important discoveries in recent years has been the role our own casual thinking plays in the shaping of our lives.”

Positive Programming Cycle
Positive In… Positive Out
“This is the best time ever for HNW prospecting.” Daily HNW prospecting activity.
“I am successfully repositioning myself as a go-to HNW financial quarterback.” Continually discovering new and creative ways to explain the benefits of working with you and backing that up with client examples (stories).
“It's stimulating to continually expand my breadth of knowledge to better serve the HNW market.” Meeting with an estate planning attorney to learn about his/her services and how to describe them for HNW clients.
Negative Programming Cycle
Negative In… Negative Out
“My clients blame me for their losses.” Avoid client contact.
“My key clients don't want to be bothered with introducing me to the HNW people they know.” Don't initiate or take advantage of opportunities to ask for introductions and referrals.
“My firm hasn't prepared us to work with HNW clients.” Keep busy with nonproductive activity instead of stepping out of your comfort zone and taking a stab at it.

Experts once regarded “casual” thoughts as harmless, fleeting bits of consciousness — but no more. Neuroscience tells us that thoughts are electrical impulses, which trigger both electrical and chemical reactions in the brain.

Here's what you can do to ensure your state of mind positions you for success.

For starters, try to understand how negative and positive thoughts translate into negative and positive results. (See accompanying chart.)

If the connection seems simplistic, that is because it is. But simple is not the same as easy, and very few people are able to reprogram themselves in a way that generates positive thoughts.

The reason for this, according to Dr. Helmstetter, is that at least 75 percent of our early programming was negative. As a result, negative thinking for many of us is a default reaction to tough situations. In fact, even in situations that are themselves positive, uncomfortable feelings about them can set those negative brain tapes a-playing. For example, a meeting with a fabulous prospective client can set off all sorts of fears about your ability to serve him well. Those fears can in turn undermine your ability to project the competence you need in order to land him.

In this way, the negative programming cycle can take over our behavior: Too much thinking leads to negative thinking, which leads to anxiety, which can culminate in self-limiting behavior. Your programming cycle is a product of every aspect of your life up to this point. It is a learned behavior, but it can be unlearned.

And that is the good news. Within six weeks, you can develop a positive programming cycle. To do so, you must start with an ironclad goal. For an advisor, maybe that goal is adding 10 clients in a particular span of time.

Once that goal is set, establish a positive programming cycle to support it. This involves visualizing the goal every day as attainable, compiling a list of activities that will help you achieve the goal and then doing the activities.

Of course, you can't control all the thoughts that enter your mind, but you can keep those thoughts from dominating your thinking.

As you replace your negative thoughts through this reprogramming, the transformation within will be dramatic. The success that results from positive thinking begets more success, and the cycle becomes self-sustaining.

Again, it sounds simple, because it is simple. But changing a negative mindset takes commitment, a willingness to change and actual effort. The sooner you start, the sooner you will see results.

Writer's BIO: Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients. oechsli.com

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