One of the questions we ask our clients is a rather large question that comes with a difficult set of answers. Sometimes it poses a great challenge to our clients.
The question is “if having completed financial planning with us over three years and it has worked for you, looking back over that time, what had to change personally, professionally and financially to achieve that success?”
When you are talking to someone you have never met before the question of personal change is not an easy one to discuss. Nobody likes change, it’s uncomfortable, we like routine, we feel better when we know what’s coming around the corner, we prefer to stay within our comfort zone.
However, to achieve goals we must allow change, or we’ll never reach our goals.
Quite some time ago, an old friend of mine, Martin Toner, The Golf Specialist, introduced me to golf.
Martin gave me the gift of enjoying the game. He’s not your normal ‘swing guy’ who teaches you to knock a ball down the fairway. Instead, he helps his students to understand how golf works and how to extract more enjoyment from their efforts.
Having developed my swing, he went on to teach me a crucial lesson. We were on the golf course one afternoon when he asked me “what are you trying to do?”
We were standing on the tee box, and again he asked, “what do you want to do with the ball?”
I thought the answer was obvious. “You want to get the ball as close to the hole as possible in as few shots as possible”.
His response to this was no. He explained you want to get the ball in the hole. Not near the hole, not beside the hole or close to the hole. In the hole.
The hole with the flag sticking out of it on the greenway in the distance is your goal. Get the ball in that cup.
Your goal may be three years away now, but you know what you want, you can see it in the distance. You can taste it. But how do you get there? You could close your eyes, swing, and hope for the best.
Or you can be strategic about it. To do this, you have to work back from that flag waving in the distance to the point at which you’re standing. This helps you to see where your interim goals are. You can decide how many shots it will take to get to the hole. You can spot obstacles in your way and also you can choose which clubs are the best ones to help you send the ball in the right direction.
With that one key objective in mind, you can swing with defined purpose. Personal change is the exact same. The journey from your starting point to the end goal needs to be mapped out if you want to have your best chance of success.
There will inevitably be unexpected obstacles as you make your way along your course. Your view may get obscured at times, a breeze may pick up along the way which sends your ball in a different direction than you had intended. Life gets in the way and so you may have to consider altering your strategy in the short term until you get back on track.
Though you have a goal in mind, there is never only one way of achieving it. Our minds work differently and so the approach that seems apparent to us is not the only way. If you run into obstacles, thinking outside the box may help you to think differently about how to get to where you want to be.
Even just having an open conversation with your loved ones about the best approach to take can help open up other options. At the end of the day, we have to remember that personal change more often than not affects more people than just ourselves. It’s always a better idea to discuss your hopes and plans with those who will feel the impact of your decisions on their lives. When you have support from the sidelines it spurs you on when the going gets tough and means that you have people to celebrate your achievement with when you reach your goal.
Though personal change can be difficult, when the outcome is something that truly resonates with you on a deep, meaningful level, then in my experience, the discomfort of growing pains are worth it in the long term.