We started the year with tips on how to commit to the goals you’ve put in motion. So, it only seems fitting to end the year at the beginning: with advice on how to first develop goals that inspire growth and, more importantly, inspire you.

The first stumbling block advisors hit when reflecting on the past year and strategizing the next is just that. Reflection. Most of us fail to dedicate enough time to understanding what worked well – and what didn’t. We jump ahead. We project. We predict. We act. We forget to be purposeful.

Before you jump to conclusions and map out your next 12 months with the same routine goals you’ve had every year for the past decade, review this past year with an alternate lens. One that starts with asking yourself, “What goals will inspire me to jump out of bed every morning and re-energize me every night?”

The Secret to Making Goals Enjoyable

You’ve heard it countless times, “The secret to success is goals, goals, goals!” I would tell you something different. If you feel like you should set goals because it’s what advisors are supposed to do, then don’t waste your time. I’m not a fan of the obligatory. I embrace things that have purpose. Don’t let goal planning become a task you stubbornly grind through every year just because you read you should – as you’re doing here. Do it for one simple, powerful reason: to identify what matters most to you. When you can get there, you’ll never approach goal planning as a chore. It will become something that’s critical to your vision for your business and your life.

As most advisors around you are winding down from reacting to a busy year filled with change, use December as an opportunity to take a breath by focusing on your “why,” being honest with yourself and your business, understanding the challenges ahead, and crafting a goal plan that actually inspires. Here are nine tips to help give this thought process some structure – to guide you to your purposeful, passion-driven goal plan:

  1. Be timely. I see too many advisors start the goal planning process in January. Not good enough. The year starts in January, so you should know the morning of January 1st what you’re striving to achieve. Schedule meaningful, secluded time this week to plan for the coming year. Take a mulligan this year if you must. Better now than not at all.
  2. Be intentional. Don’t be vague. Your goals should be soaking with clarity. “Grow my business” is foggy. “Bring in $10M in advisory assets by August 1” is crystal clear and measurable.
  3. Be diverse. You have more to accomplish this year than bringing in new clients. Include anything business or personal that matters. My bet is some of your personal goals are just as compelling as your top business goal.
  4. Be more than big-picture. Large, outcome-based goals like hitting $500,000 in revenue are great, but, in the end, they’re not ultimately controllable and that’s okay. Supplement those outcome goals with activity-based goals such as “make an average of five outbound calls per week to A+ or A clients.” You can control activity, and good activity often produces desired results. Even if you don’t get the desired results, you can feel good about being involved in the right activity.
  5. Be aware. Keep your goals in front of you. If you look at them and think about them regularly, your activity will be impacted. Review them no less than weekly and preferably daily. If that seems like overkill, then your goals don’t truly reflect what matters most.
  6. Be monitoring. Measure your progress as often as it provides benefit. I would suggest quarterly, if not monthly. Determine what percentage of the goal you have achieved at each checkpoint throughout the year.
  7. Be held accountable. Find a coach or partner who will challenge you. You’ll be amazed at how much discretionary effort you can squeeze when you know someone else is tracking with you.
  8. Be rewarding. Advisors by nature congratulate themselves for achieving a goal by moving on to the next goal. Take time to celebrate. And, remember, a natural result is not a reward. The result of bringing on four A+ clients is more revenue. A reward is taking the team to dinner or taking your family for a weekend getaway.
  9. Be tied to your personal vision. Remember, there’s a reason you pursue your goals in the first place – and it’s not just to hit them. What’s the utmost in your life? Call it your “greater good,” your “why,” or your “burning desire.” “Pursuing my goals empowers me to achieve my vision, which is… to positively impact the lives of the people I love and the clients I serve.” There will be days when your goals lack inspiration. A sincere vision never lacks inspiration.

If the thought of traditional goal planning doesn’t excite you, then remind yourself of what it really is. It’s the insightful recognition of what matters most to you. It determines where you want to spend your time, how you’ll invest your resources, and what you’ll pour your heart and mind into.

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