The uncomfortable truth about success

Understand what’s really getting in your way of moving forward and don’t assume your roadblocks are the same as they are for others.
By Guest |  06-08-18 | 
 
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Morningstar invites thought leaders from the investment community to share their insights. Views expressed are personal and should not be construed as investment advice.

I see myself as someone who works very hard, has a big vision and will do what it takes to reach my goals.

Can you relate?

Despite having the mindset that should fuel success, I’ve often felt that I wasn’t realizing my potential, that I was always falling short of the business or life I wanted. I would never complain that life was less than good or that I was anything less than blessed, but I wasn’t where I wanted to be.

Can you relate?

Digging deeper, I noticed that despite having a clear vision and knowing what I needed to do, I would often find myself very busy but somehow ‘stuck’. And when that happened, frustration would kick in.

Now, I know I’m not alone on that one because I hear it from you all the time. The advisors who are working through our programs start out with similar energy and resolve and often reach out to say “I’m stuck”, “I’m behind” or some variation on that theme.

The Nike Response

When we aren’t making progress on a meaningful goal, the default suggestion seems to be some version of the Nike tagline ‘just do it’. It makes sense. If we know what we want and how to get there, then we just need to focus on taking action, right?

And so we time block and prioritize and set goals the night before. We write lists, hire more people and ‘will’ ourselves to take action. Tomorrow’s the day. Everything will be different. I just need to do this, that or the other thing.

The Assumptions We Make

This well-meaning advice seems to be driven by one of two assumptions. First, it assumes that the problem is motivation and the answer is getting you re-energized and focused on the goal. Or, it assumes that life is just getting in the way of your progress and you need to ‘tame’ it with some form of structure.

And that may be true. And the advice is really very good if either of those things are true.

But what if that’s not the problem?

What if there is something more fundamental getting in your way?

It strikes me that this is a really important question to ask – and to answer – because it speaks not only to growing our business but to any significant transformation in our lives.

Change the Question

My thinking is simple. If you can understand what is really getting in your way, you have a better chance of achieving your most significant goals. You have a better shot at real transformation.

And so I set out to find some answers. I interviewed people I respect. I conducted research and I looked long and hard at my own behaviors.

As I did, it became clear that as people seek to transform their businesses or their lives, they get stuck at very different places. It became clear that where you get stuck informs the approach you need to take. And it became clear that if we’re going to tackle transformation from this perspective it will require very different, often intensely personal and potentially uncomfortable, discussions.

I think it’s time we had those different conversations.

A Model of Transformation

To understand where we get stuck, I believe we need to start by breaking down the process of transformation. I’m defining a transformation as any significant goal you have in your business or your life.

Drawing on the work I shared in The Pursuit of Absolute Engagement, the model of transformation has three steps. Understanding those steps and where you get stuck is the fuel that drives real change and success.

1. Awareness

Awareness is about getting real on what matters and what really energizes and inspires you. This where possibility lives. You might dream of a different business or a different working environment. You might focus on making a meaningful impact on the world, of different relationships or a healthier lifestyle. It’s a difficult process because it opens up the possibility of failure, feels selfish and requires extraordinary vision.

Many get stuck at this first step.

If you find it difficult to let yourself go and imagine a bigger, better or different future, you may find yourself stuck here. If that’s the case, you may find the source of the problem in your personal history.

Were you taught not to dream? Were you taught that you should never put yourself first? Were you taught always to be happy with what you have? If you’re stuck at this stage, it’s not about taking action, it’s about giving yourself permission to think bigger or differently. It’s about giving yourself permission to define a personal vision and owning it.

If this is where you’re challenged, then focusing on action won’t help.

2. Audacity

Audacity is about using the insights you gleaned in the “awareness” phase to draw a line in the sand and crystallize a plan. This is what my business will look like in five years. This is how I will work in future. This is how I will show up in the lives of the people who matter. This is how I will make an impact on the world. This is my goal for health. It’s here that courage lives.

Many get stuck at this second step.

If you know what you would really like your business, or your life, to look like but hesitate to do what it takes, you may find yourself stuck here. If that’s the case, there are a host of things that might be getting in your way.

You may worry, perhaps excessively, about making big changes and the impact that could have on clients, team or family. You may be challenged with lurking confidence issues that cause you to wonder if you are capable of doing what it takes. You may even be battling issues of self-worth, questioning if you deserve to achieve the vision you set out. (I told you these were different conversations.)

If this is where you’re challenged, then focusing on action won’t help.

3. Action

Action is about doing what it takes to bring the vision to life. It’s about structuring your time, saying no to the wrong opportunities, finding support to help you enhance your relationships, eating right or going to the gym. This is where confidence lives.

If you’ve defined the life and the business you want but find you aren’t making meaningful progress, you may find yourself stuck here. The problem may be habit, competing priorities or time management. There is a wealth of tools to help you get more focused. I wrote about one recently that changed my world.

Let’s face it, action is easier to talk about. It’s practical and there are clear answers. Awareness and audacity run deeper, create internal conflict and have a stealth-like ability to derail your efforts. And because we don’t often talk about these things in the industry, we push these issues under the carpet and read another time management book.

A Final Word

We can sabotage growth if we don’t know where we’re getting stuck. Understand what’s really getting in your way of moving forward and don’t assume your roadblocks are the same as they are for others. Today’s post isn’t about trying to solve these problems, at least not today. It’s about encouraging you to evaluate what’s getting in your way, openly and honestly, before berating yourself for lack of progress or success.

This post by Julie Littlechild first appeared on The Absolute Engagement.

A speaker, writer and researcher Julie founded AbsoluteEngagement.com with a mission to help financial advisers to intentionally design businesses that support the lives they want to live (and the lives that fuel their capacity to succeed).

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