Forget About Goals
Updated: Nov 29, 2021
We can set goals, but our focus needs to be elsewhere
A couple of months ago I found myself in a total mental rut. My family and I had just moved from NY to Boston. I was in the midst of a career change, and I couldn’t find any sort of mental rhythm. I felt stuck. I was so stuck that I actually journaled that day, which I’d like to do more of but rarely make the time to do. For whatever reason journaling felt appropriate and I followed through. Looking back I’m fairly certain it did actually help.
Part of the mental rut I was in had to do with a lack of reading, or maybe learning. It's funny, when I’m in a habit of reading and learning, I can feel my brain making connection after connection and tying ideas and concepts together. With all that I was dealing with back during the move, I didn’t have the time or desire and I could sense the loss of those connections. From my journal entry “I need to start reading again because my brain is feeling stale.” Sage advice.
After that journal entry a few months ago, the first book I jumped into was Atomic Habits by James Clear, and I’m really glad I did.
I enjoy taking concepts unrelated to the RIA industry and making connections back to the business. I actually think getting outside perspective or ideas is the best way to improve oneself or your business. One such concept from Atomic Habits that would hit any financial planner over the proverbial head came from a section titled “Forget about Goals, Focus on Systems Instead.” Such a straightforward concept, yet oftentimes so incredibly hard to implement.
For the advisors out there, you know how much of our professional life is spent talking about goals. One of the staples in financial planning software is “goals-based planning.” If goals are not brought up in the initial meeting with a prospective client, it's almost certainly brought up in the 2nd initial or their first meeting as a qualified client. From that point forward, there may not be a meeting that goes by that doesn’t focus on goals.
While setting goals seems to be the focus of many of our conversations, it's our impact guiding clients through the journey to get there that’s most important. Directing our own (and our clients) attention to the process and systems to get there is what helps solidify the success of our relationships. Adam Grant would tell you to focus less on the goal and more on your system. Again, sometimes easier said than done.
Looking back on that day two months ago, why was the journal entry so powerful and how did it get me to this point? Part of my journal entry was all about systems in my daily life - the goals I had set were lofty and certainly attainable, but I wasn’t getting there without the systems. This blog and site are part of that system. Reading more was part of my system. Connecting more with friends and colleagues was part of that system.
I've realized how important the small things, the systems, are to my everyday life. The positive impact it's had on me with the end goal not even being in focus - and that's a good thing. To help lead clients in this direction is now part of my work. I think it always has been, but with even greater focus and emphasis moving forward.
Written by: Ryan Bouchey