Irrational fears can distract you and clients from reaching achievable goals.

Some time ago, when I worked at Merrill Lynch, the insurance specialist there was known for being as direct as they come. And when the financial consultants would express fears about some new way of handling a client situation or building the clientele, he would retort, "Listen, in 100 years we'll all be dead anyway."

That was his way of asking why you'd let your fear hold you back. Sure, you may face a difficult situation, and it might be uncomfortable, and you could even make a complete fool of yourself, but 100 years from now, no one's gonna care about any of that-and why should you waste any time or energy on it now? In the grand scheme of things, what someone else thinks of you is pretty low on the importance scale.

Plus this kind of fear is pretty irrational. Nonetheless it can keep you from doing the necessary work to achieve your goals, for the reasons that are important to you. So how do you get beyond it?

You need to identify something you want, something riveting, something way more compelling than whatever fear you have (rejection, failure, etc.). Scientists, psychologists and personal development experts alike confirm that most of us will do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure, so you have to discover something that gives you double or even triple the incentive, so it can dwarf the force your fear exerts. You need an 800-pound gorilla on your side, so that niggling doubts, petty concerns or other excuses for not getting the job done are sent scurrying into whatever dark corner of your mind they emerged from.

One of the tools I use when I'm coaching financial professionals is (and it should be no surprise to you) one of the same tools I teach them to use with their clients: a Success Road Map. This is a visual representation of what is important to them (their core values), and goals, laid out in a map design. To create it, a person must answer some serious questions ("What's important about success to me?" is just one), and then come up with focused goals and specific dates for their completion. Of course, this leads to creation of the strategy-but it's not the strategy that will keep them going when they'd really rather not; it's what's important to them, their core values and goals.

Maybe it should go without saying, but it can't: These values and goals are the only reason to follow the strategy. Not the brilliance of the methods. Not because someone else achieved their life's dream with it. Not because your wife or your husband or your supervisor will be really ticked off if you don't reach your production goals this quarter.

The only thing that will motivate you to stick with your plan-with making the follow-up phone calls, with doing the progress reviews for your existing clients, with continuing your own education, with implementing new office systems, with doing whatever you have decided will get you where you want to go-is what's important to you.

Setting aside the question of motivation for a moment, the other excellent reason to create your own financial and business strategy, and to represent it on a colorful map for regular reference and inspiration, is that this is what you counsel your clients to do. It's an integrity issue. To improve your physical fitness, you wouldn't consult a lazy, flabby personal trainer. Nor would you be inclined to seek spiritual guidance from someone who seemed stressed out and turned off on life. Likewise, you can't expect your clients to take you seriously if you don't have your own financial house in order. I wish they made this part of every licensing exam for advisors.

So many advisors I meet are struggling with their own lives. Being smart is not enough. Having a good method is not enough.

After all, you probably already acknowledge and may even tell your clients that the point is not to achieve a certain percentage ("I want to get 9% on my money," or "I want to beat the S&P 500")-that's not a real or even realistic goal. The real goals are sending kids to college, buying the boat, taking vacations, being able to retire. You've probably already learned that as long as clients get those things, they don't care about the return. Instead, the point is to help clients' money contribute to them having great life.

Most clients worth having expect you to be actualizing your dreams, too, to be following your own advice. So use the same motivating tool with yourself as you do with your clients: identify what's important to you, define specific goals and set deadlines, map out a strategy and then follow the strategy so you can get from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow.

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