Have you ever considered why you want to be a financial planner in the first place?
Ask financial planners what they want in their profession, and meaningfulness mostly comes along. And financial planners are not the only ones who yearn for this. Americans have ranked purpose as their top priority – above promotions, income and job security.
But why is that? Why do we want to do meaningful work?
If there’s one thing I know from speaking and working with financial planners it’s this: nobody sets out to be average or mediocre.
In fact, what planners want to be is exactly the opposite. As soon as we open our eyes every morning, what we want most is to matter, to live a life and to do work that has meaning.
Does Being Meaningful Makes Us Happy?
According to a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, Jennifer Aaker of Stanford Graduate School of Business found out that while lives of meaningfulness and happiness overlap, they are distinctly different.
1. Getting What You Want and Need
While satisfying desires was a reliable source of happiness, it had nothing to do with a sense of meaning.
For example, financial planners who are more successful (in the sense of money) are happier than less succesful planners, but the lives of the less successful planners do not lack meaning.
2. Past, present and future
Happiness is about the present, and meaning is about linking the past, present and future. When people spend time thinking about the future or past, the more meaningful, and less happy, their lives become. On the other hand, if people think about the here and now, they are happier.
So, even talking about your client’s future financial goals is meaningful!
3. Social life
Connections to other people are important both for meaning and happiness. However, deep relationships – such as family – increase meaning, while spending time with friends may increase happiness but had little effect on meaning.
How deep are your relationships with your clients?
4. Struggles and stresses
Higly meaningful lives encounter lots of negative events and issues, which can result in unhappiness. Raising children can be joyful, but it is also connected to high stress – thus meaningfulness – and not always happiness.
Times are tough right now for financial planners, because of distrust and the tsunami of regulation in our industry. However, don’t forget that your job contributes to being meaningful.
5. Self and personal identity
If happiness is about getting what you want, then meaningfulness is about expressing and defining yourself. A life of meaning is more deeply tied to a valued sense of self and one’s purpose in the larger context of life and community.
So, may I ask you this question:
Does your financial planning service really matter?
What Makes Financial Planning Meaningful
To find out what makes your work more meaningful, it’s important to understand (and to avoid) what makes your work meaningless.
It turns out that we struggle to find meaning when we lack autonomy, variety, challenge, performance feedback and the chance to work on a whole service from start to finish.
However, as important as these factors are, though, there’s another that matters more:
It’s the lack of having a significant, lasting impact on other people
Hmmm, but is the job of the financial planner really designed to have a major impact on people?
For example, we aren’t neurosurgeons who saves lives. We aren’t teachers who teaches how to read.
So How Can You Increase Your Impact On Your Clients?
Here’s a question for you: how did a photograph drive radiologists to improve the accuracy of their diagnostic findings by 46%?
Another question: how did a five-minute meeting motivate university fundraisers increase their weekly productivity by 400%?
It’s not the manager or the amazing speech. No, it’s the end user.
In case of the radiologist a simple photograph of a patient they had never met, inspired them to read x-rays more accurately. A brief visit from a student who had received a scholarship, motivated the fundraiser to increase their efforts.
It turns out that end users (your clients) are surprisingly effective in motivating you to work harder, smarter and more productively.
So, I hear you think:
“But Ronald, we are serving end users. Our clients are our end users!”
That’s right. But are you really serving the end user, or is there something else going on right now?
You see, regulation has quite some influence in our world today. The effect is that we are following the rules, overlooking the fact that we still can take the initiative to alter our role.
Just as hospital cleaners – who lack patient contact – stepped up to provide emotional support to patients and their families.
Just as technology associates began volunteering for mentoring, teaching, and training roles.
But how are you going to alter your role? How are you going to be meaningful?
I think the secret lies in our right-brain potential. Yes, it’s necessary to continue our left brain work. But how important is it to develop our right brain potential?
It’s time to master aptitudes that are attributable to the right-brain, because the right-brain is in charge of making the end user feel. Aptitudes such as storytelling, design, building relationships, empathy, play and building rapport.
Lots of planners assume that the most valuable data is static and still lives on graphs and in spreadsheets. Turning to the graphs first, last and always to get to know your clients, is like looking at a child’s development purely on a growth chart.
You’re definitely not getting the whole picture doing that.
While planners have been busy analysing the data for more information, we’ve forgotten that what we wanted all along was the insight. It turns out that the truth of what we need to know, and the questions we might not have understood we needed to ask – some of the most valuable data, is on the other side of the table.
To deliver a financial planning service that matters to the world, is not just to absorb information, but to make meaning from it.
And what about your reward for doing that? Well, just maybe:
Happiness is the reward you get for living on a purpose…
Now, I’m going to help you to become more meaningful to your clients. Not by telling you what you should do. No, by telling you how your client sees you as a meaningful financial planner, to them.
All I would like to ask you is this:
What Keeps You From Doing What You’re Supposed To Do?
Please leave your answer by giving a comment – below – and you’ll be redirected to the page where you can download the free PDF with the 10 Characteristics of Meaningful Financial Planners.
Thank you very much.
To Your Success,