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Are you going nowhere? Or are you going, and know where?

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Friday June 28, 2013 at 12:11pm

If you don’t know where you are going how do you know when you have arrived? Most of us have plans of some sort but action is needed if those plans are ever to be realised. Inaction may occur for quite subtle reasons. This may be because the plans and goals we think we should have do not fit with our own core values, in other words they are the wrong goals for us. It may be that we simply can’t figure out what we need to do to achieve the goal or plan. It may be that we are afraid to go it alone and contradict what others would want or expect from us.

Our role in advising clients has led us to realise that there is much psychology involved in getting people to change. Failure to understand this will leave those involved frustrated and confused. So here are a few of the more subtle reasons why people struggle with change.

1. People will behave in accordance with their core values over the medium to long term.

All of us have internal personal values that we use to guide the important decisions we make. So when making plans it is important to understand what these values are. In his book The Chimp Paradox, Dr Steve Peters (psychology coach to the British cycling team) describes the concept of the stones of life, for me they break down as follows:

Truths of Life: Life’s not fair, the goal posts do move, there are no guarantees. Life is about the people you meet, it's how you deal with things and not what happens that defines you.

Life Values: family and friends are fundamental to living a happy life, be clear about where your boundaries lie and transgress them at your peril, always be open to new things and people.

Life force: (best defined as the advice you would give on your death bed to your great, great grandchild). Don’t forget none of us get out alive in the end so don’t waste even a day.

So, if you are struggling with change ask yourself if you are expecting your new behaviour or actions to be contrary to your personal core values.

2. Be clear about the actions needed to achieve the plan or goal

One technique for flushing out the essential actions to achieve your goals is to project your mind to the future when you should have achieved the goal. Then act like you have not achieved it. The frustration will hopefully be followed with thoughts of what behaviour and actions you should have done to fulfil the goal, all those “if only” thoughts are the crucial steps you need to take. Next, project your mind forward and assume you have achieved the goal. Then think why you achieved it, hopefully this will give you more actions that will help in reaching the goal.

3. Make your own choices, be selfish

Plenty of people are prepared to allow others to run their lives for them by telling them what to do. The pain, anguish and resentment this causes is incalculable. So in the context of being able to help others (assuming that is what you wish to do) then you need to get your own act together first. So, setting your own goals and achieving them isn’t selfish in a negative sense but selfish in the most positive way. Having the right (selfish) attitude to your plans will allow you to develop the behaviours that lead to the plan being achieved.

4. Try the following the SMARTER acronym for goal setting

Make sure all of your goals are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Based, Enjoyable and provide a Reward at the end.

Much of our client work is spent solving financial problems. Often the solution involves change and coming to terms with this change is essential if there is going to be any action. Following the approach suggested above certainly helps change happen and see results achieved more quickly.

Andy Parker
Chartered Accountant and Business Advisor, Birmingham

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Parker Chartered Accountants and Financial Advisors is the trading name for PLW Advisors Ltd (Registered No. 10396831), and Parker Financial Planning LLP (Registered No. OC347027). Parker Financial Planning LLP is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. All companies are registered in England and Wales – registered office contact details here