We all need our cup filled, and that takes continual attention to and investing in ourselves the way we invest in others.
My colleague J.J. Peller, author of Attract Your Potential: Become the Best Version of Yourself & Achieve Your Biggest Goals Faster, said that to get to the next level in anything – including your career – you have to focus on developing yourself.
“That’s what’s going to allow us to become the kind of person that can create the results that we want so that we’re equipped, skilled and empowered with the mindset and the actual tactical skills to be able to execute in the way we want to execute,” he said in a recent episode of the Framework podcast.
Mike Erwin, co-author of Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude, advocates for solitude as a means to find the balance, courage and self-awareness to be the best leader you could be.
As advisors, you’re used to investing in others. You put so much emphasis on helping other people and always being a resource to your clients and team. But you also need to take time and attention to work on your own personal development – your mindset, self-talk and personal communication style – so you don’t get stale, lose focus and start feeling unfulfilled.
In our industry, we have a clear focus on the importance of professional development. But I like to emphasize the role that personal development plays in successful professional development. Working on yourself can help you bring out your best traits to be more effective with other people – whether it’s team members, COIs or clients. It also helps you bring something to the table in conversations and remain positive, energetic and happy.
My goal with this blog post is to help you understand tools and techniques for you to engage in personal development and lifelong learning as an avenue to being a better professional.
It All Starts with Your ‘Why’
If you’ve been around us long enough, you know that we’re huge proponents of Blueprinting – intentionally crafting your best future life. If you are unclear on your “why” for engaging in personal development, you can use the exercises in the Blueprinting Guide to help you figure it out.
Identifying, understanding and engaging in exploring your personal why is key to engaging in intentional personal development and learning.
If you’re not in the mood to download the Blueprinting Guide and go through it right this minute, do this simple exercise: Sit down and make a list of all the things that are most important to you in your life. Then, beside each one, put the percentage of time you spend on those things. This is an eye-opener for many people about how much time they’re not spending on the things that matter to them most.
You can also do a Balance Wheel exercise. In this exercise, you rate 1-10 how satisfied you are with each spoke of the balance wheel (which include things like education, home/environment, significant relationship, business, physical health and mental and emotional health, among others).
You can translate the results of this exercises into your personal why by taking the things you find are most important to you from the balance wheel and asking yourself, “What makes (improving family relationships, for example) important to me?” An answer might be, “If I have a stronger bond with my kids, I will feel like I’m a worthy contributor and can be a more confident advocate for people having challenges.”
Clarity on your “why” generates the inspiration and internal motivation to actually do something to improve whatever it is.
Develop the Annual Plan
After you’ve identified your why, develop an annual plan for your personal development goals and schedule time over the year to implement it. Many people I coach take an hour or two a week or schedule a day out of the office once a month to just get away and think. Some take a retreat once a year for time alone to journal or do their Blueprinting (which should be revisited regularly – life evolves!).
Scheduling is a must to make sure it happens. For example, one hour a week on Fridays for personal development. You can do anything with this hour that moves your development forward – whether it’s reading, coursework, mindfulness meditation, reflection or whatever you need.
Stay Sharp About Your Craft
The world is full of great content to help you stay sharp about your craft. Much of that content is free. Let’s take podcasts, for example. What interesting people in the industry and in the world have great podcasts that can enrich your life? I love The Tim Ferriss Show. His guests are diverse and inspiring, and listening to these interviews often stimulates my imagination about what I might do or learn next. It also gives me things I can share with other people and coaching clients.
You also need to surround yourself with others who are life-long learners and who promote a positive atmosphere where your personal development can thrive. Being surrounded by like-minded or equally driven (or maybe more driven) people – like in study groups, at conferences or in mastermind groups – can help you get clarity on your goals and help you progress in your life and professional journey. Associate with others whose positive traits you admire and want to assimilate.
If you want or need a partner in your development, hire a personal or professional business coach, preferably one accredited through the International Coaching Federation. The right coach for you can help you map out your priorities based on your personality and vision for your life and be a valuable thought partner to help you process your thoughts and get clear on next actions.
Watch Out for the Obstacles
A common obstacle in engaging in personal development is a hesitation to look internally at areas where you might need some work. It’s common to have blind spots or a lack of awareness about things other people might see in you that could hinder your ability to be a good listener, team member or leader (just a few examples). It’s also a common human instinct to resist hearing others’ feedback. Have courage. With truth comes clarity. With clarity comes the inspiration to work on yourself. The payoff is usually very worth it.
To conquer these obstacles, it helps to start by arming yourself with the right mindset. Mindfulness meditation is a very powerful and useful brain exercise. Your brain is like a muscle, and by practicing staying present in the moment, your self-awareness will become stronger. No matter what moment you’re in, you’ll find it easier to be present to watch your own behavior and reactions to things and observe the nuances of how people are reacting to you, among other benefits – like being more naturally emotionally steady in traffic, for example.
Another tip is to periodically ask your colleagues and managers, “How would you describe me?” or “What do you think my strengths are?” A great tip I learned from Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor is to ask co-workers or people you supervise, “Will you do me a favor? If you think of ways that would make it easier to work with me, will you tell me? I really would welcome your feedback.” Give others that permission. Then be gracious and consider their answers. Just be mindful to ask those whom you respect and whom you believe sincerely have your best interest and growth in mind.
Also, become aware of your self-talk. As you experience daily life and you come across challenges, take a minute and listen to what you’re saying to yourself in your head. For example, if you hear yourself saying, “I am no good at calling people out of the blue,” before picking up the phone, stop in that moment and restate to yourself, “I’m getting better all the time at reaching out.” Shape your own beliefs through repetition. It does work.
Lastly, squash any feelings of guilt for taking time to work on yourself – especially if you are used to putting other people’s time ahead of yours. This is all too easy to do when clients and family have many needs that never cease. But that can’t be an excuse. If you want anything left to give others, you must have courage to – at the very least – be with the guilt for a little while and do the self-work anyway.
Personal enrichment doesn’t have to be an all-consuming endeavor – just make it consistent and honor your own time.
Following these tips to improve your personal development quotient will help ensure you’re equipped to bring your best self to work and life situations. It will help you maintain a more positive outlook, generate new ideas, maintain healthy self-awareness and be more effective interacting with others.
As the late entrepreneur Jim Rohn said, “Success is not to be pursued; it is to be attracted by the person you become.”