Recently I ran a marathon, the first in my life. After running 35 of the 42 kilometres I had to stop running and walk the final stage. After months of research, hard training and eating right, I can’t tell you how disappointed my “failure” made me feel. Especially since my goal had been to run it in the 3.5 hours I’d told friends, clients and family I’d do it in. (I actually took 4 hours 20 mins.) On reflection after the event I started to realise I’d learnt some things by "not" reaching my goal.
You see, until about 5 years ago I didn’t have any specific health goals. Like many of us I saw my health as a given, and took it for granted. In fact I didn’t seem to notice any part of my health deteriorating, as it is always such a slow decline I just couldn’t see the changes taking place. It wasn’t until I’d see friends I had not seen for several years that I’d note their comments, ‘Gee Adam, you’ve really let yourself go’ or worse they’d affectionately pat my growing stomach! ☺ Each time this would annoy me enough to motivate me into doing something about it. But as always a busy career and growing family had me too often avoiding my exercise program using the great excuse that I didn’t have time.
One day my sister arranged a personal training session for me and at this session we all found out how unfit I truly was. My sister thought it was the right time to help me out and thankfully, as an early birthday present, she entered me in a distance running race against her to spur me toward greater health. This taught me what having a health goal was really like. From there I learned that with a health goal I was motivated to get fit, and without one I was clearly not.
It was then I realised that Step No 1 to anything is…‘Have a goal!’.
Putting it bluntly, the marathon I ran late last year was one of the worst outcomes I’d had with any goal I have set in life. On reflection in the lead up, it was like starting out on any investment journey: there were mounds of conflicting opinions; books to read with different approaches; people I knew who spoke about their varying experiences. Each of these things added more information for me to reflect on, but none necessarily improved my ability to decide. Eventually I just decided that regardless of the information, I needed to choose and draw up a plan of action based on what I felt was best fit. Thanks to that plan of action, I was pretty confident I had a structured approach to training and diet that I could do. As a result during the training:
- I was highly motivated to train – I wasn’t distracted by other things, as I knew what I was doing could work;
- I made better food choices – I knew what inputs there were to the plan to ensure success;
- I was worried less about my health and was doing something to improve it – being so busy I had little time to worry; and
- I was easy to be around – I was busy getting the training job done and didn’t "sweat the small stuff".
Even with a well laid-out plan and executing the training, I still managed to undo all my good work on race day with a poorly executed race plan – I went out too fast at the start, ate too much simple sugars and ended up cramping.
Even though my plan was not fully executed, the above proved a great tool to keep me motivated, focussed and attendant to the goal. My plan worked in that I finished the race. The outcome was a lesson on my need to sharpen the plan to include a strict race day plan and next time I am sure to do better!.
So step No 2 is ‘Just do a well-researched plan, right now and stick to it! – there will always be room for improvement later’.
As I write this, my wife Sarah is very pregnant, and has had to stop using her personal trainer. In her last few weeks of training she felt it would be great if I went to her personal trainer to see what I thought. Over the past few weeks of going to the trainer I have been treated precisely how a good coach should treat every client. Their approach was a mimic of what a good financial adviser should do.
Firstly, they looked at my current position and asked me where I would like to be – my goal – and noted down the gaps between where I am currently and where I’d like to be. Second, they analysed the barriers to change that I had and my habits that could impede the achievement of my goal(s), then set in place short term goals to help me overcome these, and finally put in place a monitoring system for keeping track of my progress.
Over the last few weeks since being on their program, I have eaten better, exercised more and lost some weight which all contribute to the goal I have. So having a coach has meant I am more focussed on my target, I am accountable to both be in the gym and watch my diet. With all that I am driven to succeed by both external and internal factors which a good coach helps me focus on.
So Step No 3 to success is ‘Have a good coach for achieving your goals!’
These three lessons are some of the most important that I have come across since starting out over 12 years ago in financial planning. No matter how experienced a person is, if you don’t have a goal, a well defined plan on how to achieve that goal and a "coach, mentor" or whatever you want to call them to keep you honest and accountable to your goal, you are unlikely to get there. For my first marathon, I had the goal and the plan but not the coach. I didn’t quite reach the goal but I did better overall than if I’d had done nothing. Now with the coach, I am determined I will reach my goal this time. How about you?
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