Cannon Financial Institute

Breaking Bad Habits

A conversation with Linda Eaton, Executive Vice-President and practice management expert, Cannon Financial Institute.

 “We are creatures of habit,” said Cannon EVP and practice management expert, Linda Eaton. “We have all heard this phrase many times because it expresses a fundamental truth of human nature: our habits have a powerful hold over us.”

Neuroscientists have discovered that we exhibit behavior governed by habit and as well as goal-directed behavior. In a recent study conducted at the University of California* scientists discovered that when our brains are functioning effectively we will switch back and forth between habitual behavior and goal directed behavior without difficulty. The example they use is how we can go on “autopilot” during the drive home from our place of work. This is habitual behavior. However, at the end of a day if we need to drive from our office to a meet with clients at their home, our minds immediately switch to goal directed behavior.

There are situations which occur when our brain does not make this switch easily.  For many FAs, a pattern of “mixed up switching” reveals itself when we are prospecting. Through repeated avoidance behavior and negative self-talk, we don’t develop the habit of asking for introductions. Often we develop the opposite and never ask for introductions. Unfortunately, this behavior hinders our attempts to grow our practice, and often reinforces the negativity we associate with asking for referrals.

We make promises to ourselves to prospect, don’t keep them, and we harvest little but guilt.  Failed again, we tell ourselves. Who wants to hear this kind of self-talk? We feel guilty about too much in our lives already. Often we create the classic “negative self-fulfilling prophecy” by telling ourselves, almost yelling at ourselves, that we will create our own strategic prospecting and program and this time we will do it.

We start out with great determination, which quickly fades, because we try and change too much at one time.  Or we set impractical goals which we don’t meet or can’t meet. Alas, this can cause us to avoid prospecting even more because we have disappointed ourselves. None of us like this feeling. Yet all of us have a lifetime of disappointing ourselves and moving on from it. But there are certain memories of failure we seem to hang onto. One of these is a list of the many times we tried to ignite a prospecting fire within us only to generate just a little bit of smoke.

FAs often come to feel they have dug themselves into a hole so deep they can’t get out of it.  So, we asked Linda, what can be done to make a change without giving up? How do we make a rational effort to turn this around? 

 “Action can change our bad habits to good habits over time. That’s the key. You aren’t going to change a bad habit all at once. You also need to remember that as FAs, part of the job is prospecting. A good way to begin without negativity is to begin with setting an easy referral goal. If you haven’t asked anyone for a referral in a long time, then begin with a goal of asking for one a month. If you have been in a rut of never asking, then asking once a month is significant progress.  The most critical change you will want to make is to count every ASK as a success. Track your progress in writing by noting the date and who you asked.  Just about every FA has experienced the situation in which you ask for a referral, client declines and then, six or twelve or twenty-four months later, they refer you to someone.  You can achieve success in prospecting if you remember that your job is to ask for referrals and you measure success by the number of times you ask for a referral and not the result of those referrals.”

To learn more about this topic, register for our Certified Wealth Strategist program of study.

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Contributing Writer: Subject Matter Expert Charles McCain


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