Are You Happy in Your Practice? What Would Arlene Say?

11 min read
November 08, 2018

Are you happy in your practice?

This might feel like a loaded question for some XYPN members. Is a business owner ever truly 100% happy? Probably not. There’s always a little bit of fear, or worry, or a looming “to-do” you have yet to knock out.

But, when you take a step back and look at your work, the question still stands: Are you happy with what you’ve grown here?

Most advisors I know will answer unequivocally yes. Being self-employed is a dream, they love their team (if they have a team), they love their clients, they adore the work they do, they’re generally fulfilled. Even when they feel stress creeping in, they’re still happy because they know the stress is only contributing to the growth of the business that they love.

But sometimes, the answer isn’t yes. Sometimes, as business owners, we aren’t happy. And you know what? That’s okay, too. Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. I know for me, personally, I got lonely as an entrepreneur. I loved my clients, and I loved the work I was doing, but I didn’t love the “admin” oriented tasks of being a business owner. I missed having a bigger team to collaborate and grow with. That’s when I found my home at XY Planning Network!

If you’re not feeling happy in your practice, we have a problem. That problem has two solutions:

  1. Evaluate whether entrepreneurship is something that will continue to bring you joy, and if it’s not, find a team to plug into and start living it up in your newfound happy place!
  2. Evaluate why you’re not happy right now in your practice, then get cracking to fix the problem. 

Let’s start by talking about “happiness” as a definable goal. What does that look like?

What Makes You Happy?

What does it mean to be happy? Honestly, the answer will be be different for every single person reading this right now. The key is determining what happy looks like for you, then figuring out what factors in your day-to-day influence that happiness level.

The way I see it, happiness can be broken down into three different categories:

  1. Feeling fulfilled by how you spend your time.
  2. Feeling fulfilled by your personal relationships.
  3. Taking care of yourself.

Where Do You Spend Your Time?

The first “Happiness KPI” I recommend clients track is where they’re spending their time, and whether or not those activities make them happy. As a business owner, this might mean tracking your daily tasks using a resource like Toggl, then determining which of those tasks you like and don’t like. This is going to be different for every person, and there’s no “right” answer.

For example, you may love client meetings. They may fill your heart with so much joy you just want to spend all afternoon celebrating the great conversations you’ve had. However, that may not be you. You may find client calls really overwhelming, and you prefer working on the actual financial planning portion of your business. That’s okay, too! Figuring out what you like (and what you don’t like) can help you adjust your schedule to be “happier” each day in your practice. If you love client interactions, consider outsourcing your non-client-facing tasks (to a paraplanner, assistant, or marketer). If you don’t love client interactions, try rethinking your calendar to meet with clients less, or to “lump” client meetings together so you can spend the majority of your time doing the work you actually love and knock out the overwhelming client interactions in one fell swoop.

However, “time spent” also applies to non-work activities. How are you spending your time outside of the office? Are you still checking email? Are you sitting like a bump on a log in front of Netflix for hours on end? Make sure that you’re filling your time with plenty of rest and relaxation and the activities that fill up your cup. For me, this looks like biking, visiting with family, travelling with my husband, Jay, and saying “hey” to my favorite baristas at my local Starbucks. It’s tempting to pull into your shell after a long day (or week, or month, or year) - but guess what? That’s not going to help you feel more fulfilled and happy. Push yourself to do the things you love, even when it’s easier not to.

How Are Your Relationships? 

As business owners, it’s easy to get caught up in work. I can’t tell you how many times I have to remind my clients that calling to check in with their family and friends, or blocking off time for a dinner date with their spouse is equally important to getting client work done. In fact, it might even be more important. Don’t sacrifice your personal relationships for your work! Make sure you’re spending the time and energy they require to maintain communication and don’t forget to ask for what you need! If you’re feeling lonely, ask your spouse for some focused quality time doing a shared hobby like hiking, biking, or even wine tasting. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask friends if they have fifteen minutes for you to call and vent, or ask for advice. Maintain those connections - they’ll get you through so, so much in your lifetime.

Taking Care Of Yourself 

Have you gone for a walk recently? When was the last time you ate a meal that included a vegetable or wasn’t from a restaurant? Are you drinking enough water, taking your vitamins, or getting some sunshine and fresh air every day? Taking care of yourself is a huge must for any business owner, and it can massively influence your happiness levels. I recommend making a quick to do list each day with five easy things that will help you take care of yourself. They can be as simple as you need to make them. Here are a few ideas:

  • Go for a walk outside
  • Hit the gym
  • Drink enough water
  • Make yourself a cup of tea
  • Take the afternoon off and breathe
  • Journal
  • Do some stretching (or yoga, if you prefer!)
  • Play with your pets at home
  • Change into your pj’s early and watch your favorite movie with your family
  • Take your spouse out on a date
  • Meal prep healthy dinners ahead of a busy week
  • Meditate for five minutes
  • Dress for your day
  • Think positively about your life and who you are
  • Say words of affirmation to yourself in the mirror

Let’s take this a step further. Sometimes taking care of yourself is more than a ten-minute walk and a healthy meal. Sometimes we have to do the hard work and dig a little deeper. If you don’t feel happy or aren’t sure why you’re in a bit of a funk (at work or otherwise), it’s okay to seek out therapy. In fact, I recommend it! Therapy is awesome, and the stigma we have around mental health is not okay. If you think that talking through some of your stress and anxiety or even working toward discovering what, exactly, will make you happier in the day-to-day - find a therapist or counselor near you. Make your first appointment. It takes a lot of bravery to take that leap, but it’s so worth it because you’re worth it.

Happiness as a KPI

How do you track happiness as something concrete? This can be really tough, especially because as business owners we’re geared toward viewing KPIs as actionable “to do’s” we’re checking off the list, or goals we’re meeting. I’m going to challenge you to think outside of the box here - happiness can and should be a goal, and you need to be tracking your progress toward achieving it.

This can look a lot of different ways. You can track how many times you’ve been to the gym in a given week. Do a daily “check in” to uncover how you’re feeling physically, and what you might need during the day. Monitor how you feel after each activity, and manage your tasks and calendar accordingly.

However, tracking happiness as a KPI might be even more actionable for you! Maybe you’re working to have more take home pay, or work fewer hours in a given week. Track your progress toward those goals! Work on defining why they’ll make you happy (for example - how will you and your family use the funds if you give yourself a raise?), then go after them. If you find that they’re not making you happy anymore, move the goal posts, and refocus on what will make you happier in your practice.

Why Aren’t You Happy In Your Practice?

If you already know what’s going to make you a happy camper in life and in business, that’s great! Good for you. However, a lot of us are significantly less sure about our own happiness - let alone why we’re not happy in our work! If you aren’t feeling happy in your financial planning practice, it might be time to evaluate why.

Are You Lonely?

It’s totally okay to be a little bit lonely sometimes! Figuring out how to be less lonely might make a huge impact on your happiness levels. You might look for full-time team members, contractors who act as part-time “team members”, or join a study group for some more interpersonal interaction.

Are You Spending Time On Tasks You Dislike?

If you’re doing business-owner-tasks that you hate - stop doing those tasks. Outsource when you can, or rework your service offering to do less of what you don’t like.

Are You Comparing Too Much?

It’s all too common for financial planners to get caught in the comparison trap. Remember - when we’re living in an “Instagram World” we only see the highlight reel of everyone else’s life. We only see their biggest, brightest, shiniest moments. All too often, when we compare ourselves to others, we start to feel bad about the amazing accomplishments we’ve achieved because they’re not “as good” as someone else’s.

But is the person you’re comparing yourself to happy? Have they grown a financial planning practice in the same way you want to, or based on the same guiding values? Probably not. Everyone’s different. Every business owner is growing their own thing.

Are You Missing Your “Why”?

As soon as we get caught comparing our businesses to others and trying to emulate them, we miss our own “why” and are less fulfilled as a result. Stay in your lane, stop comparing yourself to other financial planners, and focus on the “why” that’s motivating you.

This might require a bit of introspection - and I recommend you take it seriously! Don’t one-and-done this task, make a point to circle back to it regularly as your “why” evolves with time. You might try journaling about the type of business you dream of building, or talking over your long-term vision and goals with a trusted friend, spouse, or colleague. By starting with your vision and mission you can really hold on to what you wanted to do and how that leads to happiness and success.

Are You Missing Goals?

If you’re not hitting your goals, you could be aiming for the wrong goals. That’s right - you might be setting yourself up for failure without even knowing it! If you’re working toward goals that aren’t bringing you joy, or are set in an arbitrary way, you might be in trouble (and feeling a lot less happy than you could be).

To start, start weighing some of the biggest business goals you have against what you actually want. Here are a few I help clients review relatively often:

  • Do I want to work at home or be in an office?
  • How many clients should I be signing each month/year?
  • How much time do I want to spend working?
  • How much money do I want to make per client?
  • What take home pay do I want to shoot for?
  • Do I want to manage people or fly solo?
  • What type of clients do I want to work with? 

A lot of times, the biggest “goal” that advisors “miss” is growth-related. All too often I have conversations with clients about how they signed 13 new clients last month - which is great! But you know what’s also great? Signing one $20k client who has a more complicated financial situation and is a joy to speak with in meetings. Don’t get stuck trying to hit growth goals that aren’t rooted in reality, or that aren’t actively contributing to your long-term vision. Sometimes “less but better” is a good mantra to keep in mind.

Honestly, I work on the smaller end of the industry, and so do most of my readers. I can tell you with certainty that there is success available without seeking $1B in AUM. However, there are also a lot of drawbacks to sticking with this “middle of the road” success level as a financial planner. Knowing what you’re getting into, and why, can make or break your practice (and how happy you are). Sometimes it means adjusting your expectation, and sometimes it means focusing on goals that aren’t related to top-line revenue growth.

Do you want to work with lovely clients who are a joy to speak with? Great, focus on that. Do you want to do one-time engagements with low-income clients to help get them back on track? Fantastic! Go for it!

Knowing what you’re doing and why can help you to start building a practice that makes you happy.

Are You Overwhelmed? 

We all experience overwhelm from time to time, and there’s not much we can do to avoid it. Sometimes knowing that overwhelm is coming is enough to help us stay calm and push through. Other times, we get stuck in a cycle of overwhelm and aren’t sure how to break out of it. If you’re feeling overwhelmed right now, take a moment to ask yourself why?

You might find that part of your business is overwhelming you, and easily come up with a solution to solve for the problem. For example, if you’re overwhelmed with prospect meetings, take fewer prospect meetings. Hire a VA to manage your calendar if you struggle saying “no” to people. However, if you’re overwhelmed because you’re not sure that you love what you’re doing with your practice, or where it’s growing to, you might need to take some time to truly evaluate what is going to make you happy as you continue to grow and move forward as a business owner. There are so many variables that you could possibly change or adjust to achieve a higher happiness level in your business, so taking a few hours (or weeks) to really think on this can help you to uncover some new, exciting ideas.

Once you determine why you aren’t happy in your practice, you’ll be able to move forward in developing more clear happiness KPIs to track, and set up some concrete steps to achieve a more fulfilling work life.

It’s Not Working: What Now?

If you feel like you’re banging your head against the wall and still can’t figure out how to “get happy” in your practice, it’s time to look outside of yourself. Connecting with an accountability partner, a study group, or a business coach can help you to start thinking outside of the box. Building a support network in work and in life is key to being able to balance what you think you want and need with an objective third party who can tell you whether or not they think you’re being honest with yourself, or actively pursuing things that will lead to the outcomes you’re looking for. It’s easy to get stuck in our own way when it comes to developing happiness as a business owner. Having someone who can lovingly kick your butt and nurture you simultaneously can make a huge difference!


About Arlene Moss, Executive Coach

Arlene gets a kick out of helping financial advisors get over being overwhelmed and take on their frustrations so their businesses soar. Arlene works to ensure XYPN members are able to help their clients prosper while creating a sustainable business model. Through XYPN Academy and one-on-one coaching, members get the support they need to grow their businesses and overcome the challenges that come their way.

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