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Article 6 - Overcoming The Action Gap:

Article 6 - Overcoming The Action Gap:

  • Monday 02 December 2019



In my last article I talked about the ‘Action Gap’ most of us experience when the challenge of actually implementing advice we receive comes to the fore. In this article I explore how dedication and discipline can come from unlikely sources, but how our goals are much more likely to be achieved when they do.

I was speaking with one of my clients last week and we stumbled on a very interesting insight that I think fits perfectly with where I’ve been going through in this series on Redefining your Financial Future.

Tom owns a chain of gyms and has a background in personal fitness, so it’s very interesting to see how his experiences working with clients mirrors my own. I’ve previously mentioned that I feel our service is far more akin to other personal development areas – career guidance, nutrition and fitness for example – than ‘knowledge based’ advice like legal and accounting.

The reason for this is clear. In reality, most of us intuitively know what we need to do to improve our circumstances – the challenge is overcoming our own barriers to do it.

This improvement can mean eating healthier, getting fitter or saving money. Sure you might need some pointers in the right direction but the challenge is much more about ongoing motivation and discipline than anything else.

I asked Tom if he had any anecdotal evidence that might point to certain patterns in behaviour when it comes to people succeeding or failing in their fitness goals and what he told me was so insightful that we’re actually changing the way we speak with clients now as a result

What Wedding Planning Can Teach Us.

I first asked him who his most ‘successful’ customers were –those who reached their goals on time and then, mostly, maintained their behaviour.

‘Pre-Wedding Clients’ he said, deadpan.

He laughed when he saw my confusion turn to recognition. ‘It’s simple’, he continued, ‘they will set themselves a goal with a couple of key metrics that are fixed – target date (their wedding day), schedule and outcome (dress size, weight or some other goal). They have committed to the process by booking the hotel/church, by sending invites to friends and family and buying the outfit they plan to wear. If they miss some sessions with me, they’ll make up for it later, but they are always able to keep focus on their target, even when they’ve a million other things to be thinking about’

Surely, I thought, they would revert to previous behaviours afterwards? ‘Some do’, he said, ‘but most have hard-wired in the habit, not to mention how they feel as a result, and will keep it going’.

I asked if this was the same for other events – summer holidays for example? ‘Not really. Summer Holidays happen every year and while people will try to get ‘beach ready’, most don’t make any significant changes. Not like for your Wedding Days’.

Personal Goals = Focus

This resonated so much with me that I had to sit down and pick it apart some more. My own experience is that concepts like ‘Retirement’ or ‘Savings’ are far too vague and lacking in meaning to act as a real incentive to change. Instead we need real world goals that are genuinely impactful and emotionally connected so we’ll give them the same levels of focus as our Bride/Groom-To-Be does with their fitness programme.

‘Retirement Fund’ or ‘Trip of a Lifetime’

Often the key is simply in the name. Following Tom’s conversation I met with some clients who were wondering about retirement funding. Old enough to appreciate the need but still young enough to put it on the ‘long finger’, I was struggling to motivate them to make the necessary sacrifices to their current cash-flow to provide for their future.

I decided to take a leaf out of Tom’s book. ‘What’s the one thing you’d love to do as a couple?’ I asked. Almost immediately I got a chorus of ‘Go on a Lion’s Tour’, which was unsurprising as these were massive rugby fans. Lion’s Tours (where a team of Irish & UK rugby players visit one of New Zealand, Australia or South Africa every four years) is a regular ‘bucket-list’ trip among clients that we meet, but strangely we’d never put it formally down as a financial goal.

This time we did. Not only did we create an actual goal in their Financial Plan, we also created a dedicated ‘pot’ into which a portion of their savings would be ring-fenced. Every time we meet we’ll see how close we are to filling this pot and having enough for the trip. We know when it is, the target date, and what the cost will be, the target fund, which makes it much easier to measure our progress.

We expanded this across their full Financial Plan and they now have a number of ‘Purpose Pots’ for future purchases, experiences and other spending needs they will have. They feel much more closely connected to their plan now and look forward to progress reports as we move forward together.

In my next article I’ll talk about identifying real, personal Financial Goals and creating Purpose Pots. The New Year is always an excellent time to work on personal development so give us a call and we’ll arrange a consultation to get started.


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