Regular readers have heard me talk about the changes coming to our industry. You know them as well as I do. You also know that they are going to force a fair amount of change on us if we are to overcome the challenges and survive.

I’ve also talked about the great opportunities out there for producers/agencies who successfully make the transition. My hope is that you desire those same opportunities and have made the commitment to make them happen.

Desire is a great start, but you also have to have commitment

When doing something that is new to you, you have to prepare yourself to make that commitment - not just one time, but every single day.

Like a New Year’s resolution, it’s not what happens on January 1 that matters nearly as much as it is what happens the other 364 days. Let’s take a look at what I mean and how you can make it happen consistently.

Start by identifying your goal and be prepared to continually recommit to that goal. Now comes the hard part, and it is here where your previous successes are likely to become an obstacle.

Chances are you are as successful as you are because you have an unbelievable amount of willpower. Unfortunately, there is a natural limit as to how far you can get on pure willpower.

To move beyond that limit requires self-discipline.

When I first thought about these two driving forces, the line was blurry, at best. Upon further thought, here is how I now see the difference.

  • Willpower is a rather sudden and momentary burst of focused energy, while self-discipline is structured, well thought out and consistent.
  • Willpower, in the moment, is more tangible and seemingly more powerful. The reality is that the power of self-discipline dwarfs that of willpower.

If your goal were to lose 20 pounds, willpower would help you walk past that plate of donuts. Self-discipline would have you walking past them every single time. Willpower would have you getting up at 5:00 a.m. on January 2 to get to the gym. Self-discipline would have you getting up for the gym every day that follows.

If your goal were to grow your book of business, willpower would have you stopping to plan out your week in advance. Self-discipline would have you planning out every week in advance. Willpower would have you getting your pipeline full with great opportunities. Self-discipline would have you maintaining your pipeline at that full level.

Sustained success takes planning & practice

Again, I am certain you have a large amount of willpower, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that it will sustain your next level of success. Willpower can help you get anything accomplished once. Once is relatively easy, but it isn’t enough. Don’t let your ability to do anything once provide you a false sense of security.

Self-discipline isn’t natural for most of us and, left to our own devices, we won’t maintain it over time. Therefore, it is important to recognize that part of creating self-discipline starts with structure and, perhaps most importantly of all, includes making yourself voluntarily accountable to someone else. Without the support that comes with accountability, your likelihood of staying on track is minimal - at best.

Use the following five steps as a model to help you achieve the changes you desire.

  1. Desire – Clearly define (in as much detail as possible) what it is you want to change or achieve. Then write an affirmative, present-tense statement about what it is that you will be doing. For example, if you are guilty of sporadic prospecting, your daily reminder statement might look like this: “I set 5 new business appointments each week.” Then go do it.
  2. Commitment – Every day you get to choose how to spend your time. Commit yourself on a daily basis to your new action.
  3. Declaration of intent – Share your desire and commitment with someone else. Don’t just share your big picture commitment, share the weekly to do’s that are necessary for the big picture to become your reality.
  4. Accountability – Not only give permission to someone else to hold you accountable for staying focused, but set the expectation that they will call you out on inconsistent behaviors. Tell them up front that if they can’t do that for you, to let you know now so you can find someone else. Make the accountability as objective as possible. If you have specific “have to’s” for the week, be sure it is the follow through on these items for which you are accountable.
  5. Self-reporting – Your accountability partner can’t be watching all the time; you have to admit to your shortcomings. Be willing to go to your partner and confess, “I didn’t set any new appointments,” or “I’m struggling in (this) area. I need your help to get back on track.”

The challenges we’re facing in the benefits industry are not necessarily easy to overcome, but they are infinitely doable with the right plan, focus and self-discipline. You just have to ask yourself, “How badly do I want it?”

 

Photo by Eric E Castro