The beginning of a new year is always full of promise. For advisors, it’s a time when anything and everything is possible. It’s also a time, more than any other, when advisors are in search of the Holy Grail, the Magic Bullet, that certain “something” which might just provide them with a competitive edge in the New Year.
In 2015, I suggest you need not look any further than your first waking moments–also a time when anything and everything is possible. What does your morning ritual look like? Is it a ritual of success? Or does it essentially consist of rushing out the door late, with a bagel in your mouth? If it does, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate how you begin your day.
This year, challenge yourself to program your mind for success from the moment you wake up in the morning. Beginning your day with a success ritual rather than one of chaos will undoubtedly set a more positive tone for your entire day.
Rituals, in general give us a sense of control. This is particularly helpful to advisors who deal with world events, markets, clients and so much that’s out of their control on a daily basis. Rituals are comprised of a series of small, productive habits that can help build positive momentum at the start of your day. For maximum effectiveness, they should be conducted in the same place and at the same time every morning.
A success ritual is a very personal thing, and you must develop one that works for you. As in any new habit, consistency is of utmost importance. If you find yourself always running late, try a novel approach. Wake up an hour earlier. After all, what kind of day can you expect when you’re stressed out before you even walk in the office?
My intention in this article is to provide some basic raw materials you may use for building your own success ritual. What follows are some activities that have worked for my clients and for me. Ultimately, how you choose to invest this newly discovered hour in the morning is something you must determine for yourself. My use of the term “invest” rather than “spend” is intentional. This time is an investment in you and your success. Your time is the currency of your business and your life. Give careful consideration to what activities would contribute the most to your daily success and more importantly, in programming your mind to believe in your success.
After six to eight hours of sleep with no fluid intake, the body experiences some degree of dehydration, so the first order of business is to take care of your body. Drink a tall glass of water before you do anything else, even before indulging in that first cup of coffee. It’s estimated that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated and many medical experts consider a lack of water, the primary trigger of daytime fatigue. Some studies have shown that even a 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math and difficulty focusing. Avoid beginning your day tired and unfocused. Drink that glass of water.
It’s been my experience that even if you’re not a big water drinker, you’ll notice the benefits of that first glass of water more than any other of the day. It wakes your body up by giving it what it needs and your body reciprocates by feeling better. The point of your success ritual is success so give your mind and body every possible advantage.
Get Your Blood Pumping
It’s also important to get your blood pumping early. While you’re waiting for your coffee or immediately after having that first cup, take just five minutes to do some sort of very mild exercise. This can be as simple as doing a couple of stretches, touching your toes a few times, sit-ups, pushups, yoga—whatever you feel is the least objectionable method to get you moving and acclimated to a new day.
Don’t get too excited about your new five minute exercise routine. It’s not designed to replace your regular exercise program. In this five minutes, your only goal is to get your blood flowing early, whereas your regular exercise program is critical to your overall success. It builds confidence while improving your health at the same time. Remember, you can do anything for five minutes—even in the morning.
After you’ve hydrated your body and started your blood flowing, now it’s time to address the mental game. Virtually every challenge you face as an advisor is mental or emotional in nature and as everyone knows, attitude is everything. Just as professional athletes practice to get their body in the best possible shape for their sport, this is your time to practice getting your mind in the best possible shape to face whatever challenges the day may present.
Begin with silence. This can be in the form of meditation, prayer of just enjoying the quiet before your day begins. It’s all about what works for you. Unless you’re experienced in meditation, I’d suggest starting with just enjoying a period of calm and tranquility. Often, listening to some sort of instrumental music can help keep your mind from racing forward to all you must accomplish in the day ahead of you. Be sure to sit, rather than lounge so you don’t fall asleep.
It’s not so much what you do or even how effective it is in the beginning. It’s about developing the habit of giving your mind some calm, relaxing time before you start your day.
Another component you might consider for your success ritual is visualization. It is widely acknowledged by professional athletes, actors and other successful people as a critical tool for their success.
Many studies have been done on the power of visualization, the most widely-cited of which deals with basketball players practicing free throws. Three groups of players were studied. The first group practiced free throws. The second group visualized successfully sinking free throws and the third group did nothing. The results showed that the group that visualized doing free throws performed almost as well as the group that actually practiced them.
Many highly successful athletes and performers visualize their desired outcome over and over again before the big game or performance. You too, should consider making a habit of visualizing your desired outcome for the day. The important thing to remember about visualization is that you must use as many of your senses as possible to imagine the results you seek. It’s not enough to just see it in your mind’s eye. You must feel it, hear it and touch it as well. In other words visualize in HD.
Determining the “What” of Your Day
Success ritual time is a great time to consider writing down your three most critical goals for the day. These are tasks that you absolutely, unequivocally commit to accomplishing for the day.
Keep in mind, this is not a to-do list. By nature, a to-do-list is much more detailed and is about the “how” of your day. This is more big-picture goals or the “what” of your day. Condensing the “what” of your day down to just three tasks forces you to prioritize. Writing them down gives you clarity and significance.
If you are what you eat, what is your food for thought? Do you feed your mind positive, self-affirming and confidence-building material on a regular basis? It would be wise to feed it something positive or inspirational every morning even if it’s only for 15 minutes. This is your time to prepare your mind for success so this can be anything you want it to be—self-help, motivational, spiritual, a biography or memoir of someone you find interesting or inspiring. The only thing that matters is that you are inspired.
Building Your Success Ritual
This year, instead of starting your day with a rushed, hectic, business-as-usual, bagel-in-your-mouth kind of morning, replace the snooze button with your success ritual. Construct it with what you feel will work best in programming your mind for success. Some suggestions are:
- Exercise—not intended to be your full exercise program but rather something to get you moving and your blood pumping for the day
- Visualization—use as many senses as possible to make it real
- Writing down the day’s big-picture goals—the “what” of your day
Success Ritual Construction
- Begin by determining the length of time you wish to devote to your success programming each morning. 30-60 minutes is ideal.
- Figure out what time you must wake up each morning to make your success ritual a reality. Forget the snooze button exists.
- Decide where you’ll have your success ritual. Pick a quiet place where you can be completely alone. It should be comfortable but not so comfortable that you fall asleep.
- If reading is a part of your ritual, know what you’re going to read and have it waiting for you next to your “success chair.”
- Have a notebook and pen waiting for you as well. You’ll need this not only for writing down the “what” of your day but also for ideas and flashes of inspiration.
Success is not something elite advisors leave to chance. It’s something they prepare for every morning. This year, take control of your mornings and start living your elite potential.