Four common mistakes to avoid

Sometimes financial advisors — and even top performers — engage in self-sabotaging thought patterns and behaviours, says Larry Distillio, assistant vice-president of practice management at Mackenzie Investments in Toronto.

“Our thoughts create our emotions and then our emotions create our behaviours,” Distillio says. If your behaviours happen to be self-sabotaging, they will then reinforce negative thoughts, creating a vicious cycle.

These thoughts can be difficult to stop. “We tend to have what I call a ‘gremlin’ that sits on our shoulder [and acts as] our internal chatterbox,” Distillio says. “Self-awareness is often the first step toward shifting your perspective.”

Below are examples of negative thought patterns or cognitive distortions that can prevent you from reaching your goals:

> Over-generalization
Using terms such as “always” and “never” — a form of over-generalizing — can lead to avoidance, Distillio says.

For example, if you say, “High net-worth clients never want to work with me,” you might avoid trying to meet high net-worth prospects.

As a solution, simply replace words such as “always” and “never” with the words “occasionally” and “sometimes.”

> Mental filtering
Finding a single negative detail and dwelling on it exclusively, also known as mental filtering, can cast a negative light on positive accomplishments.

“Let’s say you make ten prospecting calls; eight were good and two were bad,” Distillio says. “You focus on the two, filtering out all of the good calls.”

Mental filtering leads you to reject any positive experiences by insisting that they don’t count, Distillio adds.

> Black-and-white thinking
An all-or-nothing thought pattern, or black-and-white thinking, can prevent you from acknowledging a positive situation.

For example, you set a target of generating 20 leads within a specific time, but generate only 10. If you use black-and-white thinking, you will consider yourself a failure instead of relishing the 10 potential client relationships you might have created.

Black-and-white thinking creates pressure and stress, Distillio says.

> Jumping to conclusions
If you’re trying to attract a prospect but he or she doesn’t return your phone calls, you might jump to the conclusion that they don’t want to work with you, Distillio says.

Try not to “mind read” or “fortune tell,” Distillio says. It may turn out that the prospect is just busy.

Jumping to conclusions is common, he adds: “We don’t have proof as to what the real situation is so the mind will lie to us on a regular basis.”

> Emotional Reasoning

“I feel it, therefore it must be true,” is a misleading thought pattern than can prevent you from putting forth your best effort.

For example, if you are in a client meeting and you get the feeling that what you are saying is not resonating with the client, you might rush through the meeting and neglect some important details. That lack of thoroughness could compromise your commitment to excellent client communication and jeopardize your relationship with that client.

> “Should” statements
Repeating the phrase “I should have” or “I could have” can bring chronic stress and guilt, Distillio says.

“Guilt is an immobilizing emotion that takes us away from what we can be doing right now,” Distillio says.

Applying “should” to other people — as in “My assistant should have done this” — is no better. It only builds resentment.

Instead, if an error has been made, focus on what positive action you can take to rectify it.

> Personalization
If you take it as a personal insult when a client is late for a meeting, you are engaging in personalization.

You might think, for example, “If my client respected me, she would make an effort to be here on time.”

Instead, understand that we all get delayed by situations beyond our control now and then. And remember that this client is trusting you to manage her finances.

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