Debts in emotional balances, just like debts in financial balances, have compound interest. Your reactions to adverse events set a precedent for how you handle future incidents. Over time, the thought pattern becomes stronger —you’re more likely to take offense and hold a grudge. You may even begin to ward off a perceived attack before an offense even occurs, which closes you off from positive growth. By understanding the cause of negative thinking and how it limits your potential, advisors can switch mindsets and flourish as professionals.
Suffering Is Caused By Attachment
Your life is in a constant state of flux, and it’s natural that loss, growth and change are inevitable. You’ll never be the same person you were a moment ago. But still, you attach yourself to the idea of your current self, and when that self is threatened with change and uncertainty, you suffer —even if you’re still landing in a better position than when you started.
Attachment to concepts that aren’t real, such as money or power or image, causes you to suffer, and that suffering causes you to react negatively. And when you’re consumed with negative thinking, you’re distracted. You become so distracted trying to limit your suffering in the short term that you open yourself up to actions that are self-defeating and prevent a healthy, robust, long-term ethical business.
Imagine a client posts a message on social media about experiencing poor service. The post upsets you due to an attachment — the desire to have or not have something. What could you be attached to that is causing you to suffer? I’m attached to the idea of my integrity. I’m scared that people will believe this client and that they’ll think I have no integrity — and that’s a really uncomfortable thought for me.
How about your reputation? You’ve gone out of your way to have an ethical, professional business and to maintain a competent professional image. Now your reputation could be in danger. What about honesty and the idea of truth? You’ve been raised to never tell a lie, and you’re attached to truth as a fundamental value that we should all hold. And so you suffer to even think that, for others, it can be so carelessly and publicly discarded.
You can become attached to all of these concepts, either with the desire to have them or the desire not to have them. And you can feel that attachment strongly, but none of these ideas is real. They’re all just a relative state measured against some previous moment, which is not the same as the moment that you’re in right now.
Switching To A Positive Mindset
Negative thinking does not motivate you to work harder. Instead, it causes you to become dutiful in your behavior, going through the motions without a clear purpose. Instead of using negative insecurity and the threat of future loss to change the behavior of somebody else — clients, for example — you can use positive insecurity and the promise of a future gain to show them who they can be, operating with an aspirational mindset.
Success, Empathy And Compassion
To make this shift, you must define success, develop empathy and grow into compassion. Every advisor will define success differently. For me, it’s someone who is composed. Others may think of qualities like caring, giver, calm, relaxed. Thinking about this definition makes you want to pursue success. It’s motivating, and that’s positive insecurity.
With positive insecurity, you are no longer distracted by attachment and your own suffering. Without distractions, you can live in each moment. With clients, this means you can hear what they say. Clients want to be helped by your professional advice, but they also want to be heard. When you can shift to this perspective, you are becoming empathetic.
The next step is to move from empathy to compassion. Compassion relies on what you can do for others and depends on authenticity. When you work with compassion, clients want to come to you because of you — they are lifted up by just being around you. Being authentic means having a passion to help the clients you work with.
Consider the following example, which demonstrates different motivations. When you’re not authentic, you use negative insecurity with clients and focus on trying to make them see the value in your services. You get caught up in an attachment to the perfect plan that you want them to implement. Instead, being authentic in client meetings involves releasing the transactional mindset and accepting that the pathway is the client’s choice, then framing your recommendations to fit their preferences.
Living Up To Your Potential
By cultivating a positive mindset, you can improve your business without changing any processes or products. Advisors who understand the causes and dangers of negative thinking can take steps toward becoming aspirational, inspiring clients to do the same to live up to their financial potential.