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What Benchmarks Do You Use for Success?

Faulty comparisons can lead us to use the wrong benchmarks in life.

Allyson Lewis, 02/23/2017

When you think about what you want your practice to look like and your life to be, what benchmarks do you use for success?

Too often, we use assumptions, perceptions, and comparisons to others to measure accomplishment and worth.

Instead, we should use the knowledge we have about ourselves to craft our benchmarks for success.

Assumptions are shortcuts your brain uses to filter through incomplete information and attempt to fill in the gaps. We use what has worked in the past to create assumptions of what will happen in the future. When you need to learn something new, your brain engages in the process of closest fit.

For example, if you want a portfolio to track the performance of the S&P 500 Index, you might buy an S&P ETF. Because the S&P ETF has a nearly perfect correlation to the movements of the market—it's a close fit--you can make high level assumptions regarding benchmarking.

In life, we use assumptions to create benchmarks for future success. Think about your job as a financial advisor. Through experience and repetition, activities that took years to learn now take a fraction of your time to complete. Over time, you've certainly developed dependable assumptions to help you grow your practice.

For example: When you ask more people to do business with you, you can assume at least some of them will do business with you. Or, when you improve your personal technology skills, you can assume you will become more productive.

The problem with assumptions, though, is that you are choosing to create your future by looking backward, rather than looking inward.

A friend came by my house while I was doing laundry. When she bumped into a hanging shirt, she instinctively looked up at the shirt and said, "Excuse me." When she realized her misperception we looked at each other and screamed, "Excuse me!" It was hilarious.

Here is another example. Not long ago, one of my clocks stopped working. I changed the battery and the clock still didn't run. The malfunctioning clock hung on my wall for more than two weeks. My perception was that the clock was dead, and I needed a new clock. But, in the end, it was the new battery that was dead, and all I needed was a new battery.

We use our experiences from the past to create assumptions of what will happen in the future--and that can lead to faulty perceptions. My friend did not expect to walk into a shirt, and I didn't expect a brand new battery to be dead.

A video from the BBC comedy series "QI" reinforces the point. The video begins with the host holding a 3-D plastic, molded mask of Albert Einstein's face. When you look at the still photo of the mask, the shadows on the mask add proper perspective to what you are seeing. But, when you watch the video, the perspective of the mask changes, and it becomes impossible for your brain to decipher what you are seeing. Even when you know what you are seeing is not true, it is impossible reverse the illusion.

Perceptions can be deceiving. Don't build your future on illusions.

Financial advisors use benchmarks to measure the performance of client portfolios. Similarly, we compare our success to benchmarks, too; very often, to the person sitting next to us, to others in our field, and so on. When our gross production is higher than their gross production, we see ourselves as successful.

For instance, you may walk by a co-worker's office and say to yourself, "I have more assets under management than he does." You smile and add, "I am so glad I am more successful than that guy."

Ten steps later, when you walk past the next financial advisor's office and say to yourself, "I can't believe how much business she is doing," you may feel a jolt of defeat. Then you’d say, "I just don't know why I’m not more successful."

Comparisons are more dangerous because you are relying on perceptions of another person's success. How do you perceive yourself? What are the thoughts that run through your mind when you compare your knowledge, skill sets, and performance with other financial advisors?

What to Do Instead
The problem with faulty comparisons is that we’re often attempting to build our worth on things that, ultimately, don't matter to us. At the end of your life, will you really care who made the most money, who had a faster car, or who owned a bigger house?

Rather than comparing your success with the success of others, look inward. From there, build your benchmark for success. Being true to yourself rather than to comparative benchmarks allows you to live a more successful life. 

Allyson Lewis is a time management expert and best-selling author of four books. Lewis has delivered more than 10,000 hours of training and coaching. She works with people who feel crushed by their busy schedules. Allyson Lewis passed the Series 7 when she was 22 years old. She was a successful financial advisor for 30 years. As a speaker, trainer, and executive coach she works with companies, teams, and individuals to set goals, increase revenues, acquire net new assets, improve communication, develop repeatable processes and systems, overcome distraction, beat procrastination, and have time to reengage with life. Are you looking for a speaker or personal business coach? Contact Allyson at info@the7minutelife.com


Allyson Lewis is a nationally acclaimed motivator, speaker, time management and productivity strategist, executive coach, best-selling author of The 7 Minute Solution and The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner, and founder of www.The7MinuteLife.com. Download her latest time management report: http://the7minutelife.com/free-report/

To take advantage of the free time management worksheets, webinars, and more, subscribe to The7MinuteLife.com and follow her on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/the7minutelife and Twitter: @allyson7minutes

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