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3 Steps to Be a Champion

3 Key Steps for Quickly Developing the Mindset of a Champion Annuity Professional

In my 33-year career as a Professional Sport Psychologist, teaching Olympic gold medal winners, world champions and professional athletes how to develop and maintain the “mindset of a champion,” I discovered 3 critical steps that lead to consistent winning.

Now that I have pivoted my career to helping financial services professionals develop the same mindset, the exact same 3 key steps apply. Understanding these steps and practicing them will certainly help you to win the “inner game” of success in your annuities career.

#1: Take Charge of Your Inner Dialogue

Proven Fact: There is No Such Thing as a Stressful Situation or Event that Takes Place in your Career, or, for that Matter in Your Life!

I’ll bet that statement raised your curiosity, didn’t it? In the Science of Positive Psychology, we now know that while experiencing stress can certainly impact your health and your mood, you determine whether or not you will actually experience stress. The stress you experience does not come from adverse, disrupting events that take place on your job, such as, the impact of the DOL Fiduciary Standard, dealing with toxic, demanding clients, or stiff competition.

Whether or not such circumstances cause stress is strictly based on what you tell yourself about those circumstances, and the internal conversations you have about those circumstances. As Andrew Bernstein puts it, in his wonderful book, The Myth of Stress, “Stress never comes directly from your circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about your circumstances.”

Situations and circumstances at work or at home can certainly trigger a stress response in you, but whether or not that actually happens depends on you, your belief patterns, and the resultant self-talk habits you have developed over the years.

For example, many of us are taught problematic belief patterns by well-meaning parents and other key influencers. Unfortunately, these kinds of beliefs always lead to out of kilter, stressful reactions. For example…

  • If I’m not perfect, I consider myself a failure.
  • My goal is to always please people, even if I sacrifice what I want, because I need to be liked.
  • I should avoid confrontations with my clients, not assert myself, never take risks, and always fly under the radar.

I refer to these kinds of beliefs and self-talk as “linguistic toxicity,” always leading to stress-related emotions, such as anxiety, tension, anger, frustration, depression, hopelessness and helplessness.

The Relationship Between Your Thoughts and Your Performance
The Psychology of Peak Performance posits the following formula:
Talent + Knowledge + Experience – Distractions = Peak Performance

So, as annuity professionals, once you have the knowledge, the experience and the “talent” to perform well in your profession, the key determinant of whether or not you suffer from stress-related emotions and if you can attain consistent peak performance is whether you can recognize and minimize those distractions (i.e., the self-talk habits that knock you down).

Put simply, the goal is to recognize thought patterns that trigger stress reactions and how to stop them quickly. You want to move from “linguistic toxicity” to “linguistic nutrition.” A full description of how to do this can be found in my book, The Financial Advisor’s Ultimate Stress Mastery Guide, but here is the essence of it:

  1. Recognize a Stress Triggering Thought: “My valued clients are not entrusting all of their financial resources with me. They must not believe in me and my investing values.”
  2. Have a fat (not tight) rubber band on your wrist and snap away to stop that thinking dead in its tracks.
  3. Take a few deep, relaxing breaths, in through your nose to the count of 4, hold it for 4, and out through your mouth to the count of 7.
  4. Counterpunch that toxic thought with healthy, rational thoughts such as, “I can use my creative thinking to come up with proactive plans for these clients which will exceed their expectations. I can review Bill Bachrach’s excellent article in the Annuity Outlook Magazine, regarding ‘how to cross the two relationship bridges’ with my clients.”
  5. Anchor this healthy thinking by once again taking a few deep, relaxing breaths, in through your nose to the count of 4, hold it for 4, and out through your mouth to the count of 7.

Here are examples of additional “linguistic nutritious thoughts” you can practice to overcome the toxic belief patterns you now recognize:

  1. “I don’t have to be perfect to service my clients well. I need to have compassion toward myself, rather than expect perfection, which is completely unrealistic.”
  2. “There are many people, including clients, that I will never be able to please. That is not a weakness in me. I do not have to be liked by everyone in order to be very successful in my career.”
  3. “I will endeavor to assert myself with these people, so that I am not engaged in stress producing thoughts regarding these clients.”
  4. “I can learn how to assertively communicate with difficult clients, so that I am not intimidated. I will feel much better about myself and the clients will respect me.”

With consistent practice, you can quickly change your thinking patterns and habits, and your stress level will dramatically reduce.

#2: Take Charge of Your Explanatory Style and Give Yourself Optimistic Explanations for Disappointing Events

Proven Fact: The Most Powerful Determinant of Consistent Success in Your Career is Your How You Explain Disappointing Events to Yourself

  • How do you explain disappointing outcomes, such as a failed sales attempt, to yourself?
  • How do you persevere and remain resilient under adverse circumstances?
  • Do you view setbacks as overwhelming disasters or as manageable hurdles that can be overcome?

These three questions form the essence of whether your “explanatory style” for unfortunate events and circumstances is optimistic or pessimistic. Whether it’s in athletic pursuits or in annuity sales, your explanatory style represents one of the most powerful determinants of your success or failure. This style is broken down into 3 components:

  1. Your perception of the cause of the unfortunate event or outcome.
  2. Your perception of the permanence of the unfortunate outcome in your view.
  3. How pervasive you view this outcome, relative to your overall abilities and skills.

Pessimistic Explanatory Style
When disappointing events and situations take place, pessimistically oriented people blame themselves (internal cause), believe these events will continue to plague them (permanence), and see this situation as just another example of their inability to be successful (pervasive).

Failing to make a sale is viewed as, “My fault, because I didn’t do a good enough job explaining the benefits of the annuity.” These people believe that these failures will continue to happen, they feel helpless to do anything about it, and they see this episode as an example of their overall ineptitude.

Even when they are successful, pessimistically oriented folks do not take credit for the success. They tell themselves things such as, “That was a lucky break for me because he was really in need of the product I had available.” (External Cause)

Pessimists see this as a fluke, unlikely to repeat itself (temporary), and they do not see this as an example of their overall worth and skills (exclusive result, rather than pervasive).

Optimistic Explanatory Style
When disappointing outcomes take place, optimistically oriented people consider this result to be a fluke and an exception to the rule (external cause), they believe this is only a temporary setback and they know they will bounce back successfully (temporary). In short, optimistically oriented people see failures as an exception to the fact that they are successful in so many other areas (exclusive, rather than pervasive).

When they are successful, optimistically oriented folks take full credit (internal cause), believing that, “Good things happen to me because of my work ethic and skills.”

They believe good things will continue to happen to them for these reasons (permanent), and they see this outcome as, “An example of many areas of my life where I have the skills and talent to be successful and it is highly likely to repeat itself.” (pervasive).

Like your internal dialogue, learning to interpret successes and disappointments with an optimistic explanatory style is easy. The key is consistently catching yourself when you fall into a “pessimistic trap,” practice counter thoughts, and focus on optimism.

#3: Take Charge of Your Mental Toughness

Proven Fact: This Easy-to-Learn, 5-Minute Mental Toughness Routine will Change Your Life!

Elite athletes, when they are faced with challenges and adversity, practice coping mechanisms, and one of the most successful ones is “Mental Toughness Training.”

In my work with insurance producers, I have found this simple routine to work wonders whenever they are faced with threatening, stress-producing thoughts, as a result of the challenges that go with the territory in the insurance and investment business.

Part #1: Write Down a Specific “Performance Statement”
A “Performance Statement” is the answer to this question: “What do I need to do to perform my best against my competition?” Once you decide the specifics of what it would take, you come up with a self-talk statement in the present tense, as if you are already doing this.

For a baseball player, for example, a performance statement to emphasize hitting might be, “Watch the pitcher’s release point, look for the spin, track the ball, smooth and easy.”

For an insurance producer, it might be, “Every day on my way to the office I remind myself to get smarter and wiser this day, grow my knowledge, and be able to provide my clients and potential clients with the best products and services available to them.”

Part #2 : Write Down a Specific “Identity Statement”
An “Identity Statement” is a self-statement designed to raise your self-image and what you believe you are capable of accomplishing, as if you have already done so. What strength do you currently have or plan to develop? What objectives do you ultimately want to accomplish? There should be no modesty here. Lay your dream accomplishment out there.

An example of an identity statement for an athlete striving to be the best he can be is, “I am the most talented athlete on my team, I work the hardest, and I am unstoppable in competition.”

An insurance producer I worked with came up with this identity statement: “I am the most conscientious producer in my firm. I always have my clients’ specific needs and goals at the top of my priorities and I dig deep with each client, making sure that I understand their needs and making sure they are so happy with my service that they will want to refer me to family and friends.”

Now that you have your performance and identity statements, here is the 5-minute Mental Toughness Routine:

  • Recognize Your Stress-Producing, Negative Trigger Thoughts (Example: “I am worried that I will never be able to deal with all of the changes and requirements coming from the DOL law.”)
  • Stop the thought dead in its tracks, by snapping a rubber band (a loose, fat one like the mail comes in) on your wrist, and telling yourself to “stop this nonsense.”
  • Take a few deep, relaxing breaths (4 seconds in through your nose, 4 seconds holding it, 7 seconds completely exhaling through your mouth).
  • Repeat Your Performance Statement (see above)
  • Visualize Your Personal Highlight Reel (close your eyes and recall the most productive, positive day you’ve ever had in your career). Visualize the specifics of your success, as if it is repeating itself today.
  • Repeat Your Identity Statement (see above)
  • Anchor this technique with another few deep, relaxing breaths, as above.

So there you have it. These are the three key steps that all champions take in order to put themselves in position to attain peak performance, consistently:

  1. Take Charge of Your Inner Dialogue
  2. Take Charge of Your Explanatory Style and Give Yourself Optimistic Explanations for Events
  3. Take Charge of Your Mental Toughness

I promise you that once you embrace these three concepts and practice using them, your career success will skyrocket!


Dr. Jack Singer Dr. Jack Singer is the author of The Financial Advisor’s Ultimate Stress Mastery Guide. Jack takes his 33-year career
as a Professional Sport Psychologist and teaches financial professionals the exact same blueprint for developing and maintaining consistent, championship performance in their insurance/annuity careers. Jack is a very popular keynote speaker and consultant to financial professionals around the world. To learn more about his powerful e-course, How to Quickly Develop and Maintain a Champion’s Mindset: Actionable Skills for Financial Professionals, his hypnotic audio series, seminars and training, go to www.advisingtheadvisors.com or email your questions or interests to drjack@advisingtheadvisors.com or call Jack directly at 949-481-5660.