Advisors often start a new year with the best intentions. They set goals such as, "I want to increase my personal income by 25%," or "I want to add 10 new $1 million accounts."

But, surprise! Midway through the year, they lose interest. The New Year's goals become an afterthought as the day-to-day stuff gets in the way.
Sound familiar?

I think there's another way to look at the goal-setting process. Rather than looking at goal setting as a linear set of activities leading to a hoped-for outcome, I suggest you look at goals from a new, looser perspective.


Traditional goal-setting processes -- think "specific, measurable, attainable, etc." -- can be like an athlete who is "tight" before a key performance: nervous and overly focused on the mechanics. These athletes may underperform when they overthink their efforts.

Conversely, a relaxed, "loose" athlete can visualize a desired outcome -- and deliver a flawless performance.

Try being loose with your goal setting as well -- making commitments rather than setting specific and quantifiable aims.


A commitment is looser but more emotionally engaged than a traditional goal. It implies an outcome but it does not necessarily spell out how that outcome will be achieved or measured.

Here are three differences between goals and commitments.

1. Goals are linear, commitments are expansive.

To achieve a traditional goal, you probably have to do specific activities in a certain order, hoping these will yield the desired outcome. Mathematically, it is Activity A + Activity B + Activity C. This is the left brain hard at work.

By contrast, commitments are unrestrained. They do not imply a specific set of orderly activities. Instead, commitments unleash the creative power of the right brain to think differently and take the scenic route toward a more loosely defined yet still highly desired outcome.

2. Goals are cold, commitments are hot.

When was the last time a goal really got you excited? Think about that. How does a goal to add six new A+ clients in 2015, or grow your revenue by 20%, motivate you to take action on a day-to-day basis? Chances are goals like that will leave you a bit cold.

Commitments, on the other hand, are emotional and tied to your deepest values. They make a statement about who you are and how you want to operate in this world. They are defining and deep; goals, by comparison, are surface level.

3. Goals focus on the destination, commitments focus on the journey.

Goals are about meeting a specific objective regardless of the means. Goals can be met without any enjoyment or personal growth along the way.

Commitments, meanwhile, allow you to chart your own course while still keeping the ultimate aim in sight. Commitments enable you to take a side road, or sample the scenery, while moving forward. A commitment keeps you light on your feet and open to serendipity.


Making commitments instead of setting goals is liberating. Instead of being tied to cold metrics, you are inspired to take fulfilling action. You are drawn to movement instead of having to force yourself to act.

To set commitments, first identify what your highest values are. Feel the emotions attached to those values. If you have trouble finding strong emotion behind your stated value, then you may be on the wrong track.
Ultimately, if something is truly meaningful, you will automatically do what is necessary to abide by it -- whether you set a goal or not. So knowing what your highest values are will help you determine what you want to commit to.

Then, visualize living those values successfully. Be creative: If your family what you value most, do you visualize the family together enjoying a meal around the dinner table, or on a family vacation? Similarly, if having a successful business is important to you, what does that look like?

Now set commitments that are tied to your highest values, have emotional appeal and allow you to visualize the outcome.


A few sample commitments for advisors:

  • I commit to deepening my relationship with my very best clients so we can enjoy a more rewarding and successful working relationship.
  • I commit to delivering more value to my clients so I can make a profound impact in their life.
  • I commit to meeting important and interesting people this year so I can broaden my network, expand my horizons, and help more people.
  • I commit to spending time revamping my investment process so I can better protect my clients' assets in times of market stress and so we can rest peacefully at night.
  • I commit to enhancing my company's culture and work environment so my employees will look forward to coming to work, will work hard, have fun, be loyal, and make a difference.

Will it be easy to jump off the goal-setting treadmill? No. And there is still a time and a place for traditional goals; most of mine revolve around exercise.
But by adding commitments to your toolkit, you will enjoy a richer relationship to life, a renewed sense of reward from your business and a new appreciation for what's possible.

So, tell us: What will you commit to in 2015?

Steve Sanduski is founder of Follow him on Twitter @SteveSanduski.

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