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The last post explained how people who feel “stuck” are often in the contemplation stage of change, unable to shift the balance in the direction of change.

This week, I present some thoughts about what does NOT work to shift the balance.

Imagine that you have just moved to a new town and you want to get established with a new financial advisor. You open up the phone book, flip to the right section, and find that you have two choices. You really want to make the right choice, so you decide to interview both professionals in person.

Advisor A really “wows” you. She does a quick assessment of your financial situation and whips together a detailed financial action plan that is custom-designed for you. The plan lists the steps you should take to advance toward your money goals, all based on the latest and greatest information about wealth management.

Advisor B, on the other hand, tells you that she would like to spend some time understanding your thinking about the obstacles that have interfered with your financial goals in the past. In addition, she would like to learn more about your fundamental values and whether your financial choices tend to support or conflict with your value system. In other words, she would like to really understand what your financial behavior means to you before you create an action plan together.

Which advisor is the better choice? It depends! Advisor A assumes you are in the action stage of change (stage four). In fact, most personal finance books, wealth management seminars, financial gurus, and advisors assume that the whole audience is in the action stage.

Unfortunately, if you are in stage two, this sets up a “mismatch” between the message that is being delivered (an “action” message) and the message that you are actually ready for (one that helps you develop your awareness of the problem, gain insight into how your thinking and feeling maintain the problem, etc.).

If you begin with the change tasks that are most effective in the action stage (stage four) without having first gained awareness and readiness in the earlier stages (stages two and three), change is not likely to stick.

Advisor B seems to be a better fit for an individual who is in the contemplation stage of change. She is interested in helping her clients do the mental work of linking their behavior with their value system, thereby shifting the balance in the direction of change once and for all.

Many people may feel like they are getting more things accomplished if they choose Advisor A over Advisor B, but if you are trying to execute an action plan before laying the foundation, your goals will be on unstable ground, and you will end up right back where you started.

Have you ever tried to take action before you have done the reflection and mental work that precedes action? How did it go?