Dear Advisor: Please Take Better Care of Yourself This Year

Jan 11, 2019 / By Chris Holman
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You can’t be great for your clients if you are constantly stressed, listless, unhealthy, and unfocused. This year, make taking care of yourself a priority—and everyone else around you will benefit.

I don’t exactly know the root causes, but I’ve recently spoken to a lot of advisors who aren’t very happy these days. They are either stressed out, bored, lethargic, stuck, unfocused, passionless, purposeless…or an assortment of all of the above.

Actually, I do have a theory about this, backed up by three observations and a question. Here it is:

Observation 1: Successful advisors are good at making—and fulfilling—promises. Fulfilling a promise is the single most important action that builds trust…and trust is a necessary condition that underlies all advisor-client relationships.

Observation 2: Advisors take their responsibilities and commitments to their clients very seriously. Indeed, putting a client’s interest above one’s own self-interest is the very quality that defines today’s forward-looking advisor.

Observation 3: When one quantifies the total number of commitments, promises, and responsibilities that individual advisors have made toward their clients, this “commitment count” can be in the hundreds, if not thousands, of promises.

What’s your “commitment count”? Add up your total number of clients. Tally the larger, overarching commitments that guide each relationship. Include the many little promises that you make to clients, e.g. “Let’s meet next month for our quarterly review.” Or “I’ll call you tomorrow.” Or whatever. And what’s your total?

Question: What promises and commitments have you made to yourself? And how does this compare to your commitments to others…both from a quantitative and qualitative standpoint?

Theory: Advisors who constantly and consistently subordinate their own personal needs to something below that of the needs and commitments of/to their clients, gradually (and inexorably) lose their focus, energy, and passion because they rarely attend to their own self-care.

Here’s another way to look at this. Financial advisors often subordinate aspects of their personal lives to those of their clients. Early on in their career, this selfless behavior is rewarded and leads to more clients, and even better clients.

Yet, as the years go on, the overwhelming focus on the commitments to others extracts a heavy cumulative toll. At some point, 5 or 10 or 20 years down the pike, advisors look up and realize they’re burnt out, tired, and listless.

I think there’s a different way…

Respect the promises to yourself as seriously as you respect the promises to your clients.

How to take better care of yourself

What are some examples of the personal commitments that you might make to yourself?

Below you’ll find eight items that might jog your thinking:

  1. Commit to taking better care of yourself physically: exercising regularly, eating right, getting enough sleep, and visiting your doctor.
  2. Commit to spending time with your family and friends.
  3. Commit to managing your personal finances with care and attention, and with the long-term objectives in mind.
  4. Commit to spending time reflecting on what is most important to you in your life, and living and working according to your most important values.
  5. Commit to avoiding all toxic relationships; clients, friends, acquaintances, and even family.
  6. Commit to participating in the community outside your office, in endeavors that truly matter to you.
  7. Commit to curiosity and knowledge, and pursuing learning activities that will benefit your clients and differentiate your skill set from others.
  8. Commit to seeing and experiencing beauty and nature, each and every day.

Getting started

As you think about making, and fulfilling, commitments to yourself…what might get in your way?

  • Being a workaholic?
  • Procrastination and inertia?
  • The pull of indulgent habits?
  • What others might think of you, e.g., needy clients who are used to you responding to them 24/7?
  • Your own neediness, i.e., an overriding desire to be the “savior” to your clients?
  • Something else?

Here are some tips

Pick one small thing that is exceptionally meaningful to you. Focus on the habits that you’re creating, not on the habits that you’d like to discard. Whatever you do, stick to it with complete integrity. This might mean choosing a goal where you’re 100% confident that you’ll succeed. That’s completely OK…the aim is to get the dopamine rush when you achieve your objective…and to use this accomplishment to set even higher goals.

One personal example…

My favorite outside activity is cycling. Indeed, this is my example of what I’m talking about. This is how I recharge my batteries. During the spring, summer, and early fall…I’m on the bike six days a week. During the Minnesota winters, I’m training for the next riding season.

Two winters ago, I added planking to my winter workout routine. And guess what? The following summer, I rode faster and harder than ever. However, last winter, for no apparent reason, I stopped planking. And this past summer I had my worst riding season in the past 10 years. Coincidence?

Long story short, I’ve committed to planking again this year. To get going, I made just one little promise to myself. I’m going to plank every day in January. As of this writing, we’re just eight days into the month, and I’m eight for eight, plank-wise. So far, so good. (Sharp-eyed readers might recognize this as a variant of the 30-day challenge, which Ben Hardy has written about.)

Concluding thoughts

I believe that being more accountable to your clients begins with being more accountable to yourself.

When you commit to activities that make you feel better, you will increase your energy, stimulate your mind, and enrich your spirit. And you will benefit others as much as you benefit yourself. When you become a better, more fully realized version of yourself, you can be your best self and do your best work. This isn’t just self-indulgence. This is a vital piece that drives your ability to serve others.

I trust that you find this helpful.

Chris Holman is an executive coach with Horsesmouth. His career in financial services spans 35 years as a financial advisor, a national director of investments, and an executive coach. He is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF), specializing in coaching financial advisors, especially through group coaching. He can be reached at


I think your spot on Chris Thanks
Eileen: That is brilliant. Good for you. I have two resolutions: 1) Take better care of myself. 2) Ask better coaching questions. Thank you.
This was my only New Years resolution this year. Thank you for your article.

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