Realize Your Goals

Overcoming the obstacles that can get in the way of success.

This time of year may seem like an odd time to be discussing goals. Most folks in this business talk about goals in January. But we all know that a lot of loan originators have yet to take action on the goals they set for themselves nearly four months ago. For example:

  • Jack set a goal to join his real estate association as an affiliate member and attend the functions to meet new Realtors. He has yet to make the phone call to get the sign-up forms.
  • Valerie set a goal to form a new strategic partnership with a CPA. It’s May, and she hasn’t set up her first appointment.
  • Kevin told his boss his 2004 goal was to get himself organized and create a better loan file flow system. Sixteen weeks into the year, he has still not done so.

Like Jack, Valerie, and Kevin, the same thing happens to the goals and New Year’s resolutions we set. We start out the year planning to lose weight, get in shape, spend more quality time with our families, and so on. Goals are easy to set, but take effort to achieve. Because of this effort, many never take action of any kind. Research has proven that the average number of times people take action on most of their goals is less than one. They simply never get started. Here are the three biggest reasons why:

The Fear of Commitment
I read a magazine story the other day about a 60-year old man who hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, a 2,100-mile path from Georgia to Maine that takes about five to seven months to hike. Although many people have accomplished the trek, most of those who start out never finish. The magazine reporter asked the 60-year old man: “What was the hardest part of your 2,100 mile journey?” The hiker answered: “Taking the first step.”

The same is true with our goals. The first hurdle we have to overcome is our fear of commitment. That hiker knew that as soon as he took his first step on the trail he was committed to a goal and had to accomplish it. Let’s apply this to one of our loan originators mentioned earlier.

Our friend Jack set a goal to join his real estate association this year. Jack knows that if he signs up and pays dues to join the association, he must be committed to attending breakfasts, luncheons, and meetings. Jack worries about the time that will require, that he will have to actually have to go to these functions, try to meet new agents and talk with them. It means he will need to follow up on those meetings and schedule sales calls. He thinks about all of this and fears he won’t do it. Jack is afraid of commitment, and so, he hasn’t taken his first step.

The same fear of commitment can be seen when people don’t start their diet plans, don’t begin their new exercise routine, or don’t promise their families they will spend more time at home. They are afraid of committing themselves to action. So, the first step to get going on your goals is overcoming your own fear of commitment. No one can do this for you. You cannot read a book or listen to a tape that will change your mind. You must make the decision to put your fears aside and get committed to your goal. Only then will you take your first step.

The Absence of a Plan
The second thing that stops us from taking action on our goals is the absence of a written plan or road map. Valerie wants to form a new strategic partnership with a CPA, but she hasn’t acted because she doesn’t know where to start. The solution? Valerie needs to sit down today with a blank piece of paper. On the bottom of the paper she should write: Secure new relationship with at least one new CPA by June 1. Then, working from the top of the paper down, Valerie needs to list the steps of how to do that. For example:

  1. Make a list of possible CPA client prospects.
  2. Do basic research on each using the Internet and their Web sites.
  3. Draft and send an introductory letter to each CPA prospect.
  4. Follow up in four days with a phone call asking for an appointment.
  5. Hold discovery-meeting appointments with those CPAs who wish to meet.
  6. Prepare follow up meeting presentations on what I can offer them.
  7. Schedule and hold follow up presentation meetings with CPA prospects.
  8. Assess interest in working as referral partners.
  9. Initiate contact follow up campaign to cement the relationship.

Now Valerie can clearly see what it will take to reach her goal. Like any goal, it is achieved by executing a series of single action steps. All she needs to do now is take the first step, then the next, and the next. In a short time, Valerie will realize her goal of working with a CPA. Why? Because now she can see how to get there.

The Hesitancy to Change
The third thing that stops us from starting our goals is our own hesitancy to change. Most people don’t like change of any kind. Whether it’s a new funding procedure, a change to a different computer system, rearranging the office, it doesn’t matter. They see change as a negative thing. (Sometimes in my all-day training seminars I ask participants to change seats for the afternoon, just to give them a fresh view of things for the next few hours. You’d be amazed to see how many absolutely refuse to move! Even changing chairs frightens them!)

Setting new goals often means you are going to have to make some changes in how you run your business. From our earlier example, Kevin set a goal to get organized this year by creating a new loan-file flow system. The reason why Kevin hasn’t started out on his goal yet is his own hesitancy to change. His system may be ineffective and cumbersome, but it’s “the devil he knows” and is comfortable with. Although developing and installing a new and better loan file flow could mean time savings, a faster closing and a more organized process, Kevin will continue doing it the way he has always done it, and make up some excuse for his non-action.

If you find yourself not acting on your goals because of hesitancy to change, ask yourself why you feel this way. What are you afraid of? What’s the worst that could happen? Most importantly, what are the consequences of staying where you are?

Here’s a wonderful five-minute exercise for Kevin to help him move to action. Kevin should use a piece of paper or a whiteboard and draw a line down the center. On one side he should write “Current Process” and on the other “New Process.” Under “Current Process” Kevin should list how it is working. For example:

  • Too much repetition
  • Lost files
  • No order of process
  • Confusion with loan processor
  • Some missed closing dates
  • A few upset borrowers

Next, under “New Process” Kevin should list what an updated, more organized loan file flow system would mean. This might read something like:

  • Less stress for me
  • Things easy to find for status reports
  • Faster approval process
  • Better communication with loan processor
  • Fewer emergencies and problems
  • Happy customers

It won’t take Kevin long to see that action isn’t an option; it’s the only option. He may feel that changing to a new process is painful, but going through a little bit of discomfort now will be well worth it in the long run. He now stops looking at the negative points of change, but rather focuses on the positive results. If a hesitancy of changing to something new has kept you from starting out on one of your goals, this exercise will work for you too.

The only way we get anywhere in our careers and our lives is through the process of setting and achieving goals. The key is to get started. Perhaps you have some goals you set out to achieve this year that you have yet to begin. It’s never too late. They say the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.