Written in November before the Spring CFP® exam
I’m writing this post as I slowly sink further into my comfy armchair at 7:37am on a brisk Sunday morning in the Inner-Richmond district of sunny San Francisco. On the coffee table in front of me is a piping hot cup of Fog Chaser and a water bottle dripping in perspiration. Jazz instrumentals play softly from the small speaker on the floor and my desk lamp emits a cozy glow, setting a coffee shop-esque mood. Pens and highlighters litter the table and my study materials balance precariously on the armrest beside me. Every detail is conducive with productivity, and yet here I sit trying to find inspiration to begin today’s studying for the Spring CFP® exam. After about 15 minutes of alternating between social media on my phone and Reddit on my laptop, it occurred to me how often I go through this charade of “will he, won’t he.” Whether my mind is fresh on a Sunday morning or weary after a day at the office, maintaining the diligence necessary to sacrifice my precious free-time is an exhausting endeavor in itself.
About a month ago, another CFP® candidate emailed me an article written by Shane Parrish which explored US psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of ‘flow’ for finding purpose and happiness. ‘Flow’ is essentially the mindset that allows people to be so absorbed in their work that it no longer feels like work. Csikszentmihalyi discovered certain commonalities people share in attaining ‘flow.’ Can you figure out which one I’m struggling with? (hint: it’s bolded)
- “Intensely focused on activity (busy but not rushed)
- of our own choosing, that is
- neither under-challenging (boreout) nor over-challenging (burnout), that has
- a clear objective and that receives
- immediate feedback”
Inspirational feelings don’t last and long-term success results from solid daily habits. When people say “I’m struggling to find motivation,” they really mean, “I wish having daily discipline were easier.” Feelings of motivation are fickle, only arising when the situation is right (and rarely when it counts). In reality, the discipline required to successfully complete the painfully slow process of obtaining the CFP® designation requires consistently being able to summon a feeling of purpose in the midst of your daily struggle. That discipline is not easily obtained. Studying for the CFP feels like trying to map a mountain, but you can only map a small portion each day and avalanches constantly cover areas you mapped the days and weeks prior.
So what exactly are your reasons for sacrificing what feels like every second of your discretionary time? Is it the prospect of increased compensation? To get another job? To deliver more knowledgeable solutions to your clients? To become more appealing to prospective clients? To prove that jerk neighbor of yours wrong? Maybe you just like studying (then why are you still reading this?), or perhaps you just want letters after your name! Whatever your reasons, the process has a way of blinding you to these benefits.
More often than not it seems as though my mind will remain dormant and focused all day at work, but when it comes time to study, a rapid fire sequence occurs of remembering every other possible task that could fit on my agenda: I know I should go on a run with my dog, but if I don’t go on a run I should at least take her to play fetch at the park, and oh look all of my socks are dirty so I’ll need to throw those in the washer before I leave, and crap, I forgot to call my mom back yesterday, and holy cow there’s a lot of dog hair on the floor, and the garbage is full, and the dishwasher needs to be emptied, and now my phone is vibrating with a text from the roommate, sure I can run to the grocery store, oh crap x2, I forgot to turn on the washing machine, dog you can’t possibly have to go to the bathroom again! Point being, simply finding time to study amidst the chaos of life is a challenge in itself (and many people would not consider my schedule to be an exceptionally busy one). Over the next few weeks when you’re about to dive into your daily session(s), psyche yourself up by remembering that your end goal is only achieved through taking that next step right here and now. Observe how your perception of the task changes when you increase your frequency of recalling WHY you’re making this daily commitment. Your reasons must be burned into your consciousness, or you’ll quickly drown in a mountain of information.
I wrote the following paragraph as a summation of my reasons for this undertaking:
Passing this test is the biggest barrier between now and being able to put those three letters after my name. To someone who doesn’t know me those letters represent a daily commitment to education, they confirm the professionalism I portray through my actions, and they indicate that hard work is a habit of mine. In combination with delivering excellent service, this certification will drastically increase my human capital value to any organization. Not only will the certification act as an outward sign of my competence, my commitment to education will result in providing more knowledgeable and holistic advice to clients. I will receive professional recognition from clients and colleagues alike, and increased compensation will follow.
Passing this exam is never going to come down to implementing a particular tool or trick. For the vast majority of people, the “secret to success” is simply putting in the time. Keeping my reasons front and center is just one of the many steps I’m taking ensure I put in that time. Being creative and dynamic with my studying has been an essential part of getting my butt in that chair every day. When you get knee-deep into studying, you will feel like you’re walking through molasses. Solidifying your reasons for embarking on this journey and periodically changing up your routine are both essential for maintaining the daily discipline necessary to take that next step, and the next one, and the next one…