How Can I …


The majority of advisers I meet do not have any clear targets, either for their practice or in their personal life.  If you have decided on the goals you want to reach you are therefore already ahead of the game.  However, simply deciding on your goals is not enough on its own.  Unless you also decide on a strategy to reach those goals they are not goals at all, just dreams.


How do you decide on such a strategy?  Do you have a foolproof method that always gives you the results you want?  If not, I suggest you use a system I have used for many years and which many other highly successful financial advisers use in their own practices.  It is the process I have named “How Can I …?”.


I have outlined my strategy below.  You will also find a free tool you can download with my compliments which will help you apply this strategy effectively.




The first, and most important, step in this process is to define the question properly.  The main reason most people do not reach the targets they have set themselves is because they do not ask the right questions.


Framing the right question is all about having the right goal.  Your goal should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, and Timed.




I have covered this in a recent article.  Do not say “I want to earn more money” as that is not specific.  If more money is your goal, then state a specific figure.  For example “an additional £2,500”.




Very often this is the same as “specific”.  In my example it is – if I am looking for an additional £2,500 I know exactly what I am measuring.




In order to achieve most goals you will need the co-operation of others.  Include them in your goal setting process and get agreement from them right from the outset to do their part.




For your immediate goals do not set the bar so high that it seems impossible for you to achieve.  If you are already earning £10,000 a month then an additional £2,500 should not be an impossible target.  But if you try to set the target at an additional £10,000 then you may find this too challenging and you give up trying to reach it.


Note, though, that I have said “immediate”.  In my example I am looking at how I can achieve an additional £2,500 by the end of the month.


My long term goals, however, are far more ambitious, and to an onlooker may well seem unachievable.  You should have challenging long term goals, but you must also set realistic short term goals with a clearly defined plan for reaching them.




It is important to have an end date by which you intend to reach your goal.  In the example I am using the end date is by the end of this month.


Frame the Question


Once you have tested your goal and are happy it is SMART, you should now phrase it as a question.  Simply begin your question with “How can I “ and then add your SMART goal to the end of the question.


For example: “How can I create an additional £2,500 income by the 31st January 2015?”  This is a very specific question, and you should find it will lead you to some very specific actions you can take to turn your dream into a reality.


Assemble Your Team


Now that you have the right question you should assemble a team of people to help you arrive at the right answer(s).  Note the plural – in many cases you will find you should be working on a combination of things which, together, will take you to your goal.


You should take care when assembling such a team.


Firstly, they should all be open minded people.  You do not want to include someone who is going to be pessimistic and who starts out with an assumption it is not possible to reach the goal.


Secondly, they should know enough about you and your resources to provide suggestions that suit you.


Thirdly, they should ideally be people who will be involved in the project(s) to reach the goal.  Note, though, my choice of the word “ideally”.  You should certainly get in the habit of using the “How Can I …?” process with your own team, and even encourage them to use the same process for their individual targets.  A big advantage of involving your team in this way is that if they are involved in this key step in the decision process this should instil in them the belief that the goals you set are achievable.  They will then be far more empowered to help you reach the goal (see “Agreed” above).


As my example relates to a business goal, creating an additional £2,500 income, your “team” will be those who work with you in your practice.  If, though, you were working on some personal goals your “team” may simply be members of your family.


There may be occasions where you feel it would not be right to involve your team members.  That may especially be the case if some of them do not meet the most important first criterion of being open minded.  Be ready to be flexible about who you involve.




Gather your team and give them each a copy of a sheet with the correctly formed question at the top and space for 20 answers to the question.


You should now run a brainstorming session, allowing everyone present to suggest ideas without any inhibitions.  Everyone should write down each idea on their sheet so that nobody repeats something that has already been suggested.


You will probably find the first 10 answers will arrive very quickly.  It is very tempting at this point to stop.  Don’t!  Not even if some of those initial ideas look as though they might be the right answers.


The next 5 or so will probably take a lot longer.  But don’t give up.  Keep going.


It is in the final few that you will almost certainly find the best answers.  It will probably take much longer to get from 15 to 20 than it did to get to 15, but that is OK – you are now operating in genius territory!


Picking Ideas


Pick one of the ideas and decide to action it immediately.  I usually do this by ticking it.  Write against it the time frame in which you believe you can achieve it, and also indicate how much you think it is likely to cost to implement.


Sometimes the idea is very straightforward and you can action it without much further thought.  In many cases, though, you will find you need to think through how you can achieve it.  There is a very good way of doing this – it is a process called “How Can I …?”  Yes, you simply repeat the entire process for this one specific idea.


For example, one answer to “How can I create an additional £2,500 income by the 31st January 2015?” might be “Find one new client”.  You now frame a new “How can I …?” as “How can I find one new client by 31st January 2015?” and generate a series of ideas for finding that one new client.


I suggest you now go through the list again and pick another two ideas to action immediately.  It is possible that what seemed to be a fruitful idea does not produce the results you expect, so it is rather dangerous to rely on just one idea.  Even two might not be enough.  In my experience three is the right number.  I have found it is very rare for all three to “bomb”.  But don’t pick more than three, as you will then be trying to go in too many directions at once and it will be difficult to maintain the right focus.




Now all you have to do is to put those ideas into action.


I suggest you start using this process right away.  Take action now!


Download here your copy of the “How Can I …?” sheet I use personally and in my own practice.

How Can I