Q4 is the time of year that the majority of the loan officers, managers, and mortgage company owners decide to take pen to paper and map out their goals and plans for the next year. Traveling the country, conducting live seminars as well as small intimate training programs, I find that the majority of mortgage professionals have never properly learned how to set goals and create a business plan effectively.

In my career, I have attended no less than a dozen goal setting and business planning programs or workshops. To this day it still amazes me how many of them lack core principles and strategies that are critical in creating a plan that works. Many of the programs tend to gloss over some of the most critical aspects of the process. This leads the attendees not to pay attention to these details when working on their goals and plans, and this alternately sets the plan and the loan officer up for failure.

Goal setting and business planning are a lot more than just putting thoughts, dreams, or wishes on a piece of paper, and expecting it all to come true. Of course, it is important to write down what you want to accomplish in your business. However, one of the areas that are often missed, and is supercritical to success, is addressing your mindset.

You need to understand that the same level of thinking and action that has gotten you to where you are will not take you to where you want to go.

So many times, I see and hear mortgage originators focusing on the numbers and the actions that need to be taken to achieve their goals. That is what they are putting into their plan. As much as this is a great start, as I just said, the mindset about taking the actions has to be different than it previously was. If there is no change in the way you think about your business, then you most likely will not achieve goals that are not in alignment with the way you have been thinking.

There are seven essential steps to creating your business plan and goals.

    1.  Know Your Income Goal
    2. Clarity on your “Why”
    3. Know Your Numbers
    4. Strategy for Growth
    5. Defined Tactics of Execution
    6. Skills Necessary for Plan Execution
    7. Scheduling and Time Alignment

The majority of business plans do not contain all seven of these items. However, even less include the proper number and purpose which are required in steps one and two. Without the first two steps properly defined and clarified, which is what this article is all about, the remaining five steps cannot and will not work.

We have all heard the expression, “work smarter, not harder.” These words are said so often, that we have become numb to them. It’s nothing more than an expression of common sense. Very few people take these words to heart and implement the changes necessary to accomplish working smarter and more effectively.

In step one, clarity on your income goal; this means how much money you are committed to earning? It does not mean how much money would you like to earn. Hopefully, you noticed that I used the word “committed” when talking about your income goal.

Many originators write down as their income goal a dream number or a survival number. If the amount that is written down is a dream number, without any real commitment, then it will remain nothing more than a dream. If your income goal is a survival number, like the amount you need to pay your bills, then there is a slim chance you will reach your goal.

The reason is not that your goal is not real; it is simply because your goal is not very inspiring. Let’s face it, working just to pay bills is not what life should be about, especially when you are in an industry that you get to choose how much you can earn.

Step one, your income goal, will not work for you in your plan unless you can answer the question posed in step two, which is “why is that your income goal?” You must be able to answer very clearly in your mind “WHY” this is your income goal.

As human beings, we are driven by emotion. The desire to earn more money is based upon a feeling, experience, or state of mind that you are looking to have in your life. If your income goal does not light a fire under you because it is not connected to an emotional feeling, then your number is nothing more than a number. It will not inspire you or motivate you. In fact, what usually happens is that within 30 days of you starting to work your plan, you will likely abandon your goal and fall back into your old performance habits.

I can tell you from training and coaching over 100,000 loan officers in my career, whether it’s at a seminar, or a one-on-one coaching session, I see time and time again MLO’s struggle to gain clarity on why their income goal, is in fact, their income goal. When I dig deeper into my client’s mindset, what I usually find is that their goal is a number that they have had in their head for a long time, but never really tried to determine what it would mean to them, and how it would truly feel to achieve the goal. They never envisioned their life and how it would be, and how it would feel, to live at that income level.

Simply wanting to have a better life, more toys, or even more money in the bank, is rarely enough to spark the emotional fire that is needed for you to elevate your game. Remember, the same level of thinking that has gotten you to where you are, will not take you to where you want to go. It is easy for you to stay right where you are because it requires no change in thinking or behavior.

The real challenge to extraordinary business growth is the change in your passion for achieving your growth. A number on a piece of paper is not enough. You must be connected to your goal emotionally.

To take your business to that next level and beyond, requires not only strategies and tactics, but passion. Your “why” is your passion and emotional reason for your goal. It takes you way beyond the number, and it takes you into the life you are committed to living.