ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

What's stopping you developing a portfolio finance career?

Another grey Monday morning commute to London on the 6.36 and the inevitable thoughts come back into your mind once more: "another week of the same...there must be more to life than this...when is my next holiday?"

So what’s stopping you? Why is it that we carry on and don’t act on these thoughts? There are many reasons why we chartered accountants don’t do anything: money, status as an FD, identity, family, habit, colleagues, the list is endless. Some of these are harder to address than others but often it comes down to the fact that we find it hard to think differently.

Over the years our brains become hard-wired to continue to tread the same pathways, to repeat previously successful behaviours without even thinking about it. Our beliefs and attitudes can also become rigid and inflexible, impacting our thoughts and behaviours so that we continue responding in the same way.

We don’t stop and challenge ourselves

Humans are inherently lazy when it comes to thinking. It is much harder to reflect and challenge a situation and our response than it is to follow our instinct and act as we’ve always done. There is good news however: research has suggested that 20% of our synapses (the connections in our brains between the bits that contain information) can change in a 24-hour period. This gives the brain a huge capacity for change or ‘plasticity’.

So how can we initiate such change, break this cycle and challenge these inhibiting thoughts and beliefs?

Firstly we need to take time to really challenge our thoughts, to think differently with a flexible mindset. It may be that you can do this yourself or you might enlist the help of a friend or professional coach to ask those questions that might help you see things from a different perspective. Typical signs that you might be stuck in a fixed mindset include the use of words such as ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘can’t’, ‘always’ and ‘have to’. It’s very easy for us to say ‘I can’t quit my job because I need the regular income’ and therefore do nothing about it but much harder for us to explore whether that statement is really true. How much money do I need every month? Why do I need that? How could I reduce the amount of money I need? How long could I afford not to have a regular income?

Another way we can help ourselves break the cycle and build the confidence to take action is to look at our personal values. What are the values that are really important to me? Are they congruent with the values required in my current role? Living in harmony with our values helps bring about more meaning, purpose, vitality, engagement and well-being in our lives. Lack of alignment in values can be managed but over time, this can cause stress and ultimately health issues.  Awareness of your values and how these could be used to help provide direction to your career can help you to flourish and live the kind of life you want for yourself.

Taking the time out to really challenge your thinking, to take a different perspective, ask yourself the difficult questions is critical in breaking the cycle of inhibiting thoughts and opening the door to new possibilities. And practising such reflective thinking can, over time, develop new synapses in your brain to embed new thinking and behaviours.

So, when you next find yourself on the 6.36 wishing that life could be different but reminding yourself of all the reasons why it can’t, look out for those rigid thoughts and words such as ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘can’t’, ‘always’ and ‘have to’ and challenge yourself to take a more flexible attitude. You might be surprised at the outcome. 

Andy Jones
Director and Coach at We-Q.

Hear from Andy and other ICAEW members  talk about their own portfolio journeys at the forthcoming IAC Community event on 1 October 2019. Learn the key skills and values needed for an independent career and how to deploy them to develop a successful portfolio career that works for you.