Strive, survive and thrive

15 July 2019

Jayson Forrest

Jayson Forrest is the managing editor of Money & Life Magazine.

Are you ready to embrace change and step out of your comfort zone? Andrew May is, and he says it’s time for the profession to overcome obstacles by building new capabilities to create opportunities.

Do you remember Andrew May? He was the high energy presenter at last year’s FPA Professionals Congress who had delegates doing push-ups!

Well, he’s back for the 2019 FPA Professionals Congress in Melbourne, where he will be challenging planners to step out of their comfort zones and embrace change. And what a timely presentation this will be. With change all around us – whether it’s the new FASEA education standards, fintech innovation or adjusting to the Royal Commission recommendations – change is omnipresent in financial planning.

But – as one of the world’s leading strategists on workplace performance and wellbeing – one thing Andrew is acutely aware of is that coping with change, whether in the workplace or at home, can be hugely stressful. It’s a fact that is particularly relevant for financial planners, as they adapt to unprecedented changes within the profession.

The key to dealing with change, he says, is good mental health and wellbeing.

“Without a positive and flexible mindset, you’re not going to be able to ride through the ups and downs of life, particularly given all the challenges planners are faced with today. Having a positive mindset will enable you to survive and thrive when there is change.”

Yet, when it comes to health and wellbeing, Andrew believes the planning profession hasn’t put enough focus on these areas in the past, but is heartened to see the start of a shift in people’s attitude to their health and wellness.

He particular applauds the FPA’s latest initiative for members, FPA Wellbeing – a free and confidential coaching and support program that has been developed to assist planners through this challenging time for the profession.

Are you MatchFit?

And while this shift in attitude towards health and wellbeing has been a positive development, Andrew concedes there still is a problem with planners actually being able to identify when they have issues with their body and mind – a condition, he says, that can creep up on even the strongest person.

The solution, he says, is to get your health and state-of-mind regularly assessed.

“The problem for many of us in middle age, is that we still think we’re 25. We’re floating in that river in Egypt called ‘denial’.”

To address this denial, Andrew has developed an online tool – the MatchFit Calculator – which helps users to assess their body and brain. It is an evidence-based assessment tool that captures metrics for individual and organisational change.

“Businesses are increasingly aware of the critical importance of employee health and wellbeing. Creating a work environment that feels psychologically safe and is supportive of a healthy and balanced lifestyle is a major competitive advantage, not to mention essential for minimising risk of claims, decreasing turnover and lifting engagement,” Andrew says.

“The MatchFit Calculator provides organisations with a set of metrics to help understand how employees are operating in relation to their physical (body) and mental wellbeing (brain).”

According to Andrew, the ‘body’ aspect of the calculator deals with biological age, nutrition, sleep and recovery. Whereas the ‘brain’ side examines growth mindset, the ability to handle stress and adapt to change.

It’s time to Strive

Whether it’s regulation, technology or changing client expectations, adapting to change can be hugely challenging and stressful for planners. So, how can planners step out of their comfort zone and embrace this change?

“It’s a great question,” Andrew says, and one he intends to answer in his session, called ‘Strive’, at this year’s Congress in Melbourne. ‘Strive’ is based on a French word meaning to push through and come out the other side.

“Planners need to build in, what I call, ‘micro doses’ of change to their everyday lives,” he says. “That’s because so many people get stuck playing the ‘same game’. They end up doing the same thing, at the same time, with the same people, everyday.

“So, when we talk about industry reform, digitalisation and technological disruption – things that are so different from the sameness of our daily routines – then it’s little wonder we don’t cope well with change.”

To avoid the ‘same game’, Andrew believes it’s important we introduce ‘little bits’ of change every day to our lives.

“And that could mean taking a different route to work or introducing something different to your day, like having a ‘walking meeting’ or eating something different. It’s about disrupting your routine and learning to cope with that ‘micro dose’ of change.

“By doing little things to stimulate the brain, it makes us much less resistant to change. In fact, there is plenty of research to support the premises that when you start to introduce micro doses of change, people are better able to handle big doses of change.”

He adds that underpinning this concept of introducing micro doses of change is developing a growth mindset.

According to Andrew, a fixed mindset is very one dimensional – it’s either black or white, right or wrong. A fixed mindset doesn’t give you much capacity to change what you are doing. Whereas a growth mindset understands that mistakes are part of the learning process, and is better able to adapt and improve as a result of these mistakes.

“Introducing both micro doses of change and working on our growth mindset is imperative for planners in this rapidly changing environment. If you combine these two elements with getting your body moving, reducing your weight and getting your brain firing (see breakout story below: 3 tips to better health), then you’re going to be in a much better position to perform at your optimum and successfully take on change,” he says.

“So, when you talk ab0ut constructs like ‘grit’ (perseverance and passion) and ‘hardiness’ (finding meaning during tough and challenging times), they are both connected to ‘strive’. When asked what people are most proud of, typically they say they are most proud of the struggles they have endured and pushed through.

“By being MatchFit – both physically and psychologically – and then working on those skills to ‘strive’, push through and come out the other side, we can overcome any obstacles. And by doing so, we can build new capabilities and create new opportunities.”

Remember, be authentic

Andrew talks a lot about the need to step out of your comfort zone in order to embrace change. So, how can the profession take on a greater role when it comes to embracing change – both for themselves and their clients?

“It’s another great question,” he says. “To embrace change in others, you first need to embrace change for yourself. By doing so, planners can play a significant role in their clients’ lives – not just with their financial wellbeing, but also with their physical and psychological wellbeing.”

Andrew talks about the importance of practitioners being role models and leaders for their clients, by showing them how to better manage stress and change.

“It’s all too easy to think that change is just happening to other people. So, the first thing I’d say to planners is deal with change as it comes into your life by embracing and adapting to it. And be authentic with your clients. Understand the difficulties and stresses they are experiencing, and share with them your own personal stories of how you have dealt with change and struggle.

“For me, it’s been battling cancer, surviving a marriage breakdown with two young children and enduring a former toxic work environment. These types of shared stories can have a positive impact on your clients by showing them that change and struggle is a part of life we all endure and push through with.”

Key takeouts

For practitioners attending Andrew’s presentation on ‘Strive’ at this year’s Congress, he is confident they will take away some key insights that can be easily implemented within their businesses, as well as their own personal life.

“Strive is all about pushing through challenging times and coming out the other side. My presentation will be about getting to the core of what ‘change’ and ‘struggle’ is. I will encourage planners to acknowledge they have gone through some tough times, they have scars, but they will get through by drawing on their resilience – both individually and collectively as a profession. It’s also important to remember that the inherent struggle in life is actually good for us.”

But he emphasises that ‘strive’ is something that planners need to work at.

“The reality is that for a number of practitioners, they will have to make some big changes to the way they currently operate: in the way they look after their body; in the way they look after their brain; in the way they operate their business; and in the way they role model themselves to other people.

“But through ‘strive’, they can push through and come out the other side, and not only survive but thrive!”

Andrew May is a speaker at the 2019 FPA Professionals Congress in Melbourne (27-29 November). For more information on the Congress program or to register your attendance, click here.


3 tips to better health

While improving your health and wellbeing can be as simple as taking the time to talk to friends, colleagues or family about how you are feeling, Andrew May says there is much more you can do. He offers the following three sure-fire tips that will help planners better manage their own mental and physical fitness, thereby allowing them to cope better with change.

1. Cut back on sugar and alcohol

Numerous academic studies support the premise that sugar is as addictive as cocaine. People may begin to crave sugar to balance irritability, emotional lows and other conditions. Eventually, there is little control over avoiding sugary foods, and a sugar addiction has developed.

It’s no secret that reducing your sugar intake will reduce body weight and can prevent health problems linked to diabetes.

“For many planners, it’s too easy to get into a mindset that ‘having drinks’ with clients or colleagues is just a part of doing business. But that’s simply nonsense. It’s an erroneous assumption to think you have to drink a couple of glasses of shiraz in order to do business,” Andrew says.

“So, I’m not saying don’t drink, I’m just saying cut back on your alcohol consumption, which has high levels of sugar.”

2. Get up and move

Movement trackers, like Fitbit, have been invaluable in highlighting just how inactive many of us are in our daily routines, prompting greater awareness of our need to move and remain active.

“We should aim for at least 10,000 steps every day. However, a lot of planners I work with are incredibly stationary. They drive to the office, are largely desk-bound during the day, then drive home.”

Andrew suggests the best way of achieving a daily target of 10,000 steps is by going for a walk in the morning, which is a great way to kick-start the brain and body for the day ahead, as well as including regular movement throughout the day.

“Walking produces many health benefits, including reducing our risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and depression. Best of all, it’s free, and we can do it anywhere. And for most of us, it’s relatively easy to fit into our daily routines.”

In fact, Andrew has successfully infused ‘movement’ into the culture of his business.

“Instead of traditional office meetings, we have ‘walking meetings’, where we walk and talk. Instead of making a phone call in the office, make it as you walk around the block. There are so many ways of introducing movement into your working day.”

3. Introduce intensity

Andrew’s third tip is about adding a little ‘intensity’ to what you do each day, such as engaging in a couple of resistance training sessions each week, like weight training, circuit training or CrossFit.

He also suggests incorporating “a bit of huff and puff” with your daily routine, like going for a cycle ride, swim, run or even a power walk.

“If you follow these three easy tips, you are definitely going to improve your health and general wellbeing. And while these tips are predominantly about the body, there is the added bonus that they also serve as a terrific platform to help train the mind.”


About Andrew May

Andrew May is recognised as one of the world’s leading strategists on workplace performance and wellbeing. He presents keynotes around the globe and his latest venture – – is disrupting the way organisations approach wellbeing, productivity and leadership.

Andrew is a former middle-distance runner, who was an assistant coach at the Australian Institute of Sport in Tasmania. He has worked with multiple Olympic/international athletes in a range of sports, including track and field, tennis, swimming, hockey, netball, basketball and AFL; culminating in working as the Physical Performance Manager for both the NSW and Australian Cricket teams.

Andrew has dual degrees in the body and brain – completing a Bachelor of Applied Science in Exercise Physiology and a Masters in Coaching Psychology. He has recently commenced a PhD exploring the DNA of what makes a successful and fulfilled high-performance leader.

Through the StriveStronger Research Institute (in partnership with Dr Tom Buckley) Andrew translates evidence-based research into programs he delivers, with the vision of capturing positive impacts on physical and psychological wellbeing, productivity and leadership capacity.

Andrew is a serial entrepreneur, having built and sold three successful businesses. He is the author of Flip the Switch, MatchFit for Work and Life and the soon-to-be released Naturally High. He has a regular segment on ABC News Breakfast and appears across multiple media platforms, including TV, radio, print and online.