Squiggly Brains

Squiggly Brains

Have you ever heard of ‘squiggly brains’ and ‘straight line brains’? You won’t find these in any medical books because I made them up. But it’s my way of explaining the two types of thought processes that we go through when we’re presented with a particular topic of conversation – or a problem to resolve. Basically, you’ve got to get your squiggly brain and your straight line brain working in tandem. Let me explain.

The straight line brain

Everyone has both a squiggly and a straight line part of their brain.

Let’s say you’re good at maths. If someone gives you some maths calculations to do, your straight line brain immediately kicks in and says, “right, let’s start here and do this bit first, resolve that bit and, depending on the outcome of that, I will either do x, y or z and end up at the conclusion.”

It’s a logical path through the conundrum. You probably didn’t even need to really think about it – your mind just instinctively found a path through the task.

The squiggly brain

But let’s say you’re asked to paint a picture – and art really isn’t your thing. Your mind will probably feel a bit chaotic and squiggly – you just have no idea what to do or where to start. It’s just a jumble of stuff.

It’s all determined by the task at hand

My point is, the person who thinks in straight lines for maths might go totally squiggly when it comes to painting. And the person who thinks in straight lines for art might go squiggly when given a maths conundrum. It’s all determined by the specific task at hand.

What’s this got to do with lifestyle financial planning?

The reason your client has come to see you is because the problem they’re trying to resolve has made their brain all squiggly. (If their brain was thinking in straight lines, they would have solved it themselves and wouldn’t have needed your help).

What they need is for you to apply some straight line thinking so they can find a logical path to follow.

Great! But the thing is, this only works if you can apply straight line thinking when it comes to working on problems with clients!

Hang on, don’t panic:

  • As a coach and planner, you don’t have to be ‘straight line brained’ about the actual problem they are facing.
  • You just need to be straight-lined about how to navigate through the coaching and planning process (the process itself will help them resolve their problem).

Sometimes we might go squiggly

The trouble is, we’re not always straight-lined – sometimes empathy takes over and we get a bit squiggly.

And if you’ve got a squiggly-brained client and then you become a bit squiggly too, all you’ve got is a whole load of squiggles. Yes, it might make for a lovely conversation, and everyone feels warm and understood – but we then float off, out of the session, still with no idea how to find the path to help resolve your client’s actual problem.

Your squiggly brain and your straight-line brain need to work together

This is the key.

The trick is to use your straight-lined mentality to give your client a pathway to help them navigate through the squiggle – you need to be able to see that framework and find that path. But you still have to be empathic, sympathetic, compassionate and all of these other human things.

You need your squiggly brain and your straight line brain to work in tandem:

  • The squiggly brain will keep everything feeling warm and human.
  • The straight line brain will give your client the pathway they need to find a conclusion.

That’s why being a financial planner isn’t that easy! You’ve got to be both squiggly and straight-lined – at the same time.

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