In the world of personal finance, “appreciation” has at least two important meanings. In the quantitative realm, appreciation refers to the increasing value of financial assets. In the qualitative realm, appreciation refers to feelings of gratitude for one’s financial resources and circumstances. And, as it turns out, it is the appreciative mindset that will likely be the best predictor of increasing wealth and well-being in your clients’ lives.
In The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life, Lynne Twist teaches that appreciative thinking is the opposite of scarcity thinking: “When your attention is on what’s lacking and scarce—in your life, in your work, in your family, in your town—then that becomes what you are about.” Jackie Kelm, author of Appreciative Living, also believes that what we pay attention to grows. She wrote, “Our attention will create our experience, and if we focus on lack, we create more lack.”
However, because of past programming, you too may be more in the habit of focusing on what is going wrong in your clients’ lives and finances rather than on what is going well. After all, isn’t it your role as a financial planner to spot the problems and fix them? The truth is, however, that when you direct your clients’ attention to problems with money—on both the macro level (markets, financial crisis, etc.) and micro level (personal circumstances, failures, etc.)—that is where their consciousness will reside. If there is no counterbalance to this perspective, your clients will likely continue to think about limitations and obstacles rather than possibilities.
In contrast, helping your clients reflect on the positive aspects in their lives and focus on the value of what they already have will likely create more of the same. That’s because, according to Twist, “What you appreciate appreciates.” And Kelm similarly explains, “What you focus on grows.”
At my company, we teach a simple visualization exercise to help nurture this more positive cycle. It starts with asking your clients to reflect on specific areas of life such as family, community, finances, work, and learning. Next ask them to make a list (words or phrases are sufficient) of what is most important to them in each of these areas now and what they want to experience and/or achieve in the future. These additional questions will also help guide your client’s thinking and facilitate this process:
- What do you value most in each area of life?
- What are your current “riches” in each area of life?
- What “riches” do you want to include in each area of life in the future?
In a very real sense, this exercise not only helps your clients to appreciate what they currently have but also visualize what a happy and satisfying life would look like for them in the years ahead. The clearer that mental picture becomes, the more it will guide the choices they make and shape what they will experience in the future.