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Danielle Howard | September 11, 2021

We miss the profound depth to financial thriving when we focus solely on getting better rates of return, maximizing Social Security, mitigating risk, diversifying assets or addressing draw down rates – the traditional talk of financial advisors.

In my 24 years of working with clients to savor hope and avoid regrets in their fall season of life, I have learned that true financial flourishing incorporates both the qualitative components and quantitative analysis.

Dr. Martin Seligman is dubbed “the father of positive psychology.” He explores human potential at the University of Pennsylvania and has brought to light five elements of happiness and flourishing with his PERMA model.

While Dr. Seligman doesn’t specifically address these from a financial context, I think we can apply his research in this area as well, to do our dollars differently!

Let’s look at three ways to cultivate positive emotions about money.

Identify Your Strengths

Write about a time that you experienced a financial success. Maybe it was a job position you excelled in, an investment that worked out well for you, a productive conversation around a monetary matter, or a spending choice based on a soul need instead of an ego desire.

Once identified and journaled, revisit it every day for a week and each time ask: “What character traits did I display when I was at my best? Was I resourceful? Did I do my homework? Was I discerning? Was I a good listener? Was I intentional, careful or brave?”

Write down your responses. As Dr. Seligman shares, this exercise “puts you in touch with what you’re good at.”

The next step is to contemplate how to build on those strengths in another area of your financial life. For example: “That purchase brought me deep joy. I was disciplined and intentional and did not go into debt. I am going to start saving for a longer-term goal systematically, keeping my eye on my why.”

Find the Good

Set aside 10 minutes each evening to write down three things that went financially well for you. Next to the event, note “why it went well for me.”


  • “I connected with the financial tools I own.” Why: because I am competent and capable and want to understand my options for using my resources wisely.
  • “I gave to a cause that is important to me.” Why: because it is important that I recognize I am a part of something bigger than myself.
  • “I had a productive financial conversation with my spouse.” Why: because it is important for us to work together on accomplishing our goals.

So many times we focus on what is going wrong in our financial lives, which creates a downward spiral. According to Dr. Seligman, this exercise “turns your attention to the good things in life, so it changes what you attend to.” In other words, what you appreciate – appreciates!

Make a Gratitude Visit

Has someone encouraged you, challenged you or supported you on your financial journey? Write a letter describing what they did and how it impacted your life. Be as concrete and specific about how they financially encouraged you and how your life is better because of them.

If possible, arrange a meeting to read it to them. This is a powerful experience for both parties as it connects you to gratefulness and keeps the mindset of ‘entitlement’ at bay. We have all reached new heights because of someone else’s positive impact on us.

When I was a young single mom, I had a friend that took care of my child for free, so I could take some night classes. I needed to be creative and resourceful at that point in my life, and she facilitated the opportunity for me.

Years later, I sat down with her and read her my letter on how her gesture gave me the space to build my confidence, gain some education and get clear on my trajectory. I knew my child was safe and I was able to step into my “next best self.” She gave me a needed ‘hand up’.

A few tears were shed, and both of our hearts swelled.

Even if you can’t pay a personal gratitude visit, simply recognizing that others have had a positive financial impact on your life – and that we, too, can do it for someone else – empowers you to look at your money differently.

I encourage you to delve into one or all three of these exercises in addition to your traditional financial planning.

Yes, understanding all the quantitative components of your financial life and how to best utilize them is very important. By adding these elements, you will be better prepared to battle the media and the financial industry’s illusory rendition of success and flourish in your version of true wealth.

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