Financial Grind to Growth

By Danielle Howard, CFP®


Do you want to flourish in your financial life?  How do you move from feeling like a gerbil on the financial treadmill to using your resources as the wind beneath your wings, giving you freedom to live a full and prosperous life?  If you want to cultivate the best within yourself and enhance your experience in relationships, work and play, you may have to look at your money decisions differently.

Well-being theory holds that individuals flourish in life when they experience five key elements:  positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment.

  • Your past life satisfaction, your present feelings of pleasure, happiness, joy and comfort, and your future feelings of optimism would fall under the umbrella of positive emotions.
  • Engagement is when you feel absorbed or immersed in a task or activity that uses your talents and strengths.
  • Relationships encompass your experience with healthy, supportive and meaningful people woven throughout your day.
  • Meaning refers to your contributions to the world, knowing that you are an important part of something greater than yourself.
  • When you pursue mastery, giving it your best, knowing you are where you are supposed to be at any given moment, you embrace accomplishment.

On a daily basis, your financial decisions should reflect these five areas of well -being.  It is not about having more, it is about using what you have thoughtfully and intentionally.  If your financial decisions are too heavily weighted in one area, you will eventually feel unsettled, disconnected, and unhappy.  If a preponderance of your disposable income, for example, is going towards purchasing stuff that you think will make you happy, you will eventually be left feeling empty.

This theory is not about spending more money in each of these areas.  Given the parameters of your financial means, what would this look like?  Cultivating positive emotions will entail the outlook on your money life.  What money messages have you brought forward from your past?  Are they serving you, or hindering you?

You do have a choice in how you see the world and your impact on it.  Do you have an abundance mentality, seeing the best in yourself and others?  Are you grateful for what you have and optimistic that you will grow from whatever lies around the corner?

Engagement will encompass your financial decisions about hobbies and activities. Here in our valley, this one easily weighs heavy on the scale as we are constantly pulled to the latest and greatest toys or adventures.  Again, thinking about decisions made within safe boundaries, in your relationships, do you channel your financial resources towards experiences with others, and appropriate gift giving?

To infix meaning in your life from a financial context, do you have a giving plan that reflects your heart?  Have you put tools in place that can leverage your giving in creative ways?  In the area of accomplishment, are you choosing to use your money to pursue educational endeavors, professional development, or increasing your aptitude in a sport or hobby?

The financial decisions you make to create positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment imbricate each other.   There will also be a constant challenge in discerning what financial resources you should use today and what is appropriate to build up and have access to in the future. Regardless, it’s always a good idea to recognize an area that you feel positive about, and to apply it to another well-being facet.

Focus on what has gone financially well and why, and then take the next step.  For example, “I received a promotion at work because I put forth extra effort and I am good at what I do.” Then apply this to another area, “I am going to attend this conference because it will help me excel.”  You have a positive emotion on a past experience and you are making a decision to build upon it.  This would be a wise investment of your financial resources.

Spinning on the gerbil wheel is not much fun, and sometimes downright dizzying. Just know you are not alone; we are all on this journey to well-being.  Step back, take a deep breath, see the connections, and you will make the right decisions to flourish in your financial life.


Danielle Howard is the principal/owner of Wealth by Design, LLC, (link: a boutique firm providing financial life planning, asset management and financial advisory services in Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, and other Colorado locales.  A Colorado native, she has lived in the Roaring Fork Valley for the past 27 years and loves to get on the rivers, bike, and hike in the summers.

Advisory Services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., A Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC.  Cambridge and WBD are not affiliated.

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