Ready for Your Optimal Life? First, Ask the Right Questions.
Frank J. Corrado, CFP®, CA | Holmdel, NJ
Remember the first time an adult you respected told you, “If you’re having a difficult time deciding what is the right thing to do — just listen to your gut. Deep down, if it’s right, you’ll feel it.”
That’s exactly how I felt the first time I was introduced to the concept of appreciative inquiry. After years of providing excellent financial planning service to my clients, the traditional model I’d been trained in just didn’t feel right anymore. As a successful financial advisor helping clients build their net worth, I was questioning the impact I was having. Sure, I was helping them make more money through better investing and financial strategies, but I felt strongly that there was more that I should, and wanted, to be bringing to the table in these relationships.
So I started searching for a way of serving clients that felt right. Then I found Appreciative Moments, by Dr. Ed Jacobson. Appreciative inquiry (AI) is a conversation model that engages stakeholders in self-determined change. The diagram to the right does a pretty good job illustrating the process of building on the existing positives in a client’s life. My first exposure = Mind Blown. This felt right.
Advice vs. Guidance: Yes, There’s a Difference
I was great at giving my clients financial advice. What I discovered through AI was that even more valuable is the opportunity to offer clients guidance. Advice gives recommendations to solve a problem. Guidance helps someone figure out how they can solve their problem. In my current practice, AI gives me a great communication tool to empower my clients. Through AI, I help them discover their true passions and motivations and set truly personal, meaningful goals that catapult them into their optimal life.
Let me share an example of why AI is now embedded in our practice.
As I was sitting with a colleague the other day, we started sharing tidbits of interesting stories we are reading on social media. After a few minutes, she stopped. “Frank, what do you think about this?” she asked, handing the phone to me.
I did a quick scan. The blogger had started canning his own food (and just put up 24 jars of pickles). What started out as a test to see how much money he could save putting up his own fruits and vegetables quickly became an obsession. He shared how he delightedly told his friend — also his business coach — how he was saving an average of $1.30 a jar by making his own pickles. His friend-coach’s response, “You’re not really saving money; you’d make more money using the time you spend canning to grow your business.” In other words, according to the ‘friend-coach’, Time = Money = Value.
Appreciative Inquiry and True Client-Centered Conversations
The article my colleague shared with me that day was a perfect example of traditional advice given in a financial planning relationship. However, I wanted to deliver a different level of professional service to clients — one that helps them identify and achieve their true life’s purpose – their optimal life. The operating assumption of Life Guidance is that more money is not the answer but rather a means to achieving one’s optimal life. Appreciative inquiry is the heart of the financial life guidance process…