Many scientific studies have established that there is a wide range of benefits flowing from a positive attitude and positive thinking. At a time when many are focused on worst-case scenarios and gloomy predictions, help your clients resist the pull of negativity and embrace the beneficial results of positivity. This is not just an attempt to make them (or ourselves) feel better in spite of reality, but rather to take full advantage of the proven benefits of optimism. We can develop stronger relationships with our clients by helping them to incorporate positivity into their estate planning: They can increase not only their own wellbeing but also that of their children or other beneficiaries by creating an estate plan designed to promote their loved ones’ happiness, which in turn, will enable them to live healthier and more successful lives. Fortunately for those to whom it does not come naturally, positive thinking can be learned by surrounding themselves with positive people, deliberately engaging in positive self-talk, and living a healthy lifestyle, just to name a few common methods.
Health Benefits of Positivity
According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking has a multitude of health benefits, including an increased life span, lower rates of depression, lower levels of distress, greater resistance to the common cold, more psychological and physical well-being, better cardiovascular health and less risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and better coping skills. Happiness, a byproduct of a positive attitude, has repeatedly been shown to boost the immune system, with studies showing that happy people who were exposed to illness were less likely to become sick or had milder symptoms than others who were less happy.
Impact of Positivity on Success
Dr. Martin Seligman, a well-known researcher in the field of psychology, has found that those who are happy and satisfied with their lives are more likely to have desirable outcomes in school, work, social relationships, health, and life in general. Negative emotions narrow our perspective, driving us toward a single, instinctive action (reacting to danger) while ignoring everything else around us. In contrast, positive emotions are accompanied by a broadened perspective that allows us to see and examine a variety of options and then choose the one we believe is best for that moment.
Those who tend to be more optimistic are more likely to establish clear life goals, focus on different ways to reach their goals, and believe that their goals will become a reality. Hopeful people view negative events as temporary setbacks or isolated unfortunate events. As a result, they are more resilient and able to handle challenges and view them as learning experiences. They have confidence that they can take action to improve their lives, and thus, are more likely to do just that.
Encourage Clients to Use Their Estate Plan to Create Positivity and Appropriate its Benefits for Beneficiaries
Rather than focusing primarily on negative goals, such as preventing a spendthrift child from wasting his or her inheritance, encourage your clients to also view their estate planning as a way to pass along a positive legacy. One method is to encourage them to create an ethical will that shares important values, religious beliefs, life lessons, and blessings with their family members. An ethical will, which could be in written or video form, is something that could be shared during your clients’ lifetime as a way of drawing family members closer together, or it could be one of the most meaningful gifts they leave for family members when they pass away. The positive emotions that come from the enhanced relationship and knowledge that they are loved could be a powerful catalyst that increases the wellbeing of your clients’ families.
In addition, clients can provide funds for activities that create positive experiences for beneficiaries, ultimately enhancing their wellbeing. Although providing financial security for family members and loved ones is clearly a positive goal, rather than simply thinking of their wealth as a way for their children or loved ones to acquire more “stuff,” they can be more deliberate and thoughtful about their estate planning, setting aside money for meaningful experiences, e.g., family trips, schooling, or volunteer activities, that will allow their beneficiaries to flourish and develop their strengths and interests. In fact, research shows that experiential gifts (gifts of events that recipients experience) result in a stronger relationship between the giver and the gift recipient than material gifts, even if the gift giver does not experience the event with the recipient. The improvement in the relationship is the result of the positive emotions that are experienced while the recipient is experiencing the gift. These positive emotions also can ultimately increase their physical and mental wellbeing and likelihood of success in life.
Let’s Work Together to Help Clients Achieve a Positive Goal
During this time of crisis, a positive attitude is more important than ever. As your clients’ trusted advisor, one way you can help them is to try to have a positive outlook yourself. If you have a negative attitude, your clients are likely to sense it. On the other hand, if you have a positive outlook, they may feel more confident as well. In helping your clients think through and identify the ways they can incorporate positivity into their estate planning, you will develop a stronger and closer relationship with them that is likely to endure over time. Together, we can help clients have confidence and peace, knowing that they are not only providing their families with financial security, but also that they are leaving a positive legacy that will promote their loved ones’ physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing and future success.
 Cindy Chan and Cassie Mogilner, “Experiential Gifts Foster Stronger Relationships than Material Gifts,” 43(6) Journal of Consumer Research 913 (April 2017), https://academic.oup.com/jcr/article/43/6/913/2632328