Investing in yourself can yield rewards that last a lifetime. The key is to be conscious about taking time each day to lay the groundwork — both for the person you want to become and the things you want to accomplish. A conscious and concerted effort can have a profound effect on your overall happiness and well-being.
There are innumerable ways to build toward a brighter, more positive future. Some can be as straightforward as keeping a journal to track your progress. Others may require shifts in your habits and actions, like exercising more, diversifying your income.
I believe that self-investment is possible for everyone. The only essential part of this investment is a desire to make a positive change — or in some cases, experiencing enough dissatisfaction with your current circumstances.
With a willingness to invest in yourself, change presents an opportunity for greater self-confidence, knowledge, and joy in everyday life.
In this post, I’ll share 11 specific actions you can take to begin building your personal investment account.
Measurable Goals Are The First Step Towards Investing in Yourself
One of the quickest and easiest ways to begin investing in yourself is to start setting measurable goals for the different areas of your life. You need to set goals that you can actively pursue and ensure that you are making continual progress towards their achievement. Goals should be equal parts ambitious and attainable.
You have probably heard of SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). Combining these five elements will give you the highest likelihood of success when you build your plan of attack. Most important, set goals about which you are excited and that motivate you to act.
A healthy goal is one that is precise and well-defined. As opposed to “being happier,” for example, your goals should be something that you can measure, while being relevant to your overall self-investment ideals. Finally, make sure to set deadlines so that you have impetuous to start working toward your goals and then celebrating your success!
While we on the topic of goals, I think it worth mentioning that I’m also a big believer in goals that are process-oriented. The reason being, we can’t really control the outcome but we can always control the actions we take.
Look at it this way: If your goal is to write a book, the thought of having to write 100,000 words can seem like a daunting process, the achievement of which could be months away. For the first 90,000 words or so, you’ll be feeling like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. But if you set a goal to sit at your desk and write 1500 words each day, it’s much easier to both track and manage that process. You’ll have concrete steps that you can take each and every day that contribute to and build upon your success.
Spend 15 Minutes Journaling Every Day
Even if you are not an avid writer, taking the time to journal can have a transforming effect on your sense of self. On the surface, journaling is a way to measure your self-improvement wins and see how far you have come. It is difficult to see improvement on a day-to-day basis, and journaling provides an intimate window into your past.
Journaling can be a point of catharsis. You can clear your emotions, whether that is revering your feelings of empowerment or chronicling your personal struggles. There is no one to judge your feelings, so the writing process works as a form of self-therapy.
It is also a prime opportunity to cherish things in life that you may often overlook. Taking a moment each day to list positive experiences can increase your sense of gratitude. In fact, scientific studies indicate that journaling the intent to improve your appreciation can help you overcome psychological hurdles.
Adopt An Attitude of “Always Learning”
You are always learning, whether you realize it or not. Learning is an essential nutrient to your mind and can serve as a priceless tool for setting and attaining personal and professional goals. Taking the time to satiate your curiosity about a subject can help you reach your full potential.
Learning fuels confidence. Being knowledgeable can be a sign of strength as you are more likely to come up with innovative ideas and reach informed conclusions. Being willing to learn more also can change your perspectives about topics as you learn and understand different angles of a story or issue.
The world is continually changing and while it’s important not to get bogged down by the negativity of the news, it’s also important to stay abreast of the latest events and news. Learning also gives you the skills to handle unexpected changes because you will be more willing to step out of your comfort zone and into new challenges.
Taking an active interest in learning is a great way to stay up-to-date and relevant in your industry or areas of interest. But learning, like everything else in life, can also have a negative side. If you consistently prioritize learning instead of doing, you’ll never get anywhere. It’s vital to make sure you are implementing and testing your knowledge as often as possible.
Learn About and Take Control of Your Finances
According to a survey from Bankrate, only 40 percent of Americans would be able to pay off an unexpected $1,000 expense from their savings. In Canada, 48% of people are on the brink of insolvency. Many would borrow money, reduce spending on other things, or use a credit card to pay the bill. While there is no one definitive reason for this, a general lack of emphasis on personal finance as well as being fiscally responsible is probably to blame.
Understanding your finances is an essential part of living a full and prosperous life. Nobody else is responsible for your personal financial situation. If you’re assigning that responsibility to someone other than yourself, then you are giving away your power.
One of the easiest ways to take control of your finances is by creating a budget that outlines your total income and expenses. That way, you can begin to see where to allocate funds and make potential changes in your spending habits. It’s a task that requires a degree of self-discipline but the payoff can be huge. I’d strongly recommend picking up a copy of “Your Money or Your Life” if you’re interested in becoming a pro in this department.
A budget will also provide you the insight you need to save for the future. According to the 50/30/20 principle, individuals should invest 20 percent of their post-tax income in savings. Whether that is in a Roth IRA, 401(k), RRSP, TFSA or a non-registered brokerage account, the sooner you get your money working for you, the faster you’ll begin reaping the dividends (literally).
Hire a Coach
As a general rule, I’m a fan of both personal and business coaches. As long as you remember that a coach should be about more than just providing encouragement and inspiration. If you’re going to work with a coach, they should have both the experience and mindset that you seek to develop.
A worthwhile coach is one who you can trust, but who is not afraid to push your buttons. Coaches are there to help you become a better person, even when the going gets tough. When you are down or struggling, a coach will be there to provide what is often a more realistic and experienced-based perspective.
Generally speaking, friends and family members don’t make the best coaches. Typically, they are too kind to and willing to let you slide if you come up short. While friends and family are crucial to so many things in your life, coaching is not one of them.
Take a Course or Begin Learning a New Skill
While we have touched on the importance of learning new information, it’s also an excellent idea to expand your skillset. Doing so helps keeps you relevant and invokes a sense of accomplishment. Learning a new skill also has the added benefit of being fun.
If you decide to take a course about, let’s say, film theory, you will be able to see the benefits, literally. Your brain chemistry changes as you gain white matter called myelin. This section of your brain helps improve your overall performance, and researchers have observed it growing denser during learning.
That film-theory course can also improve your learning speed. Your brain will develop more neural pathways, which means electrical impulses can travel more quickly. You can stay mentally sharp and even reduce your likelihood of developing dementia.
Eat Healthy and Exercise
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: Exercise and diet are crucial to a healthy lifestyle. These are the fundamental building blocks for improved mental, emotional, and physical health. It helps you continuously look and feel better than ever.
When it comes to exercise, choose an activity you enjoy. If your someone who is typically inactive, then I think doing something will always be better than doing nothing. Even moderate exercise can lower your fat and cholesterol levels, reduce your chance of developing heart complications, and boost your “feel-good” endorphins.
However, if you’re already someone who is consistently and moderately active, then I think it’s worthwhile to look at ways that you can bring a little more intensity to your exercise. We all know those people who spend an hour at the gym, get 10 minutes of exercise done in addition to 50 minutes of socializing and reading fitness magazines.
There are also a million ways to eat better and I’m certainly not the best example. Generally speaking, you should try to reduce your sugar intake while consuming more lean protein, vegetables and unprocessed foods.
Diversify Your Income by Starting a Side Hustle
I’m not a fan of the whole “passive income” theory. I won’t say that you can’t leverage your time or create a semi-passive form of income but I think most people underestimate the amount of time and work that is required.
But don’t let that stop you from getting started. Side hustles are a real opportunity for many people and if you consider the potential rewards, you’ll see why it makes sense to get started sooner rather than later.
You don’t need to make a million dollars with your side hustle (the opportunity is there if that’s what you want). Just think about how an extra $500 or $1000 per month might impact the quality of your life. It opens up the door to countless opportunities.
You can pursue a topic or field that stokes your passions. For instance, if you are an avid pet-lover, start a dog-walking business that charges $20 for every half hour you walk someone’s dog. Maltese and money could be your winning combination. Or maybe you forget passion and look for opportunities that are a little less glamorous and require some sweat equity. Nick over at The Sweaty Startup has an awesome list of ideas.
Expand Your Professional Network
In the same way that being an active learner will force you into new intellectual territories, expanding your professional network puts you in touch with new people. Networking is an opportunity to build a new relationship and make new friends. Plus, you will get a constant flow of information that can put you in touch with even more people and opportunities.
Without hesitation, I can say that networking and connecting with other entrepreneurs has been the single most effective use of my time. I can specifically identify several points of contact over the years that have resulted in opportunities that would never have presented themselves otherwise.
You can start networking anywhere and anytime, online or in-person. The key is to be open to new experiences, meeting new people and learning about new opportunities.
Insure Yourself Where Necessary
Crises can occur at any time. That said, I’m not a believer in insuring against every possible eventuality. That said, creating the peace of mind necessary for you to focus on the critical things in your day-to-day life is also important.
One of the critical protections you can have is life insurance. If you want coverage for a specific period of time, opt for term policies. Or, for a lifetime of coverage, whole or universal insurance may be a better option for you.
Of course, your life is full of things that need protecting. For those, you can also purchase insurance for your business, disability, health, and more. Mixing and matching coverage options will provide you with the certainty and comfort you need to know that your life, family, and property are protected if things go south.
Read Books and Blogs Every Day
I touched on this idea before, but reading every day is an active opportunity to learn. Reading a diverse array of materials will put you in touch with various ideologies that will challenge and develop your personal perspectives. You may find yourself flipping sides on an issue because of how an author articulates a different point of view.
Reading also delivers cognitive benefits, such as improved discipline and memory. Reading keeps your mind sharp so you can more readily remember facts, figures, plots, characters, and details. Some studies suggest that building up your memory may also delay the effects of dementia-related disease.
One of the underrated perks of reading is its ability to enhance your vocabulary. Exposing yourself to new words and figures of speech will open a window into a broader lexicon. You’ll become more capable of speaking your mind clearly and precisely in the future.
One Step at a Time
Self-investment is arguably the most important thing you can do to improve your quality of life. It all starts with clear and relevant goals and objectives that come with a specific plan of action. Laying this groundwork will allow you to see incremental progress and stay on track when things don’t go as planned — which I guarantee will happen at some point in time.
Of course, any worthwhile goal is a challenge to achieve. Even when you stumble or come up short, focus on remaining positive and reflecting on the progress you have made. It’s a difficult idea to accept but the pursuit of a goal is usually more valuable than actually achieving the goal itself. This is something I need to remind myself of on a regular basis.
The list of benefits to investing in yourself is long and substantial. If you take the time to implement some of the ideas laid out here, over time, you’ll begin to experience the rewards. In the end, you will be able to maximize your potential as an individual and live a life that provides greater satisfaction.