As a personal finance expert, my job is to provide advice, tips, and tricks on how to invest in your future — particularly where money is concerned — so that you can live the kind of life of which you’ve always dreamt. Yet, while I wholeheartedly believe that it’s those dollar signs that make the world go ’round — because it’s reality — I don’t discount that there are other ways we can invest in ourselves that doesn’t always require cash.
Sometimes the best ROI happens when we bet on ourselves by continually trying to be better people emotionally, physically, and mentally.
What does that mean exactly, and how can you get on board? Check out these nine suggestions on how to invest yourself so you can start living fuller today.
Seeking Knowledge Wherever You Can
There was once a time, near the end of my undergrad career, that I thought pursuing a master’s degree was the only way I’d feel “truly educated.” For financial reasons I wasn’t able to attend grad school — I already had a mountain of debt in the form of school loans, and I couldn’t afford anymore — and for years I beat myself up about giving up that path to the point that I had convinced myself that I’ll never be as intelligent as I should be.
In hindsight, I was completely wrong. In fact, I think that I’m probably more intelligent — and certainly more well rounded, cultured, and self-aware — than if I had dug an additional $100,000 school-loan hole out which I had to climb.
As an alternative, I’ve made my entire life a course in learning something or other, and I love to obtain new knowledge every single day. As a result, at age 34 I own a successful creative business based in Manhattan, and I have two homes — one in the city, one on the Jersey Shore — which wouldn’t have been possible if I had gone to grad school … or trusted the very educating process of trail-and-error in my 20s.
Kristen Martinez, a private-practice psychotherapist at Pacific NorthWell in Seattle, also believes that continuing to educate yourself however you can is a cornerstone of giving yourself a shot at your best life possible, as well as your mental health.
“I believe that a great way for people to invest in themselves and their own well-being is through education,” she says. “When we invest in our own education, we are empowering ourselves to make better choices and broaden — and brighten — our futures. When we value ourselves enough to cultivate our minds and strengthen our intellect, we can create a more stable sense of wellbeing and increase our competence and self-confidence and self-worth. It can be challenging to invest in our education — whether through going back to school, or even enrolling in a class just for fun — but the challenging part is usually a battle of wills among ourselves: Can I do it? Am I good enough or smart enough? Am I too old? When we do conquer that challenge by increasing our educational attainment, the benefits are enormous — not just for us, but for the world around us.”
Living a Healthy, Active Lifestyle
Until about a year ago, I had let myself go for the better part of a half-decade by eating too much, drinking too much, and avoiding anything that had to do with exercise. Though I managed to keep my career afloat and progressive through that struggle, I can confidently say that I could have accomplished many more achievements had a healthy, active lifestyle been a priority.
Over the past 14 months or so all that has changed, and my lifestyle has done a complete 180. I eat extremely healthy now, I’m in the gym about five days a week, and I have increased energy and a renewed sense of confidence and self-esteem. What all of that means is that I’m a much happier and more productive privately and professionally. I’m no longer wallowing in my own self-pity because I feel guilty for eating crap food or not liking what I see staring back at me in the mirror. I get up in the morning, greet the day, and set out to make it better than the last
Identifying and Overcoming Fears
By nature, fears exist to hold you back or prevent a positive outcome in a given situation. That’s no way to live, and it could actually be detrimental to your health and your future.
To overcome your fears — however numerous they may be — you need to identify what they are. Speaking strictly professionally, perhaps you have a fear of public speaking, saying the wrong thing in a meeting, or not being liked by your coworkers. All of these are valid fears — as are any other fears you have, by the way; they’re yours, and you shouldn’t let anybody making you feel less because of them — but it’s in your best interest to get to the root of these issues so you can unburden yourself.
Oftentimes, it’s the fearless people we know that get ahead in life and seem to have a great time living it. Wouldn’t you agree? And wouldn’t you prefer to be one of them?
Pursuing a Life of Entrepreneurship
For me, pursuing a life of entrepreneurship has been the best way for me to invest myself, as it is for many other people. But it’s not just the unlimited financial potential of my business that drives me out of bed every morning. Rather, it’s the freedom that I have to do what I want, when I want, and knowing that I’m 100% in control of my destiny. That’s why I shunned the corporate world nearly a decade ago and struck out on my own. I was tired of people acting like they were better than me because of their title or pay grade; I didn’t like being chained to my desk for eight hours a day, despite that I was efficient enough to get my work done in half the time; and I completely resented the feeling that I was going to be under somebody’s thumb for the rest of my life. Excuse my candor — but who the hell needs that?
Not me. And neither do any of the other entrepreneurs that I know. Trust me when I tell you, that becoming your own boss and starting your own business will be the best decision you ever make, provided that you approach the prospect appropriately (that is, not hastily).
Photographer and entrepreneur Chris Manitius agrees.”By starting my own business I regularly see returns on my efforts and watch my income increase,” he says. “[It gave] me the greatest chance for economic prosperity because, one, I’m passionate about what I do, and motivated to ensure quality, and two, I have the greatest control over my circumstances. Other investment vehicles like stocks are in other people’s hands, and real estate is great if you have access to money and know what you’re doing, but those are pretty big hurdles.”
Taking Risks to Reap Rewards
This sort of goes hand-in-hand with entrepreneurship, though there are plenty of other risks you can take to improve your life that don’t include starting a business. Personally, I took a risk seven years ago when I decided to take the driver’s seat of my own life by starting my business, and along the way I’ve made investments — namely real estate — that have helped provide a sense of security as I’ve turn the risks into profit centers. These investments could have gone either way — and they can at any moment — but that’s the risk I was willing to take to achieve the small feats I’ve set for myself along the way.
Accepting That You Will Fail
I’m a perfectionist and I desperately want to be the best at everything I do. But I’ve learned — not without a decent amount of pouting to get there — that that’s not always possible. Sometimes I will fail, and so will you. The important thing is that your try, you learn from the experience, and you pick yourself up to do it all over again.
Treating Yourself Every Now and Again
We’re all motivated by something to keep us going. Whatever that thing is, treat yourself to it every now and again. By allowing ourselves to enjoy the fruits of our labor with something that makes us smile — my treats include new clothes, travel, and food, in that order — we’ll continue to be productive knowing that another reward for our hard work isn’t too far off.
Eliminating Toxic Relationships
If any relationship in your life makes you feel sad, angry, or terrible about yourself more than it lifts you up and makes you happy, it’s toxic — bottom line, simple as that.
The problem, however, lies with the lies we tell ourselves about this relationship, hoping against hope that it’ll work out. In particular, this applies to romantic relationships, but there are other relationships — like business partnerships and friendships — that can turn sour, too. They key is knowing when to say enough is enough before it starts to drag you down — and that’s not always easy.
Still, no matter hard it is to end these relationships, you’ve got to do yourself a favor and cut them loose. You’ll go nowhere fast with toxic people, and eventually these relationships will start to negatively affect other parts of your life, including your mental, physical, and financial health.
Treating Others Like You Want to Be Treated
The golden rule still applies: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. It’s not only the best and easiest way to live, but you’ll find innumerable benefits and opportunities that arise as a result. Don’t sell yourself short.
Do you have other ways that we can invest in ourselves that you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Photo Credit: Keoni Cabral