As a financial planner, I talk a lot about investing your money wisely. You might want to invest in a new home, in grad school, or in the stock market. But we can expand this conversation to include other types of investing, too — like investing in yourself.
Happiness comes from investing your money, time, and effort in the things that matter most to you. A new purse will make you happy for a while (and, hey, purses are useful!). But if you’ve felt lately that your life is all about the stuff and not about the good stuff, there might be a disconnect between what you say is important to you and what is actually important to you.
When you focus on your big financial goals instead of mindless spending, you begin to match your monetary habits with your values. That is a really powerful thing. So, put some money aside to invest in yourself. This is the opposite of selfish. You’ll be happier, healthier, more productive, and better able to be there for others.
Invest in Your Health
While some factors that determine your health are genetic or random, you can take action to make a positive change in your health so that you can have more energy and sleep better.
Aim to be active for 30 minutes a day. This can be as simple as trading in your 10-minute drive to work for a 30-minute walk. You can join a recreational sports league (but the ones where you drink tons of beer after each game don’t count!). Take a dance class. Partner up with a friend for a standing exercise date. You’ll feel fitter, sleep better, and reduce your risk of lifestyle-related illnesses.
Incorporating healthy food into your diet is also a way to invest in yourself. Healthy food can cost more in the short term, but remember: It’s probably a relatively small percentage of your budget, and it’s an investment. It can earn you a return down the road when you don’t have “lifestyle diseases” that require expensive medical care and treatment.
Invest in Your Sense of Self-Worth
We all have experiences throughout our life that shape us, for better or for worse. If we don’t unpack those unconscious negative thoughts, we repeat toxic patterns of behavior and hold ourselves back personally and professionally. Negative self-worth can keep you tied to unhealthy friendships or romantic relationships, or it could lead you to believe that taking care of yourself and your body isn’t worth it. The narrative you tell yourself can prevent you from making positive life changes.
There are a few ways to invest in your self-worth. Spend more time with friends and family that encourage your growth. Seek out a mentor at work who can help you set and stick to career goals. And consider talking to a therapist. There’s no shame in getting help from a professional, and it can lead to some amazing changes in your life.
Invest in Your Education
Is college worth the cost? Studies show that people with a four-year degree dramatically out-earn people without one. If you’re considering a career change or advancement, you might need a bachelor’s degree, additional certification, or an advanced degree. In these cases, investing in more education will have a direct impact on your career.
Even if more schooling isn’t in the cards for you, it’s still important to continue to learn at every stage in your life. Make time to read, keep up with current events, and pick up new skills. As you get older, continuous learning keeps your skills fresh at work and helps you establish yourself as an expert in your field. Learning new things is good for your career, your self-esteem, and your soul.
Invest in Experiences
Studies show that spending money on experiences makes you happier than spending it on things. So set aside some of your paycheck for vacations, classes, hobbies, and visits to far-flung old friends.
Buying new stuff makes you happy for a short time, but experiences help you grow, strengthen your bond with other people, and provide fond memories to look back on.
Invest in Relationships
As we get older, we tend to focus our energy on fewer, deeper friendships. Part of this has to do with where we are in life — which could mean more commitments to home, work, and family and less time for casual hangouts. But when you have people in your life that you love, make sure that you give them the attention and care they deserve.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get to go through life with a group of people who understand you deeply, listen to you without judgement, and make you feel like the most important person in the world whenever you talk to them. You should make them feel the same way!
People are busy and time is a limited resource, but make the time to catch up with your nearest and dearest. By doing this, you’re continuing to invest in these relationships, and that investment will bring you lots of happiness.
The Return on Your Investment
If you feel like you’ve been spending way too much money trying to project a certain image, re-think what it means to be successful. There are no clothes, cars, or other external trappings out there that will bring you long-term confidence. There is no out-of-your-price-range condo that will make it easier to make new friends.
The more you pour into your career, relationships, passions, and health, the happier you’ll be. Invest in yourself — it’ll pay off!