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In business, much of the focus is on financial investment, but some of the best advice for success is to start investing in yourself. The grind can be exhausting and wear you down if you let it, but regular investments in your well-being make you more resilient and capable so you can keep up — and even excel.
Then again, stopping to make time for self-investments may sound nearly impossible. To start investing in yourself first, get personal, then practical and, finally, look to improve your performance.
1. Start small
When you first begin analyzing where you can invest in yourself, keep your goals small. Sorting through the millions of ways to nurture personal relationships, change lifestyle habits or improve nutrition can get overwhelming, so to start, focus on only a few, easy investments. An investment in becoming the best version of yourself teaches you to see yourself as a gift — you come to believe in yourself and what you can contribute, which translates into your role in business.
Starting small means your personal investments can be simple, such as a Saturday afternoon alone to read a new book or try out a new recipe. Make it a habit to stretch every morning, or start a basic exercise routine. This can improve memory and focus as well as your ability to carry out basic tasks. In my schedule, I make a commitment to a daily walk. Making a schedule with your investment in mind, adding it to your to-do list or even having it on the calendar will encourage you to make it happen.
2. Start private
Starting with small, personal investments means you can make your first attempts to invest in yourself in private and without judgment. Give yourself 30 minutes to play an instrument, knit or engage in another hobby you can do alone. When work takes us away from what we enjoy, we can grow resentful and unhappy about our jobs and the moments we miss when not at home. Allowing yourself the time to practice whatever brings you joy, on the other hand, will invigorate your life.
When you invest in bringing yourself these personal joys, you give yourself a gift. My children are my foundation for investing in myself, and I make it a goal to see them at least once every week. Even if it gets hard to free up time, I know that keeping the commitment will bring me joy. My daughter sends me a photo of my grandson at least once a day, and I pause and take that moment to bask in the happiness of it, no matter what’s going on around me. The more small, personal joys you can appreciate in a day, the more gratitude will come across in everything you do.
3. Be practical
Before you start taking on every personal investment that you can list, remember that another key to investing in yourself is to be practical. Be reasonable with yourself — no one can do it all.
Some of the best investments are in ways to make your life easier, free up time or take away unnecessary stress. I hate to shop, but I have to eat, so I signed up to get my groceries delivered to my door whenever I need them. Investing in these services left me with one less unpleasant task to consider each week, and I found more time to dedicate to running my business.
Practical investments free up energy for you to put into more productive activities, so if something no longer gives you joy, drop it or find someone else to handle it. Getting my hands dirty in the garden used to bring me so much happiness until I hurt my back and could no longer manage it without pain. Still, seeing a well-kept garden in my yard lets me sustain that joy, so I hired a gardener to keep it up, and I reap the benefits of my investment. Trade-offs like this return double because they give back time and still bring joy.
4. Branch out
Making small, private investments in yourself constructs the sturdy foundation of confidence that you need to then reach out and involve others, be it a coach or a group, formal or informal, or just your best friend at work. Create a space in which you feel safe enough to put yourself out there and be vulnerable to criticism. Beyond just personal investments to treat ourselves well and make life more practical, when we invite others into our self-investments, we can better identify opportunities to improve our performance.
Once we invest in our personal strengths, we need to push them to the limits so they can grow. A group provides an opportunity to give and take. A coach comes in to stretch and challenge you. I’ve had the same coach for over a decade. He listens to every word I say without judgment — a rare trait in any relationship, and certainly not found in a boardroom. At the same time, he would never let me make excuses for not getting things done. Investing in a coach strengthens one’s sense of self, giving your self-perceived best that extra push it needs to really want to excel and then do it.
Truly investing in yourself is never done in complete isolation. Nurturing healthy relationships gives us more stability in uncertain times — both financially and emotionally. I make a point to kiss my husband every day, and we try to have at least one date each month because these mutual gestures of care remind us of the strong support we have in one another. Investing in being your best self means scheduling time to invest with the people you love — your children, your spouse or your friends who are as close as family — because those relationships bring out the best in you.