Invest in yourself was my motto at the start of the new year. I planned to eat healthier, get fit, and gain new skills. The sky was the limit as I sat down at my computer with a long list of self-improvement goals.
When you invest in yourself, you spend time and money, improving your skills, relationships, confidence, and self-worth. Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Financial investments plump up your bank accounts, but self-improvements add richness to your life.
Which Self Development Goals Should You Pursue?
As the calendar rolled over from December to January, I set new aspirations for myself. I marched over to my computer, pulled up an online training site, and searched for classes I could take to improve my skills. Unfortunately, I didn’t get very far before my inner dialogue blocked my progress.
“I want to draw,” I thought, “or maybe I should take a creative writing class. What about NLP training? Should I sign up for that instead? Should I sign up for both beginner and advanced courses? Surely I’ll love the first one and want to take the second.” I want to draw, write, improve my photography skills, study philosophy, and so much more.
When I was a kid, smorgasbords were all the rage. We didn’t eat out often, but my parents would take us to one every once in a while. As I loaded my plate full of tasty food, my mom would say, “I think your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”
“No way,” I would declare, “I will eat all of this!”
But a few minutes later, I was stuffed beyond belief. It turns out my mom was right. The food looked so tasty as I loaded up, but I couldn’t possibly eat everything on my plate.
I added a bunch of classes to my virtual shopping cart, then froze. As I browsed the course offerings, I could feel my eyes widening. There is no way I could finish all of the lessons I wanted to buy.
I can invest in myself, but I can’t invest in each of these objectives at once. I can’t accomplish everything. Instead, I need to choose the most important goal.
Self Improvement Failures
As I whittled down the online options in front of me, a new thought disrupted my progress. Will I complete one of these courses? Will, I set aside the time and energy to work towards my goals?
Have you ever purchased a self-help book only to let it sit on your nightstand? Have you ever read a self-improvement book without implementing a single recommendation?
As I narrowed down the course offerings, I began to wonder if I was buying a course I would never use. Will my excitement for self-improvement wane after a few months? Will I finish the lessons or quit after a few days?
Many of us know how easy it is to sign up for a gym membership on January 1st, only to quit working out by the end of the month. When we sign up, we plan to invest time and energy working towards a healthier future.
We envision muscular bodies and toned limbs, but we don’t put in the work to achieve those goals. Our hopes and dreams are more prominent than our promise to fulfill them.
Before I could click the checkout button on my virtual shopping cart, I had to ask myself a hard question. Would I set aside time to work on my goals?
If I follow through on this goal, then I should pay for this course. If I won’t, then there is little sense in paying for self-improvement products I won’t use.
Do You Find it Difficult to Invest in Yourself?
Okay, so back to my dilemma. It’s clear that I needed to choose one online course, rather than five, but which one should I choose? I stared at the options but couldn’t decide.
Why did it feel so hard to make this decision? I used to check off self-improvement boxes with ease.
Before I became a mom, it was easy to invest in myself. As a young software engineer, I signed up for every training opportunity available to me.
I began a graduate school program shortly after joining my former company. I took courses for various certifications and completed the necessary tests.
Back then, it was easy to set my sights on professional goals. Each of those goals resulted in higher compensation, and the financial incentives enticed me, but self-improvement doesn’t always involve reaching for higher salaries or promotions.
The Excuses We Make For Ourselves
Why was I struggling to invest in myself when I used to do it so easily? After having children, I struggled to carve out time for myself. Do I have time to invest in myself? Who has time to invest in themselves?
I echoed these questions over and over, but the truth is, I’m stuck in a negative loop that isn’t true anymore. My kids are older now. The days of exclusively breastfeeding are far behind me. I can’t continue making excuses. I can’t hold myself back from becoming a better version of myself.
Do you make excuses for yourself? Do you tell yourself you can’t improve? If so, perhaps it’s time to put your justifications aside.
My goal is to educate myself, feel smarter, more productive, kinder, and more compassionate. This year I want to invest in my dreams. Is this the year to invest in yourself too?
How to Invest In Yourself?
As I stared at the computer screen, I weighed my options and wondered which goal I should tackle first. I came up with a few ideas. If you are considering investing in yourself, these ideas might spark an idea for you.
1. Invest in Your Health and Fitness
Improve your health. For the record, improving your health doesn’t have to include a goal for six-pack abs and super low body fat. It can consist of high-impact exercise, weight loss, and lower blood pressure, but it doesn’t have to include those either.
You can set a goal to move your body, drink more water, introduce more vegetables to your daily rotation, or sleep eight hours a day. If you feel stressed out, you can invest in meditation apps to help ease your mind.
If you want to get outside, download free fitness apps that can track your steps and display maps of all of the places you’ve visited. You can also purchase an assortment of tools that can track your sleep patterns if you don’t feel well rested.
2. Invest In Your Relationships
Sometimes the best way to invest in yourself is to invest in your relationships. When we think about relationships, we often think about dating or marriage, but I challenge you to think beyond those connections.
Do you have rocky relationships with family members or friends? Do these issues weigh on you? Is there anything you can do to make them better? If not, is now the time to invest in yourself by removing these toxic connections?
What can you do to form better relationships with those you know or love? Can you reach out with emails, text messages, or phone calls?
Are you a good friend, partner, mother, or daughter? If not, what steps can you take to improve in these roles?
3. Challenge Yourself
I am a sucker for brain games. Every night before going to sleep, my five-year-old begs me to play Elevate on my iPhone. The app includes literary and math challenges, and my son enjoys watching me play and cheering me on.
Can you add more challenging games to your rotation? Can you search for new ways to physically or mentally challenge yourself?
4. Read More
Lots of people set new year’s resolutions to read more, but don’t set your sights too high in the beginning. You don’t have to create a long list of novels you wish to read or select a specific number.
In my opinion, reading more of anything should count, which means magazine articles, blog posts and newspaper columns can count towards your goal.
A few months ago, I signed up for The Washington Post. Every morning I spend twenty minutes reading articles. In the late afternoon, I talk to my husband about the stories I read.
On the flip side, my husband recently picked up What We Owe To Each Other. After reading a few chapters, he chats with me about philosophical quandaries and morality.
If you have the inclination, search for book clubs, online forums, or friends, so you can talk about the words you read.
5. Educate Yourself
Knowledge is a powerful tool. You can educate yourself by signing up for college classes, taking online courses, attending boot camps, or studying for certifications. You can also search for webinars or conferences.
It’s easier than ever to learn new things. The Internet is full of courses, free videos, and how-to articles that can guide you to become better. You don’t have to attend college to gain skills. You can learn a lot from the comfort of your own home, which is fantastic if you have kids or other responsibilities.
Consider educational opportunities that will help your career, but don’t be afraid to dive into lessons for hobbies or dreams that excite you. Try something new or challenge yourself to improve on something you already love to do.
6. Be More Creative
Have you ever wanted to play an instrument, learn to paint, draw, cook, bake, or improve your photography skills? YouTube is full of videos explaining the finer details of each of these crafts.
I’ve been blogging about money since 2005, but during the last fifteen years, I rarely focused on the craft of writing. Isn’t it strange that I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but haven’t spent time to hone my craft since I was teenager?
Perhaps this is the year to be more creative?
7. Learn to Journal
In my opinion, there is no better way to invest in yourself than learning to journal. When you document your thoughts and feelings you can process them much more easily.
Sonja Lyubomirsky writes about journaling in The How of Happiness. I listened to this book over the summer and immediately started journaling again.
Writing helps you cope with the world around you. According to Lyubomirsky, journaling can be an effective means of finding happiness. Could journaling help you?
8. Invest In Your Surroundings
When we think about investing in ourselves, we often think about making changes to our minds and bodies. But sometimes we can improve ourselves by clearing the physical spaces that surround us.
Can you declutter and purge stuff you don’t need to make more physical space in your home? When you own less, you’ll have less to maintain. This simple act can add extra time to your days.
Once you remove the unnecessary stuff from your life, you can begin working on other aspects of yourself. As you become better at organizing and minimizing, you will also get better at managing your life in general.
9. Invest in the Little Things
When you think about investing in yourself, you often pick enormous goals, but could you improve a few small aspects of your life first?
Can you become more proficient at creating spreadsheets, sending emails, or perfecting the grammar in your sales pitches? I know these things may not sound important, but each of these little tasks takes time and energy.
Don’t just look at the big picture. Consider minor improvements that you can check off before you get to the big stuff. Some of these could have more significant impacts than you realize.
10. Invest in Productivity
We often overlook productivity when reviewing our self-improvement goals. Are there ways to complete your tasks more efficiently?
Do you work better in the morning or at night? Can you shift your schedule to work during the hours that produce the most productivity for you?
Do you procrastinate or drag out tasks for long periods? How can you complete your tasks in a more timely manner?
Concentration, time management, and focus are all worthwhile goals.
How to Invest In Yourself Financially
When searching for ways to improve yourself, try not to pay for advice you can get for free. Before you jump to paying for something new, look around and see how far you can get with free materials.
The Internet is full of videos, blogs, and articles that can help you improve yourself. Search the library, eBay, and other used book stores for materials that can help you.
Take tiny steps before attempting giant leaps. If you want to get fit, test out online videos before signing up for in-person exercise classes. See if you can stick to a fitness schedule by taking walks in your neighborhood before buying a membership to the gym.
If you stick with your self-improvement goal, consider paid options to propel you further. Also, consider paying if the act of spending money will motivate you.
Some people need to pay for something to find their motivation. They take steps because they don’t want to waste the money.
Spending Money on Self-improvement
Do your best not to feel guilty for paying for the help you need. It’s easy to convince yourself not to pay for self-improvement, especially when your budgets feel extra tight.
Of course, you can find other ways to spend that money, but weigh the importance of those items against the desire to improve your life. If this is hard to do, keep your goal in mind. Remember that you are paying to create a better version of yourself.
When my husband wanted to improve his photography skills, he bought an expensive Nikon camera. He didn’t bat an eye. Within a year, he was sitting on the sidelines, shooting college sports. He devoted time and energy to his craft, but he didn’t hesitate to spend money too.
If you follow through on your objectives, your financial investments will be well worth the money you spent.
Budget for Self-Improvement
Sometimes it’s hard to invest in yourself. I know. I struggle to pay for self-improvement. If this is an issue for you, take a look at your budget and figure out what other expenses you can cut.
We often spend money on other activities, like dining out or visiting with friends but struggle to pay for classes that could benefit us. Find ways to trim a couple of unnecessary expenses if you can and create a budget to fund your development goals.
What Steps Can You Take to Invest In Yourself?
Investing in yourself takes time and patience. Here are a few ways to give yourself a boost towards your goals.
1. Break Down Each Action Into Smaller Parts
I can’t focus on a big goal all at once. If I have a large objective, I need to break it into smaller parts in order to succeed.
When I was younger, I would try to lose weight by cutting back on fatty foods. I would ditch the chips and fill the fridge with fruits and vegetables. Trying to eat healthy foods worked fine all by itself, but I failed every time I added exercise.
When I got home from exercising, I didn’t want to eat a bunch of carrots and broccoli. I wanted to eat a cheeseburger or a BLT filled with extra bacon. I could succeed in one task, but I couldn’t manage to successfully eat healthy foods and exercise.
To accomplish my goal, I needed to take baby steps rather than trying to do everything all at once. Overtime I ate healthier and exercised, but it took a while for that to happen. Before it did, I felt discouraged by my actions. Instead, I should’ve recognized I needed to take it slow.
Self-improvement doesn’t happen overnight. It can take days, weeks, months, and even years to get better or improve your skills. When you embark on a quest to invest in yourself, be kind. Don’t expect everything to improve in an instant.
2. Make Connections With Those Who Can Help You Improve
Search for people who are trying to achieve similar goals. Reach out to people you know. Do you want to become better at managing your money? Reach out to a friend who seems to have a solid handle on their finances and ask them to become a financial mentor for you.
Could professional guidance help you reach your goals? Sometimes you need a career or life coach to guide you.
I recently signed up for a mastermind group. It’s something I’ve considered a bunch of times but never found the time to try.
This year I’ve decided to give it a whirl. Will it help me become a better blogger? Maybe, maybe not, but if I want to focus on blogging, it’s certainly worth a try.
When I started blogging, I wanted to help others. If I get better at blogging I can reach more people. Can I help more people by becoming better at what I do?
3. Focus on the Process of Improving Yourself, Not the End Goal
When evaluating your progress, don’t focus solely on the end goal. Instead, pay attention to the processes that can help you achieve success.
Take decluttering as an example. If you want to live like a minimalist, you can’t just throw out your belongings and call it a day. You have to learn to stop buying stuff you don’t need.
If you don’t evaluate your actions and process your emotional state, you’ll never minimize. Instead, you’ll quickly fill the places you emptied with more things.
It’s not about organizing the stuff you own. It’s about learning to create systems that keep you from acquiring new things.
If you want to attain a goal, you have to focus on how to get there. Remember that the objective of investing in yourself isn’t to change something one time. It’s to create a repeatable process that you can continue to improve upon.
The best part of this approach is that you can make forward progress without achieving your final goal. When you focus on the steps, you remove the win-or-lose scenario.
For example, you can make significant gains to become healthier without losing ten pounds. You can be more intentional with your time and still feel okay watching Netflix from time to time.
4. Create a System to Track Your Progress
Don’t just say you want to attain a new goal. Start tracking it too. If you’re going to lose weight, write down the number of minutes you walk. If you wish to relax, track the amount of time you meditate.
Then keep yourself accountable. If you don’t work out for a week, ask yourself why you haven’t laced up your sneakers? If you want to learn to draw, ask yourself why you haven’t doodled.
You cannot improve if you don’t take the time to practice.
5. Celebrate Your Success
My husband once bought a bottle of champagne to toast an impressive business goal. The problem is we never reached it.
We hit many milestones along the path, but that bottle of champagne stayed inside the fridge unopened. I wish we had popped the cork after accomplishing a smaller feat. I wish we hadn’t waited to celebrate our success.
Don’t wait to reward yourself for reaching smaller goals. Pat yourself on the back as you make steady progress.
6. Know When to Take a Break from Self-Improvement Goals
Working to improve yourself is a worthy goal, but don’t push yourself too hard in your quest. If you’ve never gone to the gym, don’t plan to go every day for a month. If you’ve never cooked before, don’t set a schedule to prepare dinner every night.
You won’t be successful if you burn yourself out trying to be perfect right from the start. Make sure you take breaks from your new pursuit when it’s necessary.
7. Start from a Place of Self Confidence
Before you can invest in yourself, you have to believe in yourself. Look into the future and see yourself standing at a podium, wearing a cap and gown, or finishing a race.
After you envision that moment step back and think about the steps required to reach your goal. Work backward from that final moment. Move back, step by step, until you are standing at this very moment in time.
Once you understand the steps and systems you need to have in place, you can move forward to complete them.
So what are you waiting for? How can you invest in yourself?