7 ways to invest in yourself for maximum life returns

Financial advisors spend a lot of time speaking with people about investing in things like the sharemarket and their financial futures.

But an often overlooked aspect of Health, Prosperity and Happiness for life is making an investment in yourself. 

Some great things about investing in yourself are:

  • It need not cost you money (although it can) as your time and energy are also there to be leveraged.
  • You’re pretty much guaranteed a return.
  • It’s not just you that benefits. The people closest to you tend to benefit as well.

So now we’re in agreement that investing in yourself is a good thing to do, let’s look at seven ways you can do this.

1. Pay someone smart for an hour of their time

Back in the day, there were a couple of options for accessing the brains of smart people. 

  1. You could ask to take them out for a coffee so you could ‘pick their brain’.
  2. You could spend time building a relationship with someone you admired in the hope they might see you as someone worth mentoring one day.

As someone who’s been self-employed for most of my adult life (charging my time by the hour), I never liked being asked out to coffee so someone could pick my brain. I also found it took a really long time to build relationships that led to mentoring opportunities.

But I was able to significantly fast-track my writing career by asking smart people in the industry if I could pay them for an hour of their time to ask some questions. This might seem like a transactional way to approach things. But interestingly, because I showed up front that:

  • I valued their time so much I was willing to pay for it
  • I valued my career so much I was willing to invest in it

those transactions became interactions that turned into genuine and long-lasting relationships. Relationships that continue to support my career to this day.

2. Pay for household help

In my experience, people are funny about paying for help around the house. They think ‘why pay someone to do something I can do myself?’ There’s also a weird stigma around getting that kind of help. A bit like, ‘Oh, you’re too good to clean your own toilets are you? Too good to fold your own clothes? To mow your own lawn?’

I’ve always found this thinking a bit strange. 

The four hours you’re spending cleaning the house on the weekend could be spent with your family. Or even (this one is crazy, I know), lying on the couch reading a book. Ditto for the time spent mowing the lawn or doing home maintenance jobs.

Paying for household help (if you have the means to do so) gifts you time to just be. It frees up headspace that can be the difference between you carrying around heaps of stress, and not. Headspace that can be re-directed towards chilling out. Or solving a problem creatively. Or giving someone your full attention.  

When you pay other people to do things you can do yourself, you’re really paying for leisure time and headspace. Both of which help you to be more of the person you aspire to be.

3. Daily exercise

We’ve all read the government health advice and seen the campaigns that urge us to move our bodies for 30 minutes a day. Years of research stand behind those campaigns and the benefits of daily exercise are well known. 

  • It helps us maintain a healthy weight
  • It ensures good heart and lung function
  • It has significant mental health benefits

The great thing about committing to a daily exercise habit is that it doesn’t need to cost anything. You can achieve it by simply walking out the door, going for a saunter through your neighbourhood, and returning home 30 minutes later.

If time is at an absolute premium, even 10 minutes will do (the ‘something is better than nothing’ principle). You can also use daily exercise as a social occasion by arranging ‘walking catchups’ with friends rather than ‘coffee catch ups’.

And, of course, you can also spend money to join a gym or hire a personal trainer if you’re someone who needs accountability and has the means to pay for that accountability.

Whatever works, do it with the knowledge that a daily exercise habit is one of the greatest investments you can make in yourself. It delivers benefits here in the now and also ensures a great quality of life for you when you’re older. 

4. Meditation

This is something where the investment is tiny: zero dollars required and as little as three to five minutes a day. Yet so few of us do it. Possibly because the returns of meditation are seldom felt in the moment. 

Meditation has been proven to be helpful in reducing stress, relieving anxiety, promoting sound emotional health and increasing self-awareness. But all these benefits are experienced in the long rather than short term.

Practising meditation could be as simple as sitting quietly at your desk with your eyes closed for 3 minutes a day, noticing your thoughts, but not engaging … and just letting them float quietly by like leaves on a stream.

If you want some extra guidance for your meditation effort, there are countless free and paid apps out there that have both meditations of varying lengths and types. 

The key is to not get caught up in what you think meditation ‘should be’. Instead, simply find a form of meditation that suits you and commit to doing it every day.

5. Learning

As someone who studied nutrition and exercise science at university, it always amazes me how much things have changed in that space since I graduated. The world is constantly evolving and what we ‘know’ is constantly being updated. 

Given knowledge doesn’t stay static and neither does the world, it’s important that we all commit to being lifelong learners. And lifelong learning doesn’t require a return to formal study either.

  • It can be free in the form of reading articles and books or watching documentaries. 
  • It can involve doing a course to learn a brand new skill, or level up an existing one.
  • It could be as simple as keeping an open mind when engaging in conversation with someone who thinks differently to you. Or even actively seeking out conversations with people who think differently to you.

Being a lifelong learner ensures you’re constantly growing and developing as a person and is a big happiness booster too.

6. Reading

While reading is a way for you to commit to being a lifelong learner, learning is not the only benefit of reading.

Research has shown that reading:

  • Increases empathy which makes you a better person
  • Improves memory
  • Helps your brain remain elastic and active
  • Decreases mental decline 
  • Is an excellent stress reliever. 

Reading can also make you richer, apparently. Warren Buffet, one of the world’s most successful investors, has been cited as spending up to 80% of his day reading.

Very few of us have the means to dedicate 80% of our days to reading. But 20 minutes each night with our noses in a book before we put our heads down to sleep, or 10 minutes each morning over a cup of coffee is an easy way to form a reading habit that will deliver lifelong benefits.

7. Give yourself permission

It’s really hard to put a value on things like ‘headspace’, ‘less stress’ and ‘being a better person’. It’s also hard to justify spending money and time on yourself as there will always be people in your life who feel that time and money could be spent on other things. (Usually, things that are important to them, but not important to you.)

You don’t want to be selfish and ill-considered about investing in yourself. But you don’t want to be overly selfless either. 

I wish I could give you a formula for getting the balance just right. But unfortunately, no such formula exists. 

It’s probably safe to say, however, that most people err way on the side of caution when it comes to investing in themselves. And that’s a shame because, as mentioned at the top of this piece, an investment in yourself often delivers benefits to those around you too. 

So, start small, start somewhere, and have fun experimenting with where investing in yourself can take you.

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