When one thinks of making an investment in life, most people typically view this in purely financial terms. Some choose to inject their hard earned money into the financial world of stocks and shares hoping for a sizeable return. Others prefer to invest in something tangible, bricks and mortar, opting to purchase a family home or perhaps an investment property. And of course there are those fashion lovers amongst us who would consider a Celine handbag to be an investment purchase. Investing in our financial selves is of paramount importance. It essentially creates a platform of stability in our lives with a built-in safety net if we were to fall. However there is one vital investment that we seem to have overlooked whilst we’ve been busily cultivating our nest eggs. An investment in ourselves.
Most people tend to consider investments as external endeavors, whether it’s syphoning cash into a savings account every month or diligently paying off a mortgage piece by piece. It’s far less common to hear someone talk about self-investment outside of the financial realm. But when you really think about it, one of the singularly most overlooked assets in life is ourselves. Choosing to make a self-investment, in whatever form that might take, could actually be one of the smartest decisions we can make in life.
This is one of those life lessons that took me decades to comprehend. Having been raised by financially conservative parents, money was seen as a scarce commodity in our household. I was routinely told that money doesn’t grow on trees. Pocket money was to be saved and frugality cherished.
Whilst this approach served me well from a financial perspective it failed to teach me anything about the value of self-investment. And so as I took my first steps onto my newly burgeoning career path I focused solely on becoming financially independent. I put myself on a budget and paid off the student debt I had accumulated years before. I bought an apartment. Got promoted. Kept on scaling the cliff face of my career one rung at a time. Before I knew it I was 10 years into my career and had achieved my goal of financial independence.
I was climbing ever closer to reaching the precipice of what I thought I wanted. Yet instead of feeling the self-satisfaction I had once imagined I simply felt empty inside. I was unhappier than I had ever been and my underlying stress symptoms were starting to manifest themselves as physical illness.
It was time to reassess exactly what I was striving for. Clearly the pursuit of financial independence was a worthy goal but was the pursuit of it worth the cost of losing my happiness and health? I didn’t think so.
After mulling this over I asked myself what non-financial commodities were most important to me and where these were missing from my life. The answer was incredibly simple. My time. I was choosing to spend this precious commodity in pursuit of a career that was making me miserable. So I decided to make a self-investment and gift myself a block of time off. Six weeks to be precise. A sabbatical to give myself some much needed space to travel and decipher what I really wanted out of life.
This turned out to be one of the best investments I have ever made. Removing myself from the hamster wheel of the 9-5 grind, albeit temporarily, I began to think with more clarity and purpose than I had in years. I asked myself the pertinent questions. What do I really want out of life? How do I want to spend my time? What do I love to do? What am I good at?
And for the first time in a very long time, the answers came in loud and clear. I discovered that I loved to write but had been neglecting to do so. I learnt that I found working in a corporate environment stifling but this is what I had chosen to do for 50 hours a week. I yearned to express myself creatively yet my stressful job was killing any creative inspiration.
Essentially I figured out that the life I was living was actually the antithesis of what I wanted to be doing. Whilst I knew this on a subconscious level, somehow investing in six weeks of alone time made it blindingly obvious that I needed to make some serious changes when I returned to reality.
As a result of this time investment, I became clear on what I wanted out of my life and started taking steps towards making this a reality. I began the work of dismantling those areas of my life that were no longer fulfilling and focused on those areas that I wanted to nurture.
Whilst my self-investment of choice was my time, there are a myriad of similarly rewarding investments that we can choose to make. Ask yourself what’s missing from your own life and where you need to make an investment in your future life.
If you are feeling unfulfilled by your current career path, ask yourself what investments you could make in order to change that. If a new set of skills are required to segway into your career of choice, look into furthering your education. Enroll in an evening class, learn a new skill.
If you harbor secret dreams of starting your own business work out the steps needed to make that happen. Sign up for a business course, find a mentor or even take an internship in the industry that you want to break into.
If you feel like you have gone off track health wise, make an investment in your health by committing to a self-care routine. Set aside time every other day to go to the gym, find a running buddy or hire a nutritionist to change up your diet.
Granted this type of investment might not produce any high yield returns or promise a hefty profit. It will do something far greater.
It will provide a renewed sense of purpose in life. A goal to start striving towards or simply a prolonged period of time to hear yourself think clearly for the first time in years. Whilst that’s something that can’t be monetized on a balance sheet it might just be one of the wisest investments you can make in life.
Victoria Cox currently resides in NYC. She's a contributor to The Conversation, Tiny Buddha, Elephant Journal & Dumb Little Man. You can connect with her on Instagram @vcox23