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Want a Better Life? Make Better Investments

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invest in yourself

What are you really good at? I mean, really good at. How did you find out you were good? Did someone tell you at an early age? Did you have some natural talent that presented itself early on? Were you recognized for an award or an achievement that set you apart from the rest of your friends?

Chances are, even if you don’t think you’re particularly that good at anything, there has always been something that you’ve done just a little bit better than those around you. No matter what it was, you knew you could perform above and beyond expectations, and this translated into confidence and self-assurance.

But what happened when things didn’t go according to plan? If you grew up being told you were exceedingly good at one thing or another, the chances are that as soon as you got out into the real world, you were thrown for a huge loop. Nobody makes every single basket. Nobody hits a home run every time they come up to bat. Nobody writes a best-selling book every time they publish.

We live in a world of 7 billion + people. Like it or not, there will ALWAYS be someone (or lots of people) better than you at any number of things. I’m embarrassed to say I grew up with a fixed mindset. Despite being told that I could change and learn and accomplish anything I set my mind to, I often subconsciously felt that there were certain things I was ‘meant’ to do. I was better than my friends at certain things like writing or running or building Legos. I was a natural, and I didn’t have to try to beat out the competition.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” — George Bernard Shaw

But once I got out into the world I realized that I wasn’t as good as I thought, that my ideas weren’t all that unique, and that I wasn’t going to make as big an impact as I had dreamed. It seems a lot easier to change the world when you don’t grasp how big a place it is.

This realization taught me an important lesson about personal development. Over the years I’ve come to realize that the things worth being good at take regular practice and concentration. Last year on January 1, I made a promise to myself to invest 5% of my income in personal development and training.

I made the decision after I realized that I was spending my money unwisely. I would go out for drinks too many nights a week. I would eat out regularly. I would take Uber when I should walk or take the bus. The money just slipped away from me, and I wasn’t tracking it or paying attention to how it was effectively being thrown down the drain.

Here are 5 ways I chose to invest in myself which have already started to pay big dividends:

1. I bought books

In 2017, I read or listened to (I’m a huge fan of Audible) 46 books. About 75% of these books were non-fiction business or history book, while the other 25% were fiction books and novels. I have found that this investment, more than any of the others on this list, has helped me expand my thinking and my ability to synthesize complex ideas and theories.

2. I joined a gym

I actually enjoy going to the gym, but for the last several years I have avoided joining one because of high fees, exorbitant surcharges, and bizarre cancellation policies. To get exercise, I would instead go for runs around town, often along crowded streets and through busy traffic. While I still enjoy going on city runs, I finally decided to join a local gym with a pool for around $30 a month. Swimming regularly has been one of the highlights of my year, and it has transformed how I think about maintaining a fit lifestyle.

3. I got surgery

Since I was 6 years old, I wore a set of extremely nerdy looking glasses. My vision was not horrible, but I definitely required glasses to drive or to read signs more than 10 feet away. So, I got laser eye surgery. This investment changed my life and has been one of the best experiences in the last year. The recovery time was less than 48 hours, and I now have better than 20/20 vision. On top of that, the money I spent on the surgery will be paid back in a matter of a few years (based on what I would have been spending on contact lens and glasses prescriptions).

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

4. I went back to school

No, I didn’t go back to school to get my Master’s degree. Yes, I looked for only e-learning courses in topics I was interested in which I thought would benefit me in my career. I signed up for several courses through Udemy and Coursera, and I’ve managed to dedicate several hours a month towards expanding my knowledge in areas around entrepreneurship and technology.

5. I bet on myself

I spent money on myself by building a website. Though it’s not profitable yet, I feel that this hands on knowledge and training I’ve gathered will help me learn more in a shorter period of time than nearly any other form of training in a classroom.

How you decide to spend your time and your money is up to you, but by being mindful about your decision making process will you be able to get the most return on your investment.  

How are you investing in yourself today? Comment below!

McVal is the founder of We Write For Growth, a platform for businesses to connect with talented writers and researchers and growth hackers. He is also the author of How to Make $2,000 a Month Online and Start Up your Life: Why we don’t know what we want, and how to set goals that really matter. McVal writes about motivation, decision making, and strategic thinking. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2011 with a degree in Spanish, and has since worked as a market researcher and business consultant in Washington D.C., New York City and London. You can reach him on Twitter @mcval or on IG @mcvaliant. 

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