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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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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Harsh Tiwari

    Jan 26, 2018 at 8:29 am

    Nice article! Thanks!

  2. Marc

    Jan 25, 2018 at 10:25 am

    One trick I’ve been using to get better results is to just push a little more. If I’m working on project or training in the gym and feeling lazy or tired, I say to myself to work just 5 min more, and then 5 min, etc.

    Often happens that I work additional 1 hour. Its a small trick but helped a lot to boost my confidence.

    • Miguel A Lozano

      Jan 25, 2018 at 4:28 pm

      Hey Marc,

      that’s an awesome strategy! I use it a lot as well.

      However, in my world, I call it the “stretch just above what’s comfortable” strategy.

      Like you comment, every time I’m hitting a limit, I just tell myself “stretch just a little bit more above what’s comfortable” and I do that extra mile 😉

      Wish you tremendous success Marc,
      Miguel A Lozano
      Perosnal RevUp

  3. Miguel A Lozano

    Jan 23, 2018 at 10:23 pm

    Hey McVal,

    great article! I can relate to you a lot.

    I started my personal development journey around 4 years ago and I can only say it COMPLETELY transformed my life.

    I know, it’s difficult at first to shut off that ‘instant gratification’ mindset when we got so much things competing for our attention.

    But..

    Once you slowly start dominating it, you immediately see that investing in yourself IS the BEST investment.

    Seriously…

    The returns are AMAZING in all areas of your life.

    And regarding laser eye surgery, it was a life-changing investment for me too. Although I did have a more severe vision problem and did not end up 20/20, it’s far a better place to be at.

    Thanks for the interesting read!

    Miguel A Lozano

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3 Simple Hacks That Can Recharge Your Willpower and Help You Perform Better at Work

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willpower
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How many times did you wake up feeling like you could conquer the world? You set ambitious goals for the day, you put on your best attire and walked out the door with a big smile on your face but eventually, life took over. Traffic, emails, work, family, and everything else you have around slowly but steadily started to drain your energy and made you feel exhausted.

You run out of battery, and the only solution that seemed viable was to rely on more caffeine. When that stopped working, all the temptations around you started to look much more appealing, and that sense of drive and commitment you had before slowly faded away. This is you running out of willpower.

Willpower: what is it? Why is it limited?

The American Psychology Association describes willpower as “the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.” In the book “The Willpower Instinct”, Dr. Kelly McGonigal, explains how every person’s willpower is limited, and slowly depletes throughout the day. The more “willpower challenges” you face, the quicker your reserve drains. Dr. McGonigal divided the different types of willpower challenges you might encounter in three categories:

  • I will: We face this type of challenge whenever we should do something, but we simply don’t feel like getting it done right now.
  • I won’t: We face this challenge when we try to resist temptation, or we try to keep cool in stressful situations.
  • I want: This is a particular type of challenge where we keep track of our long term goals, dreams, and desires. In this instance, we feel like we should take action right now to come one step closer to the goal. 

It’s easy to recognize it when you face a willpower challenge because you literally “feel it in your body.” Imagine being really hungry and walking in front of a bakery. The sight and the smell of pastries quickly triggers an “I won’t” type of challenge, and it takes a severe amount of effort and energy to walk away.

Every time you manage to win one of those challenges, a little bit of your willpower reserve gets used. The more challenges you face daily, the harder it will be to stay true to your goals.

Can you train or recharge your willpower?

A growing body of research suggests that willpower should be considered a muscle. To strengthen it, you should exercise it regularly, but you should not overwork it. Therefore, we shouldn’t try to “be good” at all times. Instead, we should learn how to relax and recharge our willpower.

The general advice on how to improve willpower involves sleep, proper nutrition, and regular exercise. This broad and general recommendation is often not downright applicable by most, because it consists of changing various daily habits. Luckily, three very effective hacks have been discovered, that have an immediate effect on our willpower and take just a few minutes to apply.

Here are the 3 ways to refill your willpower reserves:

1. Focused breathing

Breathing, when done correctly, can stimulate the release of calming hormones while reducing the release of stress hormones like cortisol and catecholamines. To make this effective, you should deeply and slowly inhale through the nose for at least five seconds. Fill your belly with air first, then your chest, and when there’s no more space for air, still try to do tiny inhalations through the nose.

You should feel a pulling sensation around your neck and trapezius muscles. Once your lungs are full, try to hold the breath for five seconds, then slowly exhale through the mouth for at least five seconds. If you repeat this process ten to twenty times, you should feel dramatically more relaxed. Use this method several times a day, especially when you’re experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety.

2. Reward yourself when you accomplish a micro goal

According to a recent study, frequent instant rewards can boost motivation, and therefore, willpower. Creating your own reward system can help you to accomplish your to-do list, and also resist temptations. Since every individual has different tastes, you should come up with creative ideas about the small and frequent rewards you will give yourself upon winning any willpower challenge.

You can see this hack in practice in Apps like the popular Duolinguo, where after completing each lesson you get presented with a chance to open a treasure chest. This rewarding system seems to keep the users much more likely to keep learning new lessons.

3. Taking cold showers

Your body has an autonomic response to cold water. Getting into a cold shower is a difficult (but minor) willpower challenge on its own. As I previously mentioned, winning a willpower challenge strengthens your willpower muscle. Having a morning cold shower, on top of having multiple health benefits, will set you up for a positive winning streak of further challenges.

High performance is the sum of many small habits. Successful people don’t have an unlimited reserve of willpower, but they do have a set of daily rituals that made them succeed. These three hacks are some of the most effective techniques to develop willpower, but some of them may not fit every individual. You should try to find the perfect mix of daily practices that best fits your lifestyle and likes, so that you can strengthen your willpower muscle and perform better at work.

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