Going on a self-improvement kick is never a bad idea. Finding ways to make yourself better is critical to emotional, spiritual, and existential growth. What we do — our habits, our traits — have a significant effect on how we see the world, but also on our well-being in both our personal and professional lives.
Investing in ourselves is critical to business growth, but really, it’s just as important in everyday life, too. Learning new skills, developing parts of your mindset that needs improvement, getting better with opportunities and situations makes us stronger when we’re tested.
Maybe finding that long-dormant passion is the move that changes everything. Who knows, perhaps striking up that conversation about watercolor painting at an office party is the thing that introduces you to a new friend, or maybe even a future boss.
If things feel as though they are a bit off track in your life right now, don’t sweat it. Maybe you’ve let a few bad habits take over. Or perhaps you’ve even hit some bad luck. You’re not alone, we’ve all been in a rut before. What’s important isn’t that you feel stuck, but how hard you’re willing to work to get out of it.
That said, if you’re willing to make some changes –to your routine or even your attitude, you’ll see returns in ways you never imagined. Whether you’re after happiness or just peace of mind, it’s possible. All you have to do is make some tweaks to your life.
So what are some ways we can invest in ourselves? What can we do to make changes, to see growth? Really, there’s a lot of ways to evolve, but we’re going to focus on just a few ways to find yourself. And good news, they’re all free or pretty affordable.
Get Into the Habit of Reading
Get off your phone and grab a book or a magazine. Get a subscription to the local paper. Hit the local library and browse the stacks. Whatever your method, you need to turn YouTube off and turn your brain back on. The benefits of daily reading are astronomical. According to a collection of research reading:
- Reduces stress
- Improves your emotional intelligence
- Helps with loneliness
- Makes you smarter
By reading every day, we build up emotionally equity. Unlike watching videos, we’re working our imagination, from non-fiction to fiction. There are no moving pictures, our brain has to do all of the heavy lifting, which, in turn, exercises empathy or sadness when stories get tough or sad.
On the flip side, experiencing joy or elation works just the same for different parts of the brain. Reading is the most natural thing you can do to learn about your world, culture or just how to be a better person, whether it be a how-to, or by diving into a masterpiece like Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.
Get a Mentor
If you’re looking to invest back in yourself, find someone you look up to and ask them to help you get on the right path. Mentors are significant assets to help you evolve, and many of them would be happy to share their knowledge. All you have to do is ask.
We talk a lot about building success off of successful models. Models provide a foundation for us to build on that keeps us from having to recreate the wheel every time we reach some kind of ceiling on our natural abilities. When we engage in a mentor-mentee relationship, we’re making a similar commitment to keep ourselves from making unnecessary mistakes by following the path of those who have come before us.
Get a few mentors while you’re at it for the different buckets of your life. Oftentimes one person will work for our physical health, but they may not always be the best fit when it comes to our professional development. Learn different points of view, different skills, even if it’s for the same career goal. You can never learn too much, and learning with someone sitting next to you can only help change your life.
Challenge Your Mind and Body
Every day, you should wake up thankful. You’re alive. That’s the most important gift of all. Develop a daily routine that reflects mindfulness, but also personal growth. However, like we talk about in The ONE Thing success isn’t built from living like every day is our last. Success comes from working toward the gift that is tomorrow.
Keep a journal, list five things you’re grateful for every day. When you’re done writing down your thoughts, take a few moments to meditate. Spending 10 minutes per day meditating can change your life. After all, anything that reduces stress, helps with concentration, and makes you happier is worth pursuing!
Once you’ve meditated on what’s good, focus on what you want to be grateful for tomorrow. While a 4-1-1 and a GPS keep us focused on these objectives, it helps to gain clarity on what our most important tasks are every morning, before we hit the starting line.
Another aspect of challenging our body in a positive way is by getting some exercise. You don’t have to join a Crossfit gym, but getting the work in to improve your body will make an impact in your mind, too. Sometimes, all we need is a simple 20 minutes of cardio every day to keep our blood flowing and our minds working.
Exercise helps us sleep better, fight off disease, have an improved sex life, as well as help us to shed unwanted pounds. Whether it be pumping iron or taking a long walk, getting out there and working out is critical. The hunter/gatherers in our DNA wants us to move around. By getting out of the chair, you’re tapping into the most elemental parts of your genetic makeup.
Learn to Forgive
In the hit TV show Arrested Development, Lucile Bluth has a saying “Forget, but never forgive.”
While it’s mean to be a joke, we can’t help but see some kind broader truth in the statement. Many of us have a hard time letting go, or we bury our frustrations deep down so that we “forget” transgressions, only to have them resurface at inopportune moments at some point down the line.
Forgiveness is a choice. It doesn’t mean forgetting, but it means making the decision to take control of how transgressions influence our lives. Sometimes, what’s done is done. Holding a grudge and staying bitter will only poison your prospects down the line. Forgiveness is better for your body and mind and frees up the energy needed in other places.
Get More Sleep
If you’re a “burn the candle at both ends” kind of person, the only thing you can count on in life is getting torched.
There are few things as precious in this world as a full night’s rest. It costs you nothing and offers every reason to invest in it. Our bodies need a certain amount of rest. Otherwise, they go haywire. Sleep is good for your heart, your health, fighting weight gain, and your personal relationships.
All too many of us only get between five and six hours of sleep a night, but most doctors recommend getting at least seven to eight.
Whatever time you’re currently going to bed, try scaling it back an hour and see if you can add another hour on top of that after a few days. Turn off all of the lights, maybe turn on a fan for white noise, and most importantly: stay off of your phone!
The blue light and habitual engagement from our phones messes with our ability to sleep and our melatonin production, which is our main sleep hormone.
Change Your Diet
It seems like a no-brainer, but drinking three or four Cokes a day isn’t healthy. While cheeseburgers are delicious, they aren’t good for you, either. (American cheese isn’t even real cheese, it’s a gooey, albeit delicious, byproduct.)
Our bodies run on what we put in them. If we’re mucking up the gears with fried foods or processed stuff, we won’t perform at our peak level of performance. Food affects almost every corner of our lives, from happiness, sleep, and productivity. Making simple choices like adding fruits and vegetables to your diet instead of fries or tater tots make a big difference. Say no to the gigantic Sprite and drink some water. While you may not need to invest in your own personal water fountain to stay hydrated, if you’re only drinking one glass of water a day, you’re not doing your body any favors.
Whatever simple, smart choice you decide to make, let that one decision become the first domino in a series of positive changes.
Get a Hobby
When was the last time you tried something new or rediscovered an old passion?
Challenge yourself and pick up the guitar or the pen and paper and start writing that book you’ve had in the back of your mind for all those years. There is no reason you should ever be bored, there’s a whole world of discovery waiting for you that’s beyond cruising through Netflix.
Learn to cook. It’s a great way to clear the mind, but also a convenient skill that will be useful for the rest of your life. The ability to prepare a meal by just looking in the fridge that is impactful in the most pressing of situations – because you can think on your feet, which that problem-solving skill will translate into a collected coolness across the board.
Invest in People
When’s the last time you sat down for a real conversation with one of your parents? Have you asked them about their childhood, to understand them from a different point of view? If you’re lucky, your grandparents are still alive, so spend as much time with them as you can. Take the time to hear their stories, learn about them, glean their wisdom, because when they’re gone, you’ll miss that precious resource.
Just the same, make an effort to re-invest in your relationships with your spouse, kids, and friends. If you’ve spent all of your time buried in work, walk away from the laptop, it’s time to shut it down. Like we talk about in The ONE Thing, extraordinary success doesn’t come from succeeding in one area of our lives and ignoring the others. Each bucket of our lives each have their own ONE Thing that will help the others thrive.
Make time to meet your neighbors. This may seem like no easy feat considering how busy we all are, but there are ways to be present in your neighborhood that are conducive to meeting the people who live nearby. For instance, consider getting that exercise we mentioned earlier and take the kids or the dog for a walk tosee who’s around in your neighborhood. You’ll find its not only good for your social connections but for your personal well-being as well. It’s important to make the emotional connections with others instead of locking yourself away.
This also goes for flushing your life of toxic people. If negative people who are consistently bringing you down surround you, how can you expect to rise? Many times, people don’t realize their bad vibes; their own negativity comes from the people around them, along with their environment. Do yourself a favor and find positive, motivated people to be around.
Set Small Goals within the Big Ones
Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? Setting small goals that feed into a larger goal like running around the block, but then preparing for a marathon in six months is a great way to chart personal growth and success. Maybe it’s learning to draw a flower, with the eventual goal of drawing a portrait of your stinky bulldog, Mayor McCheese. Create a clear vision of what you’re trying to do. This will help you stay focused but also do so within a realistic time frame.
Create a rewarding system for completing each goal. This will help inspire and motivate yourself to remain committed when you just don’t feel like putting on your cross trainers.
Go Back to School
If you’re stuck in a job you don’t love or feel like you’re at a dead end, why not go back to school? It doesn’t have to be expensive, either. There are many secondary education grants out there for folks to change their lives. If you’re a vet, or a mother, or even a business owner with more to learn, there are programs and money dedicated to helping you improve your life. School is an absolutely fantastic way to learn new things, meet people, and test out ideas about yourself.
What if you’ve finished a four-year degree, but realize you’re not a classroom kind of person? It’s never too late to learn a trade and jump on a construction crew. Thanks to the booming economy there’s no shortage of blue-collar jobs, and a demand to fill roles that are sky high.
If you can’t invest the time into full-blown school, take some courses. Courses can teach you new skills or how to hone ones you’ve already got. They keep our minds fresh. Enroll in your local community college, or sign up for online classes, go to a talk given by an expert, watch some TED talks to gain a new perspective. Like reading more books, you should never be satisfied. There’s too much to learn around every corner. If you stop growing, you risk the chance of being outdated, or worse – obsolete.
Hit the Road
Traveling is good for the soul. Don’t get stuck in your hometown, but instead go everywhere you can. You can set time and money aside to see the world, but really, go look at your state or the nearest big city you’ve never been to. Traveling creates experiences and memories that humble us. We’re taken from our everyday lives and dropped into situations either different than our own, or just different enough that the small experience helps shape you in new ways.
Getting exposed to new foods, cultures, or languages will change us. The best part is we don’t have to get a passport. We can jump in our car or even the bus if we really wanted to. There’s no excuse to not get out of town, even if it’s only for a few hours. Learn to see travel as a personal investment, not an expense.
We’re constantly evolving, we can never stay still, and we need to be mindful and work towards achieving the big goals. We can do so much, be more, and accomplish the things we only dreamed about, but we need to open our hearts and minds to be our best selves. Grab that passport, or hit the walking trail, but most importantly, invest back in yourself because you’ve got one life, you need to master it.