Money Management

How To Invest In Yourself: 26 Mostly Free Ways To Upgrade Your Life

How to Invest In Yourself

How do you invest in yourself?

Below are 25 different ideas to better your future.

But first, what does investing in yourself mean?

Here’s my definition:

Investing resources today to improve the quality of your life in the future.

As far as personal resources, two in particular come to mind:

  • Money
  • Time

You can invest both of these resources to improve your quality of life.

Here are 25 different ideas, broken down into eight categories:

  1. Physical Health
  2. Intelligence
  3. Emotional Health
  4. Character
  5. Relationships
  6. Finances
  7. Career
  8. The Ultimate Investment

Investing In Your Physical Health

There’s no aspect of your life that’s not impacted by your physical health.

Good physical health has incredible benefits. It decreases stress, increases energy, and leads to a longer lifespan. So, you could say that investing in your health yields very high returns.

Three areas to focus on are:

  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Sleep

Not sure where to start? Try one or more of the ideas below.

#1. Learn To Cook Healthy Meals

Improving your cooking skills will save you a lot of time and money over your life. As important, life is a lot better when you enjoy what you’re eating.

A couple of cookbooks I’ve found helpful are:

Of course, eating healthy can be expensive. But you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice your health in favor of your wallet. Check out our guide to eating healthy on a budget, which features specific tips and a sample shopping list.

#2. Develop An Exercise Routine You Enjoy

I exercise a lot more when I enjoy what I’m doing. For me, this means a lot of long walks in nature and playing basketball.

I then incorporate strength training and stretching into my routine.

This is what I enjoy; the key is to find an exercise regimen that you enjoy.

Sometimes that requires testing out different ideas.

Resources I’ve found helpful include:

#3. Learn Your Recipe For A Good Night’s Sleep

Any activity you spend one third of your life doing is important to do right.

But when it comes to sleep, where should you start?

You can start with:

  • Trying different nighttime rituals.
  • Learning about sleep.
  • Tracking your sleep using one of the many sleep tracking apps or devices.

Your duration and quality of sleep are directly impacted by a number of factors, including things like your diet, whether you get sufficient/regular exercise, and your pre-bed blue light exposure — among many others.

Understanding how sleep works and the types of behaviors that affect it can empower you to make changes that dramatically impact how you feel during the day.

Resource: How to sleep better and fall asleep quicker.

#4. Try Different Types Of “Diets”

There are hundreds of different diets. There’s paleo (where you mimic the eating habits of our ancestors), keto (where you eat high amounts of fat and low amounts of carbs), and countless others.

Some of them have health benefits. Some are harmful. And some work for certain people but not others, depending on their lifestyle and dietary goals.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you which one is right for you.

But after trying a handful of diets and spending some time studying nutrition, I’ve developed a way of eating that works for me.

And that should be your goal — to invest a little bit of time, thought and money into what you eat.

Investing In Your Intelligence

Intelligence is about living your life according to your values, vision and purpose.

It’s not about IQ or how many books you’ve read. It comes down to how you choose to live. Living a life that’s congruent with your values, vision and purpose is an intelligent life.

So how should you go about investing in your intelligence?

Here are some ideas.

#5. Get Good At Goal Setting

Goal setting is the process of identifying what you’ll spend your time on.

Being a good goal setter means being able to identify the right things to focus on — and avoiding the stuff that doesn’t really matter.

I’ve developed a lot of my personal philosophy based on the classic book Goals by Brian Tracy. I’ve also found another classic, The Magic of Thinking Big by David J Schwartz, to be essential reading.

 

#6. Ask Yourself Great Questions

We all face problems in life. One of the best ways to overcome them is by asking the right questions.

That’s because asking good questions helps us break our ingrained thinking patterns, thereby opening our eyes to approaches and solutions that we hadn’t previously considered.

For years, I’ve been compiling a list of impactful questions as I come across them. My routine is to write a question at the top of a blank page, and then write our what comes to mind.

Here are 10 questions that have delivered great insights for me:

  1. How can I make things better?
  2. What conditions do I have to set so that the outcome I seek happens automatically?
  3. What is my objective here, and what course of action makes me most likely to achieve it?
  4. What’s one thing can I do today that I will be grateful for in 20 years?
  5. If I had only six months to live, what would I do?
  6. If I met a genie and he gave me three wishes, what would I ask for?
  7. What are the three worst things that could happen, and how can I prevent them?
  8. How can I multiply by subtraction?
  9. If my top competitor purchased my business, what would be the first three things they would do?
  10. How can I make accomplishing my goal fun?

Want more? Here are some questions to improve your finances.

#7. Develop Accurate Beliefs

Your beliefs drive your actions — whether rational or irrational.

Think of a belief as a story you tell yourself about the way things really are.

For example, a common belief about money goes something like…

“Work is something I have to put up with for 40 hours a week, so I can…”

Here’s one of mine…

“If I just had a bit more money, then I could _____ (fill in the desire of the month).

I’ve told myself this story many times in many forms.

The personal development world refers to this as a limiting belief.

In behavior science, it’s called a narrative fallacy.

In his book The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb writes:

The narrative fallacy addresses our limited ability to look at sequences of facts without weaving an explanation into them, or, equivalently, forcing a logical link, an arrow of relationship upon them. Explanations bind facts together. They make them all the more easily remembered; they help them make more sense. Where this propensity can go wrong is when it increases our impression of understanding.

Just as you can have limiting beliefs, you can also have beliefs that empower you.

For example, the belief that:

“The key to making money, and therefore living a life of less stress, is to cause someone to joyfully give you money in exchange for something that they perceive to be of greater value than what you give them.”

This was a quote I highlighted from the book The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg.

Imagine going through life with this belief, as opposed to having to “put up with work for 40 hours a week.”

Here are some good additional resources for further reading/viewing:

#8. Take Personality Tests

A great way to find out more about yourself is to take personality tests.

One test I took, Perry Marshall’s Marketing DNA Test, has changed a lot of what I do on a daily basis. And I’m much more fulfilled in my work as a result.

Each personality test has its own strengths and weaknesses. The goal is to learn more about yourself, which allows you to make better decisions.

Here are five personality assessments I’ve found helpful:

#9. Learn!

Consuming quality content can help you in every area of your life.

But too often, over time, people become set in their beliefs.

They stop searching for new information.

They stop challenging their existing knowledge.

And as a result, they stop growing and expanding their abilities.

Learning can take many different forms. It may mean reading a good book, listening to a podcast, or taking an online course that can help you grow in a specific area of your life.

The point is that it’s important to view learning as a life-long pursuit — not as something that ends when the college president hands over your diploma, or when you finally settle into that job you’ve been aiming for for years.

It’s about coming to view learning as an inseparable part of your identity; not just something you do, but a core part of who you are as a person.

Investing In Your Emotional Health

A great life is one that’s filled with quality emotions on an ongoing basis. What comes as a surprise to many people is that, to a great extent, we have the ability to control our emotions.

The key is to identify the emotions that are important to you. Then, you can work on actively creating those emotions with goals that guide your behaviors and actions.

Here are three ways I’ve invested in my emotions, which have had great returns on my overall happiness.

#10. Know The Emotions You Want To Experience Often

Without knowing which emotions you want to experience, you can’t create the recipe to experience them.

To give you an idea, this is the list of emotions I want to experience the most:

  • Flow/Deep Work
  • Love
  • Fulfillment
  • Adventure
  • Inspiration

By identifying these emotions, I can then work to develop habits that produce them.

For example, when it comes to flow, I’ve put a lot of systems in place to reduce work distractions.

When it comes to adventure, I have calendar reminders that help me plan new, exciting experiences for me and my family.

#11. Know What Truly Relaxes And Renews You

Try out different forms of self-care, like meditation, going for a walk, getting out in nature, yoga and deep breathing (just to name a few of the options).

Come to know the difference between what truly renews you and what’s simply a nice way to pass the time.

Related reading: How to relax without screens.

#12. Make A List Of Ways To Control Bad Emotions

While we can control some emotions, others we cannot. Bad emotions are inevitable.

But letting bad emotions linger is a choice.

That’s why it’s invaluable to create a strategy to stop bad emotions from lingering.

This starts with listing the emotions you want to minimize, and then coming up with a game plan to reduce their impact.

One strategy that works for me is exercise. I’m never unhappy when I get my heart rate up.

Investing In Your Character

In 1941, while serving as First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, “People grow through experiences, if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built […] .”

My favorite part of that quote is the phrase, “this is how a character is built.”

I’m a firm believer that we’re not born with a certain character; our character is developed over time.

Here are some ideas for investing in your character.

#13. Make A List Of Character Traits You Desire, Then Set Goals According To Those Traits

As with creating a recipe for the emotions we want to experience, we can choose our desired character traits. Once we do, our goal must then be to consciously build those traits into our life.

Another quote I’ve always liked is from the 19th-century English historian James Anthony Froude, who wrote in his book The Nemesis of Faith, that “you cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.”

So, say you want to be self-disciplined. A good goal would be to do a 30-day challenge where you’re instilling a new habit — e.g., trying a new diet, sticking to a budget, or waking up a certain time.

If your goal is to be more self-reliable, set a goal to be 10 minutes early for all of your appointments.

Investing In Your Relationships

The relationships in your life have a large correlation with your happiness and success.

Sheryl Sandberg has said that “The most important career choice you’ll make is who you marry.” Another oft-repeated phrase to which there’s a great deal of truth is “Your network is your net worth.”

Since relationships impact everything from your career success to your happiness, it makes sense to invest in them.

Here are some ideas.

#14. Read How To Win Friends And Influence People

Everyone should read the classic book How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie at least once in their lifetime.

The book, which single-handedly created the self-help genre, was originally published in 1936. And while not all of its advice is applicable to today’s society or advisable with the benefit of hindsight — scholars have criticized some of Carnegie’s suggestions as fundamentally manipulative, for example — it’s a classic for a reason.

Namely, it provides valuable insight into the formation of interpersonal relationships, and can help you better understand how your own actions influence the way you’re perceived by the people around you.

#15. Attend A Conference

Sign up for a conference or an event that interests you — even if it’s outside your industry. Not only will you learn a lot, but you’ll also develop some excellent relationships.

#16. Find A Mentor

Finding the right mentor can be difficult, but the benefits are worth the effort.

Here’s something you can do today: make a list of people who you respect that you’d like to build a relationship with.

Send them an email, explaining how they’ve helped you in the past.

Then, follow up once a month, sharing a further update of how they’ve helped.

During this time, look for ways you can also help that person; maybe it’s sending them an article about a new study you thought might interest them, for example.

The goal is to build the relationship over time — not to come right out and ask, “will you be my mentor?”

#17. Write Thank You Notes

Set aside time to write physical thank-you notes.

Not only can this flex your gratitude muscle — which has been shown to increase your emotional set point — but it can also help you build meaningful relationships.

I’ve used this strategy to connect with others I respect. While I don’t ask for anything in return, I’ve never not received a reply.

#18. Plan A Meaningful Experience With Someone You Want To Connect With

Have someone in mind who you want to get to know better?

Plan a meaningful experience with them.

If it’s an acquaintance, it may be grabbing coffee or lunch. If it’s your spouse, it could be a weekend getaway or knocking an item off your shared bucket list.

Our list of fun things to do without screens has some specific ideas, broken down into categories.

#19. Volunteer

A great way to build meaningful relationships is by volunteering. If you’re looking to meet people locally, there’s no shortage of organizations in need of help.

There are other benefits, as well. One study showed that people 55 and older who volunteer for at least two organizations have a 44% lower likelihood of dying.

If you’re looking to advance in your career, you can seek out a reputable non-profit or even take on an official position in an industry association. This can put you in touch with many of the most influential people within your industry.

Investing In Your Finances

How can you invest your time and money to improve your financial life?

There are smart ways. And then there are some not so smart ways.

Here are four good ideas.

#20. Save

Saving money has been shown to increase your happiness. So wherever you are on your financial journey, it’s important to start looking for ways to save more of your income.

Having a specific saving goal can help you stay focused and hold yourself accountable, so one of the best ways to get started is by committing to a money saving challenge.

Here are some more resources that can help you save:

#21. Invest

Investing your money is investing in yourself.

The reward for investing is more freedom in your life (one of the best things you can buy).

For some, this may mean paying off high-interest credit card debt or opening up a savings account to build their emergency fund.

For others, the best way to invest their money is in their 401(k) or IRA.

Trying to pick and choose stocks can be fun, but it’s also very difficult — as I learned when I bought Tesla way back at $26 per share. That’s why I recommend investing no more than 5-10% of your investable assets in individual shares.

If you do decide to give the market a try, two good no-commission options are Webull and Robinhood. Both are free, and both give you free stock for joining.

#22. Communicate

Money can be a stressful subject — especially in a relationship. This can impact every aspect of your life.

Often, a lack of communication is at the root of the problem.

Invest time in communicating with your spouse (or yourself) about money.

Resource: Here are six TED Talks couples can watch to spark meaningful conversations about money.

#23. Give

There’s a saying I once heard that goes, “The hole you give through is the hole you receive through.”

Science has shown that giving increases happiness.

And Harvard psychologist/best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage Sean Archor has proven that it’s not success that leads to happiness but happiness that leads to success.

Giving to a cause that makes a difference is an incredible way to invest in yourself.

Investing In Your Career

Relationships determine a lot of the success and fulfillment in your career. So, that’s a great place to start. But there are plenty of other great ways.

#24. Learn A New Skill

This could be a new language, a musical instrument, a sport or a career skill.

With more skills, you have more “dots.” And that means more opportunities. As Steve Jobs, famously said:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Pro tip: If one of your goals is to make extra money, combine your new skill with a side hustle. For example, take an online course on a specific skill, then go out and find clients you can apply that skill too.

#25. Invest In A Coach

A good coach can help you in many ways.

One of my mentors always has a coach on his highest-leverage goal. He seeks out the best help he can find. 

And it should come as no surprise that his success rate for achieving his primary goals is very high.

#26. Make A “Stop Doing” List

Jim Collins wrote:

“It is the discipline to discard what does not fit — to cut out what might have already cost days or even years of effort — that distinguishes the truly exceptional artist and marks the ideal piece of work, be it a symphony, a novel, a painting, a company or, most important of all, a life.”

He has excellent instructions to make your “stop doing” list in this article.

Closing Thoughts: The Ultimate Way To Invest In Yourself

One of the best investments — if not the best investment — you can make in yourself is setting aside the time to study happiness.

It’s hard to make a bad decision when you’re optimizing for happiness and well-being. But you can’t make those good decisions until you really know what makes you happy.

A couple books I’ve enjoyed lately were written by a former Google engineer named Chade-Meng Tan:

On top of that, two of my favorite all-time classics are:

R.J. Weiss
R.J. Weiss is the founder and editor of The Ways To Wealth, a Certified Financial Planner™, husband and father of three. He's spent the last 10+ years writing about personal finance and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, MSN Money, and other publications.

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