Investing in Ourselves

Ever been stuck? I have. At different times in life, I have been stuck professionally, creatively, relationally and spiritually. It’s a place a lot of us come to.

I know a lot of stuck people and a fair number of stuck companies. They are all people and companies and organizations of value and talent. They produce good work. People like them. They have people who are loyal to them, who recognize their value, but somehow, they rarely move past where they are, despite professing a desire to grow. Since, in all the different things I do, empowering others is at the heart of my work, I have spent a lot of time looking into the the people who pushed past where they are to greater things, and the people who basically stayed where they are. I am constantly looking for the things that help people and organizations push past and move beyond.

There are several commonalities that I have come to see, but today I am focusing on one in particular: investing in ourselves and our growth.

There is a famous story about a tightrope walker of amazing talent and skill. All over Europe, he did tightrope acts at scary heights. Then he would do his acts blindfolded. Then he would go across the tightrope both blindfolded and pushing a wheelbarrow. An American promoter read about the tightrope walker in the papers and wrote a letter to him, saying, “I would like to challenge you, for a substantial sum of money, to do your act over Niagara Falls.” The tightrope walker wrote back that he had never seen the Falls, but he would love to accept the challenge. The day of the event, the tightrope walker was to start on the Canadian side and come to the American side. He had a blindfold put on and he made it across successfully. Then the tightrope walker said to the promoter, “Now do you believe I can do it?” “Well, of course, I do. I just saw you do it.” “No,” the tightrope walker said. “Do you really believe I can do it?” “Yes,” the promoter said, “I believe you can do it.” “Good,” said the tightrope walker, “then you get in the wheelbarrow while I go across.”

That is often the way we behave when it comes to investing in ourselves. We believe it has value…. but….

Why don’t we invest in ourselves?

We don’t really believe investing in ourselves works – In my life as a broadcast technology consultant, I’ve had many a client tell me that, despite studies that consistently report that investing in a consultant early in the project typically saves $3-$5 for every dollar spent on the consultant, that they did not think they could “afford” the consultant. But that is a belief. The facts say otherwise.
We don’t think we are worth it. This is all too common with us as individuals, particularly artistic individuals. Often we are so wrapped up in the value of people around us, and caring for others, that we diminish our own value. We invest in everyone except ourselves.

We focus on the cost, not the return. Every investment does have a cost, be it money, or time, or both. If the cost is where we are focused, then it’s not worth it. If the return, and where we want to end up is the focus, then it is worth it.

We think paying for help shows a weakness. The common image of people paying for a life coach, for instance, is some loser who wants to break out of that loser mold. But the facts are much different. Statistics show that the people who invest in a coach (and the same is true for organizations investing in a consultant.), are almost always already quite successful, but want to move to the next level in their life or business. They understand that investing in themselves is the fastest path to where they want to go.
We are afraid of change. Even good change. This is another form of focusing on the cost, rather than what we get out of it

The thing is, investing in ourselves works. It doesn’t matter what form that investment takes – lessons, tools, coaching, making time for what is important to you – investing in ourselves is a path that has you purposefully moving towards what you want for yourself, instead of merely hoping it comes. When companies invest in people – the people they have do better. When they invest in infrastructure and technology, work gets done more efficiently. When they invest in the right consultants, they take short cuts to their goals, and reach them more efficiently and cost efficiently.

The same is true of us as individuals. Whether what we want for ourselves is to be more artistic, more spiritual, more balanced, more… whatever. Investing in ourselves, carving out time to do what we want, or classes, or art supplies, or a mentor, or whatever, pays off.

Investing is not the same as simply indulging ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with indulging ourselves. But investment is purposeful. And there are some rules to it if we want to make it work.

There has to be a goal or goals in investing in ourselves just as there are goals in investing financially.
We have to see a clear relationship between what we are investing, and those goals we set.
We have to invest regularly. A single day to go painting is an indulgence. An afternoon every week to paint is an investment. Doing it regularly allows us to work and build towards what we want for ourselves.
Measure the results. This is easy to do in some cases, Less easy in other cases, but measuring the results is the only way we know if things are working. So every so often, a few months into things, do a self-assessment. Ask what has changed? Ask if you see a positive shift in the direction you are moving. If you are, great. If not, then reassess. You may need to invest differently.

Savor your improvements. Yes, there is change, but it is change towards the good. Remind yourself of this.
Give it time. Financial investors know that it’s a long-term game. The same is true in other investments, and in the investments we make in ourselves. They take time to blossom. Be patient with yourself.

There is one last positive in investing in ourselves, whether we are an organization or an individual. Investing in ourselves regularly give us a sense of value. The investment makes us feel the importance of what we want to do. It ceases to be a wish and becomes a reality. In organizations, an investment builds morale and loyalty. In an individual, it builds self-esteem and purpose.

None of this is new to most of us. But at times we need a reminder. Consider this your reminder.

And ask yourself… Have you invested in yourself lately? And if not, what would make a difference? It’s never too late to begin building a better life, whatever that might look like for you.

Be well, Travel Wisely.

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