Look around, and you’ll notice that parents will do almost anything for their kids (sometimes even to their detriment). I’ve encountered individuals going close to bankrupt to buy their kids the best possible education. Sometimes this means moving to an expensive neighborhood to take advantage of highly ranked zoned schools. Sometimes it means sending kids to a private school. Investing in one’s children appears to come naturally to many people. Investing in oneself is another story.
Before takeoff on every flight, we’re reminded to put on our own oxygen mask before helping a child. The same holds true when it comes to investing. Yes, invest in your children, but if you don’t invest in yourself, there are real short-term and long-term risks.
Step 1: Clarify Your Goals and Priorities
I’m still surprised by the number of successful leaders who fail to plan ahead and in doing so, inadvertently plan to fail. Leaders who are laser-focused on business metrics, often overlook development targets. All too often, personal goals and priorities are not even on their radar.
To have it all, we need to know where we are and where we want to be. It’s about having clear goals and measuring our progress. After all, what gets measured gets managed. Likewise, what gets managed gets done. I think about the process in four key steps:
Step 2: Professionally Invest on Four Key Levels
It’s an obvious starting point but one that some people still neglect. If you find yourself in a job that is no longer serving you or forcing you to engage in an off-brand manner, a financial safety net is more than a nice-to-have. It’s your ticket out of an unfulfilling situation. If you can afford to leave and take time off to pivot, your chances of landing somewhere more fulfilling are much higher.
Call to Action: Survey your financial profile. Among other factors, consider your liquid assets, equity, retirement savings, and so on. Are they adequate given where you’re at in your career and life cycle? What would you change? What are you willing to give up to reach your financial goals? If you’re not ready to give anything up, can you live with the short- and long-term outcomes and potential risks?
We can no longer afford to ignore mental health, especially not in the workplace. There is a growing trove of evidence that mental health issues are a real and widespread problem in the corporate world. Emotionally investing entails taking steps to reduce one’s risk of stress, anxiety, and depression. It may mean prioritizing a weekly or bi-weekly visit to a therapist, but this isn’t the only option. For many people, emotionally investing is simply about finding time to enjoy friends, family, or pursue a hobby. In other words, it is about finding time to relax, recharge, and take perspective
Call to action: Take a long, hard look at your current approach to self-care. Are you eating properly? Are you sleeping enough? Are you working out on a regular basis? Are you relying on excess caffeine, alcohol, or legal or illegal drugs (sleeping pills, cannabis, etc.) to find focus or shut down at the end of the day? If you’re unhappy on any level, generate a list of actionable strategies you can take to change the situation. For example, decide to schedule regular workouts and consider the time non-negotiable. Also, consider replacing an after-work drink with a new and healthier habit.
Social Investing/Investing in Relationships
Most relationships share more in common with orchids than cactuses. In other words, even when they are not flowering, you still need to pay attention to them. When it comes to friends, clients, and colleagues, this might simply mean sending an occasional message to touch base. Also, don’t assume that new relationships just happen. As we age and our responsibilities at work and home mount, meeting new people takes more effort. But this doesn’t mean you have to settle for a calcified social network. When my husband and I moved from a condo to house last fall, we decided to leverage our larger space to host regular cocktail parties. Rather than only invite people we already knew, we actively reached out to new connections. It has been an amazing way to get to know new people, including people we have known for years and yet never carved out time to connect.
Call to action: Who are your “nifty fifty”? Make a list of anyone who is critical to you, think about how you engage them, and invest in these individuals on a regular basis.
Finally, we need to invest in our physical health. To begin, this means spending time engaged in physical activity. This may involve walking or riding a bike to work, running daily, or going to the gym regularly. But physically investing is also about being mindful about what you eat. A busy lifestyle can make it tempting to resort to take-out and prepackaged meals. But spending a bit more time and money purchasing and preparing healthy foods is critical. Also, remember that physically investing holds both short-term and long-term benefits. In the short-term, you’ll have more energy and feel better equipped to take on challenges that come your way daily. In the long-term, physically investing in the present may extend your life and productivity years.
Call to action: Fitness is vital. Small changes drive results (e.g., walking versus driving, or taking the stairs versus taking the elevator).