invest

Structure Precedes Evolution

We’ve all been there—it’s the beginning of the year (or the month) and the possibilities feel endless. “This year I’m going to run a marathon!” “This year I’m going to lose 10 pounds!” “This year I’m changing careers!” “This month I’m going to eat out less!” “This month I’m going to stick to my budget!” These urges are natural. We want to move into the next phase of our lives. We are wired to evolve!

Goals come from our desire to improve our quality of life.

Dreams help us imagine our best future selves.

Goals and dreams are wonderful! But so often our goals are lofty and never achieved. We say we’ll “get ‘em next year.” And why is that? Often, we don’t realize our dreams because we never make a plan to achieve them. Plans lay out a course for progress based on where we are when we begin. Plans should:

  • acknowledge the reality of our current situation

  • include gradual steps that lead to our goal

  • include opportunities for reflection and celebration of progress

When we have a plan, we are structuring our time and energy so that it is possible to reach our goals.

Otherwise, our hopes and dreams go nowhere. Imagine a grapevine. At first it sprouts and looks like other plants, but as it grows it becomes long and thin and reaches out for something to climb. Once it senses a structure, it winds itself up higher and higher. When it’s fully grown, it bears its fruit.

Ideas are like this grapevine. Ideas need a trellis to grow on, otherwise the vines crawl around on the ground; they can’t go anywhere. They never bear fruit and they just wither and die.

Not all of us love planning, I know. I never used to be a planner; I’d just fly by the seat of my pants, hope for the best, keep my expectations low. But that yielded exactly what you’d expect, mediocre results, ongoing dissatisfaction with myself. Over time, I realized that investing time and resources upfront created outcomes I could be proud of.

Now, I begin with my values and I let them infuse my dreams. Then out comes the calendar, the colored pens, the strategizing. Before long, I have built a trellis for my dreams to grow on, and the year ahead of me—the goals I want to achieve—it all feels manageable… and, dare I say FUN! It’s like I’m looking at my path and it leads to my evolution.

Investing V. Spending: What's the Difference?

I have made some very poor decisions in my life. Particularly in terms of money. In my past, I smoked, drank too much, took trips I couldn’t afford. More recently, I’d spend money on trendy workout clothes, self-help books, massages, visits to the chiropractor. (Self-care is one thing, and very important, but I’d get massages to “relax” while continuing to live my life on overdrive. This did not pan out.) Just yesterday, I purchased a fancy decaf latte because I felt stressed.

Spending

This kind of emotional spending isn’t just my problem. It’s a cultural issue. We’ve learned that buying something will make us feel better, and it does… momentarily. Our brains release dopamine when we’re rewarded, even if we reward ourselves. Pretty soon, we’re caught in a feedback loop with no end. Feel Bad > Buy Something > Feel Excitement > Feel Nothing > Feel Bad > … and so on.

We do all kinds of mindless spending to prop ourselves up. Whether it’s that gingerbread latte because we deserve a treat, new clothes because we feel bad about our looks, or a case of wine because it’s a good deal—we are masters at justifying spending. But if you totaled up all the treats and deals, you’ll probably find that you have little to show for all that money spent except for momentary gratification. We call this a “victim mindset.” You feel assaulted by stress, chaos and worry, so you react to the emotions and treat yourself to feel better. And what’s left after the treat and the flash of gratification? The underlying problem, of course.

Investing

Investing is different than spending in that investing yields long-term positive returns. Typically, making an investment costs a lot up front, whether money or time or both. And that always feels terrifying. But investing is about more than feeling good in the moment. It’s a way to feel better, live more fully, and fulfill your potential in the long run. Someone who makes investments is someone with a “responsibility mindset.” This means admitting that there is a problem and a pattern, and making a proactive choice to address the issue.

How do you know what to invest in? Start with your values. Investing in what is important to you will enrich your life. But what ARE your values? If you give it a little thought, you probably already know the answer. Listen here, and I’ll guide you through an easy process to help you identify them. Once you’ve identified what’s important to you, you may realize that your spending habits have not been lining up with your values. That’s when it’s time to take responsibility. It’s time make a change.

Infinite Returns

You may be used to thinking about investing as money you put in stocks or mutual funds, or in your 401K. That’s an investment in your financial future that will pay you a return in your golden years. Now, think about the return on your investment in self-care. What if you added up all the money and time you are spending to make you feel better—lattes, clothes, girls’ night out, et cetera—and compared it to the return? Would you say that it’s really paying off? Are you getting the benefit that you truly need and desire?

If you do the accounting and find that the real outcome you want is not worth the expense, it’s time to solve the underlying problems that the consumerism and indulgences are trying to solve. When you align your time and money with your values and invest in what your body, mind, and spirit really need to feel healthy and strong, you will see returns quickly. And what’s even more amazing is that those returns continue to grow as you experience a vibrant body, a wise mind, and true joy in your life.

This is a truly counter-cultural shift. You’ll need support to make this shift from spending to investing in yourself. Find a buddy, or a whole community of others who are are also investing in themselves. You’ll go farther faster when you share the ups and downs of this journey.

Invest in yourself now and receive infinite returns both in the short- and long-term.