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The holiday shopping season has officially begun, and there’s no shortage of specials and limited-time offers clamoring for your gift-giving dollars this year.  As you make your list and check it twice, I want to encourage you to add your own name.  You’ve worked hard this year under some pretty ridiculous conditions, and you’re still standing.  You’re amazing, and you deserve some positive reinforcement too.

I know it can be difficult to invest in yourself when there are so many other demands on your finances and your time, but can I talk straight for a minute?  No one wins when you put yourself last – not your clients, not your family, not your friends, and certainly not you.  All of those people are trusting you to invest in yourself in a way that makes you better and stronger.  The good news is, it doesn’t have to actually cost you a lot of money.  We’ve put together six simple and cost-effective ways to invest in yourself this holiday.  Let me know which one you’ll be wrapping up for yourself this year.

1. Guard Your Positivity

The best way to keep negativity from weighing you down is to keep it as far away as possible.  I love the analogy our pastor gave one Sunday when he talked about the need to guard our hearts like a parent grocery shopping with young children.  You can picture it, right?  You have to guard the cart like a ninja, deftly deflecting all the sugary junk food your little cherubs will try to sneak into the cart when you’re not looking.  A quick block of the twinkies, a spinning deflection of the Oreos – it’s amazing how quickly that stuff can appear the minute you turn your back!

The same is true for negativity in our lives.  We have to guard against it or it will sneak into our lives when we’re not paying attention. It will sneak in from the news show that makes you angry or the upsetting tv drama.  It will sneak in from the gossip you overhear or the comparison-game so common in social media. Negativity is sneaky because it comes in small doses, like just one pint of ice cream.  You tell yourself a little won’t hurt, but pretty soon your cart is full of negativity that keeps you from stepping into the possibilities in front of you.

Learning to guard your heart and mind as well as you guard that grocery cart is one of the best investments you can make in your mental health.

2. Develop Healthy Habits

Developing healthy habits makes us stronger – mentally, physically, and emotionally, but we all struggle in this area from time to time.  There are things we know we should be doing, but just can’t seem to develop into a steady practice.  Some of my recent examples include eliminating sugar and consistently organizing my business expenses at the end of each week so I’m not frantically looking for lost receipts at the end of each quarter.

B.J. Fogg, a Stanford University researcher and author of the book “Tiny Habits”, suggests making the new habit as easy as possible.  Instead of committing to a 20 pound weight loss, aim for one pound a week.  Instead of a goal to read 50 books this year, start with 20 minutes of reading every day.  Once these small steps become solid habits, it’s easier to increase them to reach your goal more quickly.

Finish this sentence, I know I should…  Now go take the first tiny step toward making that wish a habit instead of regret.

3. Read!

Pick any ultra-successful business person, and you will almost certainly be looking at a reader.  In fact, a recent study of 1,200 wealthy individuals found one habit in common – they all invested in their own personal development through reading.  Be warned though, it appears that  WHAT you read is also important.  The same study found that the most successful individuals read educational materials, such as self-improvement books and biographies, as opposed to reading for entertainment.

As a former English major, I say read what you want to read.  Life’s too short to live on business alone!  But do make sure some of what you read is stretching your horizons.  If you need a feel-good novel, pick one that takes place in a location you’re not familiar with or takes place in another era.  No matter what you read…read to learn!

4. Book a Retreat

When was the last time you hit the pause button so that you could regroup and move forward in a very intentional way?  If you can’t remember, then it’s definitely time to book a retreat!  Retreats provide the physical and mental rest that your body craves, and getting outside your normal routine signals your brain to get ready for something new.  Retreats spark innovative thinking and allow you to return home refreshed, focused, and ready to hit the ground running!

Although travel can be difficult in the age of COVID, retreat planners are developing new ways to provide the benefits of a retreat:  rest, reflection, connection, and growth.  To Be Retreats has created three Retreat Box options – virtual retreats with luxurious pampering products and gifts delivered to your doorstep.  If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, the play with purpose that a retreat provides may be just what you need.

5. Do Hard Things

According to career coach and author Curt Rosengren, personal growth is impossible unless you are willing to challenge yourself.  Rosengren writes, “ You will never fulfill even a fraction of your potential by sticking to the safe and comfortable. Why? Because the safe and comfortable never forces you to rise to the occasion. It never offers the resistance that strengthens muscles you didn’t know you had.”

The more you intentionally challenge yourself and rise to the challenge, the easier it becomes to put yourself out there.  One brave step leads to another, then another and soon you will look back to see you’ve done things you would never have imagined possible.

6. Prioritize Experiences Over Stuff

We know money can’t buy happiness, but those shiny status symbols still call out to our ego, don’t they?  Here’s the thing though, that huge house and expensive car don’t actually DO anything for you.  They don’t broaden your perspective, or deepen your knowledge.  They don’t inspire creativity, and they don’t help you connect in a meaningful way.  If anything, they do the opposite.

If you really want to invest in yourself, spend your money on experiences instead of things.  Travel.  Try new food.  Go places where you will meet people who grew up differently than you did.  Find beauty.  Make memories that will last longer than any status symbol possibly could.
Want to hear the best news?  Investing in yourself doesn’t have to cost a lot or take a lot of time.  Just start with one or two of these simple steps.  I promise you…you’re worth the investment!