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Eighteen Ways to Invest in Life

Eighteen Ways to Invest in Life

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    Do you invest your money? Putting away a portion of your income into an investment plan creates more money later. With interest rates and financial pundits it is easy to see why financial investment makes sense.

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    But what about investment in other areas? Do you invest in your time, brain, body or space? What about investments in the books you read and friends you meet? Although few areas of life have the precision of an investment account, applying investment principles to other situations can have incredible gains.

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    Here are a few started points to consider your investment into life:

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    1. Mind. How much time do you spend learning? Not just studying for mandatory courses, but subjects you seek out only to learn. You can’t predict the value new information will have until you learn it. So pick up a book and start investing in your brain.
    2. Body. Until medical science allows full body transplants, your stuck with your body for awhile. Putting in the right investments of exercise and healthy eating will ensure it can pay out later. Extra energy, less sick days, increased mobility and a longer life are just a few of the returns.
    3. Skills. What skills may come in handy later? Knowing how to prepare your taxes? How to fix your computer? PHP? Spend a half hour each day investing into a skill.
    4. Order. A small amount of time spent creating an organizing system can save dozens of hours otherwise lost. A simple system to order your tasks and office will keep mess from compounding.
    5. Tools. Need to upgrade your computer? Or maybe you just need to do a quick reformat to clean out the hard drive. Craftsmen keep their tools sharp, why not yours?
    6. Writing. Do your e-mails look like they were written by a thirteen year old on an instant messenger chat screen? Writing isn’t going away any time soon, so learn to communicate clearly in print.
    7. Network. Building a professional and private circle of friends is something you can’t do on demand. It takes considerable upfront investment, often when you don’t really need it. But having an extended network can give you access points to opportunities later.
    8. Communication. How are your speaking skills? Can you do a fantastic cold call? Are you good at talking to strangers? How about empathizing with a friend? Find opportunities to invest in your communication skills.
    9. Stories. Are you living a life worth talking about? I like to see interesting experiences as being investments in stories later. Do something worthy of telling stories later.
    10. Courage. Make getting uncomfortable a habit. If you regularly flex your emotional muscles in handling new situations you are better prepared for when you really need to. You don’t need to take huge steps, just small investments.
    11. Work Ethic. Invest in creating the character traits to get stuff done. Investing in these core traits are easier because the act of investment is useful in itself. While exercising at the gym may lead to a healthy body it doesn’t create new value. Finishing projects, building discipline and developing a productivity system will invest in a work ethic while adding value.
    12. Leaky Faucets. The drip-drip-drip of a leaky faucet can waste huge amounts of water over time. But water loss isn’t the only type of leaky faucet you can encounter. If a problem is small but likely to reappear, fixing it immediately can save enormous costs later.
    13. Habits. Your regular routine is an often neglected but incredibly important aspect to consider. You can’t turn yourself into a robot, but you can take simple steps to ensure your daily activities flow smoothly. Eating habits, sleeping habits, work habits and your daily rituals all contribute to your life.
    14. Strong Connections. Networking isn’t just about adding names to a Rolodex or a Blackberry. Having close professional and private bonds can be an incredible asset. Investing in empathy, listening and softer, more passive, skills can be an incredible asset in making you a people person.
    15. Rest. Frustrated stress is an emotional debt. Although it’s good to have a challenge you also need to invest in your psychological well-being. Finding outlets for frustrations and creating rituals to recover your energy can ensure you don’t accumulate debt payments later.
    16. Basics. Invest in the areas of your life that come up frequently. If mastered, basic skills, routines and places can reduce the amount of work you need to do. Basic skills such as cooking, reading, exercising and listening all benefit from investments.
    17. Appearance. You could definitely argue that the world is far too shallow, and I’d have to agree. But your appearance and attire is a subtle form of communication about yourself. So if you’ve been sporting the four day stubble and your shirt has one too many holes, maybe it’s time to invest in that first layer of communication.
    18. Business. Anyone who tells you that running an online business or self-employment is easy is either a liar or a fake. That being said, working on your entrepreneurial skills has advantages that go beyond money. Besides doing something you love, you can make new connections, build a reputation and immerse yourself in an environment of learning. I know many people that have started businesses, and while it definitely takes work, the investment is usually worth it.

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    Scott H Young

    Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

    More About Goals Setting

    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

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