Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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invest in yourself

5 Ways to Invest In Yourself

This weekend I attended a conference designed to push my thinking, enhance my client’s deliverables, and make me a better corporate strategist. The hardest part? Carving out the time and energy away from normal work and home commitments to make improvements in myself.  And I confess – it is hard to schedule the time away.  I doubt myself every time. 

“Do I really need to do this?”
“Is this the best use of my time?”
“Is the cost worth it?”

It made me wonder. 
How do you know when to invest in yourself? 

What do you do to invest in developing your human capital, your knowledge, your skills, your abilities, your health, and your well-being?

You probably know a lot of people who have fallen into in a rut.  We all know people who are working to pay the bills in a job that does not make them happy. They invest time in living day to day without really considering what they could become if they actually invested in themselves.

When we actively invest in ourselves, we realize that we are capable of doing more.

How can we start to think about investing in ourselves to get the right personal ROI?  

1. Consider Your Health

According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise helps alleviate high blood pressure, diabetes, and all kinds of other issues as well as improving mental health. Exercise reduces mental stress. It is more difficult to start investing in yourself when you are physically and mentally unhealthy. 

As a leader, we have to remember that depression and anxiety are major roadblocks in taking steps toward self-improvement, so these issues need to be addressed. One of the best free sources of information is Mental Health Navigators. Another great resource is NAMI

Starting a regular exercise and workout regime can be hugely beneficial. When we feel physically healthier, we tend to feel more confident. The mere act of exercising releases happiness-inducing hormones in the body.

Recommendation: Eat a little healthier, drink a little more water, and get a little more activity on a daily basis.

2. Set the Right Goals

If we are going to invest in ourselves, then we need to figure out what we are working toward achieving.

What do we want to improve?

What do we want to learn more about?

We need something to strive for, something to achieve. 

When people are under stress (and this has been a stressful year!) we need quick wins.  We need to shoot for lofty goals, yes, but we also need some quick wins to keep us motivated.

Recommendation: Start by looking at your one of your goals, and then plan out the action steps you need to take to get there. Set milestones to get those quick wins to stay motivated.

3. Stretch Your Mind

Did you know that according to the Pew Research Center, 24% of American adults say they have not read a book in the past 12 months? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans over the age of 15 spend less than 17 minutes per day reading.

And yet, the benefits of reading are widely known.  UC Berkeley researchers proved that the more children read, the greater their vocabulary growth and cognitive skills. The world’s top CEOs claim that reading is an integral part of their success.  Pew further shows that the amount of time we spend reading is correlated to a higher wealth level.

We need to be continuously learning. It is vital to try and learn new things constantly, about a variety of topics, but especially in those areas that help us create the career and the life we want.   

Online learning through individual classes, courses, degree programs, workshops, masterclasses, and conferences are now readily available and affordable.  A quick online search yields thousands of results.

Recommendation: Make daily reading of books or articles related to your goals a habit.

4. Build Confidence in Yourself and Others

Confidence does not come from other people encouraging you to do something.  Cheerleading is nice, but it does not increase confidence. Confidence comes from actually doing the thing that is a little scary. 

Psychotherapist Barbara Markway, PhD believes that self confidence is attached to almost every element of a happy and fulfilling life. When you improve self confidence, you are actively fighting against fear and anxiety, two things that can derail personal success. When you build confidence you know you are capable, and as a result you become more capable.

Recommendation: Take a risk and build confidence. 

5. Decide to be Happy

We all know people who have every advantage in life and they are miserable. And we all know people who have been through significant challenges, tragedies, and adversity, and they are grateful for every minute.

Happiness is a choice. People either decide to be happy or they decide not to be happy. It may sound like something you have no choice over but you really can choose to be happy.

Are there challenges? Yes.
Are things always going to be easy? No.
Can you control your attitude? Yes.
Can you decide to be happy regardless of the situation? Yes.

You must choose to do to adopt an attitude of focusing on the positives over the negatives.

Recommendation: Find something that you are proud of or that makes you happy. Invest in your own sense of well-being. Take pride in investing in YOU!

Mary’s shameless promotion: The Five Minute Leadership Guide is an interactive book designed to help people achieve their goals, improve their leadership and other abilities, build confidence, stretch their mind, and make the conscious decision every day to be happy.


  1. Sue Aguilera-Robles

    Great information about the need to invest in yourself. I have retired from my first career and unfortunately didn’t do much to invest in myself other than reading extensively in educational leadership etc. Now in my current position, I have more time to exercise, eat healthier, read and enjoy hobbies. I encourage people to do what I am doing earlier in their careers- BALANCE!!!!

    • Mary Kelly

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Sue. I totally agree with you on the BALANCE. 🙂

  2. Lisa Koenecke

    I am drinking more water because of you!
    Thank you!

    • Mary Kelly

      Oh good. Glad to hear that, Lisa! 🙂


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