At the end of our lives, it will not be the number of dollars in our bank accounts that determines our levels of satisfaction with the time that we had on this planet. People on their deathbeds never regret not having earned more money or spending more time on the Internet. When all is said and done, what matters is the depth to which we enjoyed our lives, the connections that we made with our loved ones, and the heights to which we fulfilled our purposes.
While a certain degree of financial savvy and responsibility can help us be more effective and comfortable, money is only one small part of the richness of life. It is so easy in this fast-paced consumerist world to sacrifice everything for our incomes and stock portfolios. But it is the investments that we make in ourselves that will provide the biggest dividends. It is the ways that we make time to truly care for ourselves and invest in our future happiness that determine how fulfilled we become.
Never Stop Learning
Wisdom is one of our greatest riches. Our brains are designed to receive new information, craft new synaptic connections, and grow through the experience of novelty our entire lives. If we continually remain students, we are more likely to remain engaged in and delighted by the wonder of life all around us, even as we age.
Keep your brain sharp and increase your skill set by taking as many classes, workshops, seminars, retreats, and courses as you can in subjects that truly interest you. If the classes are in the field of your primary passion they can help you expand in that area, but ultimately any type of learning that you enjoy is an investment in yourself.
The older I get, the more I realize the true value of my friends. Beyond money and possessions, our friendships are our greatest assets. Multiple studies have shown that people who have support networks with at least a few meaningful friendships live longer, healthier, and happier lives than people who do not.
Friendship is the launchpad from which anything is possible. From emotional support and empathy, to physical affection and connection, to soul reflection and positive accountability, deep friends provide many vital needs for human wellbeing.
Invest in your friendships by making as much time as possible to be with your friends in person. While social media and texting can be useful to maintain the connection, it is being together in person that offers the highest physical, emotional, and mental benefits of friendship. Hike, play games, or do other activities together that you both enjoy. Create meals with your loved ones. Make time with your friends as much of a priority as working for your paycheck, and the payoff in life satisfaction will be immeasurable.
Discover What You Actually Need to Be Happy
Part of our modern propensity to overwork is caused by our addictions to things we do not actually need. Nearly all of us succumb to societal pressure and advertising, wanting the newest technology or other accoutrements of the image of success. But this pursuit of “stuff” robs us of our ability to seek personal excellence.
Take some time to discover yourself. What do you truly need to be happy? If you could be living in any place with any type of lifestyle, where and how would you live? If you could do anything with your time, what would you do? How can you provide more of those true needs to yourself?
Practice Radical Self-Care
You know the old adage “treat your body like a temple?” Well, it is famous for a reason. We are given one body in this life, and caring for it as well as we can will help us enjoy life more; especially as we age.
One of the most direct ways that you can invest in yourself is by treating your body as the most precious thing in the world. For you, it is. Consider the nourishing, organic food that you grow, buy, and eat as vital as the money you put in the bank. Know that each nutritious meal you take the time to prepare is a deposit that will provide endless dividends in the future. The extra money and time you put into procuring and preparing truly nourishing food will pay off immeasurably in the future.
Of course, self-care is more than just eating healthy food. Radical self-care includes caring for your entire being. Consistent exercise, mind-body practices like yoga and qigong, daily meditation, connecting with nature, expanding your perceptions through reading and travel, and getting plenty of quality sleep are all crucial aspects of supporting health and longevity.
Radical self-care also includes nurturing your connection to spirit. Whatever your beliefs, connecting on a regular basis with some aspect of life greater than yourself is another important long-term investment.
Nurture Your Creativity
Unless you are a professional artist, it can be easy to dismiss art as an unproductive use of time. But art is the language of the soul. Creating art keeps our hearts happy and our minds sharp. The genre is unimportant. It does not matter if you make anything useful or liked by others. It does not even matter how good you are at the art form. What matters is that you make something from your heart, employing your mind and body as a cohesive whole to crystalize the beauty of life into form.
Another way to nurture your creativity and invest in yourself is to take classes and refine your skills in the art that you enjoy. It could be watercolor classes if you enjoy painting, or Tango if you like partner dance forms. Again it does not matter how skilled you become at the art, what matters is that you deepen your connection to something that you love and invest in yourself.
Keep the Romance Alive With Your Partner
If you are blessed with a loving life partner, never ever take your relationship for granted. It is commonplace to get into a grind with someone and lose the spark of joy that brought you two together. But healthy relationships must be continually fed with time, energy, connection, intimacy, gratitude, praise, and play. Making your romantic partner an ongoing priority will ensure the health of your relationship, and by extension your heart, for the rest of your time together.
Learn How to Live Simply
Embrace the beauty available in every moment. Remember the joy in taking a simple walk for entertainment, or writing in your journal. Have a home that is the size you need to be comfortable, not as large as possible. Live within your financial means, earning more than you spend and eschewing credit cards and other forms of debt. Delight in walking or biking whenever possible, and have a reliable and cost-efficient vehicle if you really need one.
Learn how to cook, raise a garden, mend clothes, and repair small electronics. Invest in canning supplies and a food dehydrator, and take the time to learn how to use them, so you can provide lasting nourishment for yourself. Make meditation and connection with loved ones your recreation instead of movies and video games. Relish in getting plenty of sleep instead of depending on caffeine for energy. There are countless ways that you can open to the simple life. This will enable you to work fewer hours and have more time to enjoy life, as well as helping you to more easily meet your needs as you age.
Plan for the Future While Still Enjoying the Moment
Some degree of financial planning is wise, when viewed from the perspective of self-care. Older people sometimes wish they had paid more attention to saving money, to facilitate a more graceful retirement. The trick is to balance living in the moment; traveling while you are young enough to enjoy it, making sure to go to your loved ones’ weddings and funerals, exploring what life offers you; while investing in your future financial security by making sound choices. A savings account or sensible money market account can be a lifesaver as you age. Even putting away a small amount of money each month can make a huge difference for your future.
Follow Your Heart in Business
Devoting all your time and energy to a job you despise will take its toll in the long run. Wheeling and dealing to get ahead, especially in a line of work that is not your highest calling, will cost you your soul. People seem to be happiest when they take a heart-centered approach to every aspect of life, including business.
Discover what you love doing, and find ways to make that your gainful employment. If you must do work that is not your greatest passion, you can still bring your heart, integrity, and full presence into it. Keep your connection to your heart while you are working, whatever your work, and your lifetime stress levels will be lower and your happiness levels will steadily climb.
Practice Effective Time Management
You only have so many hours in a day. Many of us put ourselves last in our schedules, trying to squeeze in self-care and creative projects in the brief hours between putting the kids to bed and passing out from exhaustion. In today’s busy world, if we want to have time for anything, we must schedule it in. Realistically asses how many hours you must put into the various aspects of your life. Then schedule considerable chunks of time for feeding your body and your brain, exercise and movement arts, creativity, and the other aspects of self-investment. Just like budgeting your money helps you make sound financial choices, budgeting your time will help you harmoniously care for all the aspects of your life.
There is only one you in all the world. You are unique and precious, simply because you exist. There is a virtue and a value in working hard for others, and service is one of the great attributes. But if you do not care for yourself, if you do not give to yourself, eventually you will have nothing to give to others. Treat yourself as the commodity that you are. Invest in your health, your wealth of knowledge, your relationships, and your creativity. The greatest payoff – your happiness and wellbeing – will make it all worthwhile.