Invest In Yourself

by Ana L. Palles

Joy at Sunset We don't think twice about the sound business logic of making our money work for us in the form of stocks and high yield funds, yet it is easy to forget that we must also invest in ourselves.

It's not hard to fathom why this would be last on our playlist of favorite themes. Each year, we find ourselves questioning what we're doing and wondering why we're tired of the status quo. Often it's the feeling that our sense of adventure with life that characterized our younger years is a little worn around the edges.

Instead of sitting around lamenting the cobwebs and creaks that have been slowly gathering due to clinging to old habits and familiar turf, now is the time to shake things up a bit and throw some new elements into the mix. Cast off lethargy and decide that things are going to change. Not tomorrow, but beginning now. The best Return on Investment occurs when you invest in yourself.

"To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to." - Kahlil Gibran

Perhaps you've been busy keeping up with all the demands on your time, your mind, and your body during the past few years. That "sharp" kid who left school a few years back has become somewhat dull from the overuse of daily life and growing responsibilities. You can feel it happening more and more each day. You worry that you're not as quick as you once were and you feel dullness and predictability seeping in. Some folks look in the mirror afraid that what they are seeing is somehow "less than" what was there before. Others shrug it off, grab a beer, and put it aside saying that's normal and that you can't stay on top of the game forever.

Often we forget, largely because we've been so busy, is that like a classic car, your value rises with proper maintenance . You have built up knowledge and experience that is invaluable in benefits. You are a walking personification of lessons learned.

We've just forgotten that every high performance vehicle needs some tuning up to refresh, clean out the gunk, and allow the power to flow through. Again, it's time to invest in yourself. It's a blue chip investment - you can't lose! And, you're worth it.

So, where do you begin? Well, get out your pencil and pad, we're going to do some inventorying.

Nurture the Body

"Our body is a machine for living. It is organized for that, it is its nature. Let life go on in it unhindered and let it defend itself, it will do more than if you paralyze it by encumbering it with remedies." - Leo Tolstoy

How are you feeling today?

Your answer is more important than you realize. We have a tendency to forget that our bodies play a major role in the quality of our life. The truth is that most of us are tired. Maybe we didn't get enough sleep, or we spent the morning racing around getting children to school, or fighting traffic to get to work. Sometimes we have no idea why we're tired. It seems like we went to bed that way and awoke not feeling too much better. We scratch our heads wondering why we sleep and don't seem to get the rest we need. If you have consulted with your doctor and ruled out any physical or medical reasons for your tiredness, then you may want to consider more esoteric reasons for your exhaustion.

What might you be carrying around? Are you worrying excessively? Are you inundated with thoughts that make you unhappy or surrounded by a continuous barrage of invalidating or gloomy perspectives?

There is a scene in the semi documentary film "What the Bleep" where the main character is continuously bombarding herself with self loathing and anger. She sees herself as inadequate, fat, and failing. Different scientific experts in the film explain how our thoughts and emotions affect our bodies down to the cellular level.

Take a few minutes and quietly examine your environment and your thought patterns. If you find that you are being flooded with things that make you feel bad about yourself then it is time to chart a course of action. The starting place is with your intent. Decide that it's time to listen to another radio station and slowly start turning the knob.

Sharpening your edge includes helping your body feel more alive and energized. There are 3 secrets to this, and the good news is that you already know what these are.

Good food.

Heavily processed foods add to the work your body needs to do because of the detrimental ingredients the body has to deal with. Many chemicals and bad fats cause your liver, kidneys, and cells to work overtime trying to clear this out of your system. Organic, whole foods are mainstream and available. Gone are the days when only specialty markets carried a few clusters of carrots.

There's a reason for that. Your body will feel better if you fuel it with clean food. Pay a visit to your local health market. Some of the better ones staff nutritionists, carry in-store prepared foods, and provide free literature on a variety of topics such as aging, immune defense, and men's and women's health.

Start the process of sharpening your edge by clearing out your system and making solid nutritional choices. Visit websites that can provide information and ideas on healthier cooking. You'll find that it's really easy to feel better just by shifting the food items you purchase.

While you're at the market, you may want to look into flower essences. For example, Bach has an entire line of flower essences with distinct and subtle properties. My personal experience has been very positive and I have seen significant improvement when using flower essences to help with circular thinkin, and calming amongst other things.

Perhaps most important of all, though, always remember Grandma's admonition to remember to say grace. Saying "thank you" for the gifts of the wonderful and healthy foods we eat and drink is essential for their ability to improve your well being.

Exercise.

Yes, I know, you're sick of hearing this and you hate exercise. I understand. I hadn't exercised in 16 years. Yet, recently, I decided to go to a drop in class at my local recreation center. Guess what? I enjoy it so much that I now go 4 times a week.

One of the big fears people have about going to an exercise class is that they will stand out as fat or clumsy. Or that they will not be able to keep up. The truth is keeping up takes time. Endurance builds over days and weeks. You will be surprised to find that after a few weeks, you will be able to do more repetitions. Remember, you're not trying out for an Olympic event. You're making investments in yourself.

Don't worry. You're not alone. There are all shapes, sizes, ages, and experience levels at these classes. I met a 60 year old woman during one session who was taking yoga and body sculpting classes so that she could become flexible. She did it. She looked great and moved like a dancer.

"Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity." - John F. Kennedy

If you haven't done much exercising before, I recommend going to your local recreation center to start. Usually, their teachers are very understanding of beginner levels and often your classmates will be entry level as well. Such centers have a wide variety of different types of disciplines at community centers, from Qi Gong to Step, to Pump and Yoga. Give it a try. You will feel so much better and you'll be very happy that you did it.

Nurture Yourself.

Often we hear that we cannot truly love another until we have learned to love ourselves. Loving ourselves means that we have to look at each part of ourselves and not hate it, but love that it is part of us. Going back to the movie, “What the Bleep”, after looking at herself in the mirror with self loathing, the main character shouts out “I hate you” at the reflection. Suddenly she stops and remembers what she had learned the previous day. Our thoughts affect our surroundings our bodies and our minds. Gradually, she starts to shift how she views herself and grabbing a makeup pencil, begins to draw beautiful hearts all over her body, sending love to herself.

Many of us have stood in front of that bathroom mirror upset with all the flaws and inadequacies that we see reflected back at us. I have a friend who hated the image she saw so much that she avoided mirrors. She hadn't realized the depth of the dislike she felt for her body until she noticed how very dry her torso skin had gotten. It was then that she realized that she had been avoiding applying her after bath body lotion to those parts of herself she disliked.

It all begins to make sense when we stop to analyze what we are doing and why. How much better we will feel when we start to value and to nurture ourselves and each other. You will be surprised at the difference this makes in your day and in your outlook on life.

Feed the Brain

"A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body." - Benjamin Franklin

We hear about a lack of challenge in many professions, and in many walks of life. As humans, we like to problem solve, and to push our minds in new ways. It is a need we must feed to be happy.

Notice the popularity of games in all venues and genres, whether online, around a coffee table, or on television. We love to solve problems and to innovate. And the best part of all is that it helps to build new neural pathways that keep our minds healthy and younger longer.

All of us know the importance of providing the right stimulus to children to help develop their brain function and cognition. As discussed in the online article by the Franklin Institute,

"The human brain is able to continually adapt and rewire itself. Even in old age, it can grow new neurons. Severe mental decline is usually caused by disease, whereas most age-related losses in memory or motor skills simply result from inactivity and a lack of mental exercise and stimulation …"

Most jobs tend to present new challenges each day to deal with and resolve. Even though sometimes we feel irritated by the crazy challenges that present themselves, we should realize that figuring out new ways to resolve these problems is really helping you. When looked at in this light, it can change your attitude about the day to day challenges you face and the looming career path up ahead. And of course when you change your attitude, you start to generate feel good chemicals within your body. Now we're talking!

There are lots of ways to get more food for your brain. Here are just a few suggestions.

Read!

Getting that grey matter stimulated and firing is easy and doesn't require money. A trip down to the local library is an excellent way to fuel up. Aside from the vast collections of books and periodicals available, many libraries also offer lecture series on a variety of topics, DVD classics, and language courses. If you don't have a computer available at home, many local libraries offer computer banks with internet access. Some libraries now even have coffee shops and outdoor reading areas. Ask your librarian for a brief tour and you will be surprised at the resources available to you.

Reading can take your mind on journeys of adventure, fantasy, exploration and science. It engages a variety of pathways as we read the words, absorb the meanings and visualize what we're reading. Conversation about the latest book you've read also provides a great ice breaker at social gatherings. The books we read tell a lot about our personalities and oftentimes provides the avenue through which we can get to know one another.

"Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends." - Dawn Adams

LibWeb provides information on libraries all over the world.

Homework Spot provides information including homework help and a reference desk.

Go to Class!

Many of us know someone who is a professional student. This person is forever taking courses whether at their local university or through one of the lifelong learning or community workshops that are so readily available. These folks are investing in themselves by pouring knowledge in and broadening their skills base. Look at job advertisements these days and you see a wide range of skills and experience requested. Employers are looking for more generalists and employees that can adapt easily to continual organizational change.

Whether in the administrative sector or a Vice President, today's workforce needs to be able to understand and have functional awareness of various business units that border on their own. For example, finance needs to understand how field sales and order administration processes work in order to be effective in their respective roles. Integration is the key word and the best investment you can make in yourself is to expand your knowledgebase and learn the systemic flows.

Taking classes, whatever the subject matter, helps create those new neural pathways. The bottom line is that it really doesn't matter what the topic is, whenever you sign up to take a course you are stimulating your mind with new information. If you are taking up painting, you train your hands and your eyes to translate images into brushstrokes. This is amazingly healthy for your brain and results in benefits with other cognitive skills as well.

Check the courses available at your local school, library, or community center. The URLs below provide you with examples of what may be available in your locality. Remember, though, you don't just have to take a class. You can also sign yourself up to teach one. Enrichment flows both ways!

http://www.auburn.edu/outreach/college.html
http://www.worldbank.org/

Join an Organization

Social interactions encourage thought and learning. Your mind processes a variety of information based upon the environment, other people's body language, tone, and the conversation itself. There are many organizations out there dedicated to an assortment of causes and objectives. Some of these are professional organizations, some are philanthropic, some are religious, some are strictly social.

Whatever your interest area, there is a group meeting out there to discuss, participate, and spend time with like-minded individuals. The opportunity for communication and activities provides fertile ground to feed the mind. It also provides networking opportunities, check out our article, Networking: More Important than Ever.

Not sure how to go about this? The first step is to look around at what is available. Once you have a few prospects in mind, the next step is to decide that you're going to go and have fun. Have no other expectations. You'll be amazed at how easily you begin to flow into different group activities.

Try signing up for www.meetup.com. They offer quite a network of groups assembling for different events and gatherings.

If you have a favorite charity or cause, search for a local chapter near you. There are a number of organizations like the Raptor Rescue, the Cancer Society, and the local food banks that can always use a helping hand. Not only will you enjoy the social interaction, but you will feel really good about providing time to a worthy cause

Consult a Coach

There are a number of fantastic personal coaches out there, and many opportunities to test drive different styles. Personal coaches help you clarify and define your objectives and chart a course that will get you there. Many corporations now hire personal coaches to help mentor their senior executives. Quickly and easily, you can shift your performance and self perception by putting some basic techniques into action.

Take advantage of the opportunity to listen to Hayhouse radio or "Coach on Call". Several coaches also sponsor some outstanding guest interviews. These are informative, inspirational and provide solid tactical steps that you can put into action. Some of my favorites are:

Life Coach Mary
Cheryl Richardson

Play Time!

Go play a game! What better way to spend some quality family time than to pull out the gameboard and letting the laughter begin. Games like Scrabble, Boggle, Pictionary, Taboo are fast paced, mind challenging, and fun. Not only will your brain get a workout, but laughter activates the immune system. Check out some of the free online games or sit down with a cup of hot coffee and do the Sunday Crossword puzzle. You can almost hear those brain cells whirring away!

Brain Nutrition

Again, the brain needs high quality fuel to operate optimally. This includes getting sufficient amounts of folate and antioxidants either through your diet or via supplementation.

Berries and green leafy vegetables like kale and fish oils are good brain food. As reported in New Scientist magazine,

"…Evidence is mounting in favour of omega-3 fatty acids, in particular docosahexaenoic acid or DHA. In other words, your granny was right: fish is the best brain food. Not only will it feed and lubricate a developing brain, DHA also seems to help stave off dementia. Studies published last year reveal that older mice from a strain genetically altered to develop Alzheimer's had 70 per cent less of the amyloid plaques associated with the disease when fed on a high-DHA diet…"

Of course, education and consulting with the appropriate health professionals is always the best ally in determining diet and nutritional choices. Make conscious choices about your nutrition and it will pay you back dividends on yourself.

Feed the Heart

"Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being's heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what's next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the infinite, so long are you young." - Mark Twain

What does it mean to feed the heart? What does it have to do with sharpening my edge and investing in myself? The answer is found in a variety of research annals, like the writings of Einstein's protégé, David Bohm who explored concepts such as implicate order and the brain as a hologram.

Bohm's theories were groundbreaking and emphasized the idea that everything we do, everything we experience, flows through us. We are all part of a larger system, and are interconnected. In reading the writings of these quantum physicists, we see how the science underlies and explains many of the alternative healing techniques, such as acupuncture, reflexology, and reiki.

Breathtaking views we stop to enjoy are taken in and are imprinted in our cells. They are pictures we carry and whose colors we incorporate in our own palette, and in our hearts. The pleasure we experience makes us feel happier, energized, and inspired.

The heart is also where we feel love. Have you ever been with a group of people watching a tiny puppy play? Stop and take a look at the faces around you. These folks are feeding their hearts. Even people that tend to be more reserved will begin to unbend a little. Plants do better when we focus on giving them our love and good thoughts. Studies have shown that married men live longer than single men. Being loved and cared for by someone sustains us.

Dr. Masaru Emoto's work on the effects of words and intent on water crystals provides amazing visuals of the power of our words and thoughts. When you consider that our bodies are made mostly of water, it is not difficult to extrapolate the effects that we feel when we know we are loved. Giving and receiving love is one of the most nourishing things we can do for ourselves and one another.

When we receive nourishment for our hearts, our entire being feels happier, more relaxed and we become better, less-stressed people. We are more successful in our work, with our families, and with ourselves.

Corporations understand the value of feeding the heart. This is one of the reasons some organizations strongly encourage their staff to take time off, enjoy family, rest, and celebrate. An employee that takes the time to balance themselves with outside interests and activities is a more productive employee.

They are also a more creative employee because they seek new experiences and input. Like a marvelous cake recipe, we add ingredients to our mix that result in taste, texture, and enjoyment. Feeding our hearts is an investment in our overall well being and helps to spark our creative fires.

Clearing Static Noise

We've talked about self-improvement, seeking out good inputs, and plugging into good feelings. Sometimes, though, we have difficulty doing some of the things we know we should be doing because our minds are caught in an endless loop. You cannot sharpen your edge if you are continuously distracted. It's important to clear the static out of your system so that you can have clear focus for the path you want to pursue ahead.

Take a deep breath, relax and check out a whispers presentation for a few minutes of mind rest.

Inspirational Whispers

Now get started on your action plan! You're worth investing in!

Action Steps

  • Sign up for a class.
  • Check out CareerOneStop.org
  • Have you thought about teaching? Check out www.uky.edu/Education/TEP/usacert.html for Teacher certification requirements.
  • Join a professional organization.
  • Check out some books.
  • Draft out a 5 year plan for yourself. Where would you like to be in 5 year's time?
  • Work out a career plan with your boss during your next one-on-one. Ask for suggestions for development. Take any opportunity to pursue Training.
  • Enhance your soft-skills. Take courses in Interpersonal Relationships, Social Styles, Human Effectiveness, Teamwork.
  • Stay current and take courses in new quality methodologies and processes, such as Sigma.
  • Subscribe to industry publications in your field.
  • Check out the business resources centers.
  • Consult a personal coach.
  • Join Seminars. Look into courses offered by the small business administration, city, state, and universities on specific topics that will enhance your business acumen.
  • Take care of yourself.
  • Feed your body, heart and mind.
  • Plan for enjoyment.
  • Remember to plan for Love.

Friends and family will wonder what you've been doing to yourself! Nothing brings the color to the cheeks and the sparkle to one's eye like adventure! Check out some of the other articles here on whisperingtree.net. Finding Your Passion is a good place to start.

References

1. "The Human Brain." The Franklin Institute Online. New Scientist Magazine. 2501, 28 May 2005. 28. http://www.fi.edu/brain/exercise.htm.
2. http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=11762.
3. http://www.hadousa.com.

Additional information