Everyone is quick to jump on the bandwagon of “prioritizing yourself.” You should invest in self-improvement. Try to be more self-aware. Take time for yourself and your personal life. Focus on the things that matter most.
These are all common statements bandied about in casual conversation. Do you know what else they are? They’re vague.
What does it look like to actually prioritize the things that matter? How can you invest in things like self-awareness, family time, hobbies, passions, and all of the other things that make up a content lifestyle? You need to come up with a strategy, starting with a clear definition of what your lifestyle is in the first place.
1. Define Your Lifestyle
The famous French philosopher Blaise Pascal summed up the endless pursuit of happiness when he said, “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end.”
It’s an important over-arching concept and a great starting point if you’re looking for ways to invest in your lifestyle. Everyone wants to be happy, and this desire for contentment and fulfillment drives us all — but what does it look like for you? How do you define happiness?
If you’re spitballing, chances are you can come up with a few points. But the vast majority of people leave the concept of happiness out in the ethers — which is crazy. We live in a world where everyone uses goals, objectives, and KPIs for everything, from annual revenue to how low the electric bill is. Why wouldn’t we have goals for our happiness, as well?
Start the investment process by writing down your definition of happiness. Start with the big stuff, but don’t be afraid to dig into the details. Include every area of life, too, from good health and relationships to financial elements, hobby-related achievements, and so on. Once you have a list, prioritize what matters most. It’s also a good idea to break things up into important long-term goals and measurable short-term elements that help you reach the longer objectives.
This isn’t just a fun way to dream. Even if they change as you go along, defining your goals gives you a blueprint to direct your efforts as you invest in different areas of your life. Alright. Now that we’ve set the stage — let’s move on to some of the specific kinds of investments you can use to prioritize your lifestyle.
2. Invest Time in the Intangibles
If you’re expecting a generic list of passive income suggestions that can help you do whatever you want, you’ve come to the wrong place. Sure, we’ll cover some ideas for financial freedom further down, but that’s just one part of the puzzle. It’s an important one, for sure, but there are other genuine investment opportunities outside of the dollars and cents — and some of them deserve attention right from the get-go.
Many areas of life are easy to define, particularly when they do revolve around money. Other lifestyle achievements are harder to define. For instance, you can set up a schedule and pay for karate classes to improve discipline and personal health. However, realizing a long-term ambition of earning a black belt is priceless. It also requires a much harder currency to come by – time.
Your living arrangement is another good example. Paying your mortgage and utilities allows you to have a living space. And yet, paying for a house is very different from turning it into a home that you want to spend time in. Living in a certain kind of house or in a specific area are also major intangibles that can help you meet your lifestyle goals. Again, time and freedom to make personally-inspired decisions are major factors here.
The most obvious example of them all is friends and family. You can’t put a price tag on the relationships that matter. It’s cliche, and yet it continues to remain a mighty truth of personal happiness and a content lifestyle.
Lifestyle Investor, Justin Donald, highlights the importance of investing in the people that you love and how money factors into the equation, “The point of making money is to spend it with people you love. Sadly, many entrepreneurs sacrifice their freedom to attain financial success, preventing them from spending time with those who matter most to them.”
Having freedom and autonomy of time matters — it’s more valuable than money ever could be. So, as you search for ways to invest in your lifestyle, start by considering how to use the most limited asset of them all: your time.
3. Invest in Learning
Most driven people want to reach the end goal. They’re interested in the process only as far as how it will help them reach the finish line. Learning is one area that challenges that entire mindset. Why? Because it’s a lifelong pursuit …and one that can perpetually help you reach your lifestyle goals.
Entrepreneur and creator of Impossible Ventures Joel Runyon stresses the fact that learning is a lifelong endeavor, “The process of learning — awkwardly trying something new, making mistakes and improving slowly bit by bit — is an art we spend years on as children, but often abandoned later on as we focus on ‘image’ and ‘looking like we know what we’re doing.’”
Runyon goes on to challenge this natural adult antipathy to awkwardly learning new things over time, “By investing in your self-education, you have a constant reminder that there are things that you’re not good at and can improve on. It’s a constant exercise in humility and a great reminder that learning is a lifelong endeavor.”
Take a look at the lifestyle blueprint you created back in the first step. What are your passions, hobbies, and interests? How can you invest in them through learning? How can you set bigger and better goals by challenging your status quo and expanding your knowledge base?
If you’re working a job that makes you unhappy, can you go back to school to make a career pivot? (Just make sure that you don’t set unrealistic expectations for your new career. Every job has its high and low points.) You may even be able to invest in learning within your current career, such as a marketer getting certified as an SEO expert.
Is there a hobby you can build on through learning? Can you stoke an undeveloped interest in illustrations by taking an art class? Can you buy a better home gym to perfect your bodybuilding side gig? Consider your passions and the areas of life that improve your happiness. Then look beyond your current boundaries and find ways to expand your horizons by investing in learning.
4. Invest in Financial Freedom
Alright, we said we’d get here at some point, and here we are. If you want to use investments to prioritize your lifestyle, there’s a good chance that money will factor into the equation sooner or later. Improving your lifestyle through finances starts with investing in healthy personal financial habits.
For instance, make sure that you’re using a budget and that you’re saving toward your goals and paying down debt over time. Budgets, in particular, can be a game-changer when it comes to enabling your lifestyle. They help you track income, expenses, debts, and general spending habits.
You can also use different budgets for different occasions. For someone just starting out or who’s bad at gauging how much money they have at any given moment, they may want to use an envelope system. An ambitious saver can adopt a 60/30/10 plan (60% for savings, investing, and debt reduction; 30% on needs; 10% on other spending). There are plenty of other budget systems out there.
If you don’t have a preferred budgeting approach yet, Due CEO John Rampton points out that “just like when car shopping, you can try the system out first. If it’s not to your liking, you can take another system out for a test drive.” As you use your budget to save money and reduce debt, you gradually gain the financial freedom to sacrifice the bottom line for other intangibles (like time with family or taking a class to get better at a hobby).
The other elephant in the room here is investing in passive income. We don’t need to belabor the point here. There are literally millions of ways to make your money work for you. From affiliate marketing to peer-to-peer investing to building a well-balanced portfolio (with plenty of dividend stocks), the stronger your passive income pipelines are, the more financial autonomy you’ll have.
Investing in Your Lifestyle in 2023
Lifestyle investing isn’t easy. It combines cold, calculated factors like finances and basic living necessities with intangible priorities like health and happiness and tries to tend to the former while enabling the latter.
The biggest step is accepting the fact that “investing” doesn’t just mean directing a little more cash toward your retirement portfolio. Truly cultivating your lifestyle requires the willingness to invest time and money into multiple areas of life. If you can accept the significant upfront cost of this kind of investment, it can set the stage this year for you to both prioritize and realize the lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.
[Related: First-Time Investor? Here Are 9 Mistakes You Want To Avoid]