You need to invest your money for the future. But don’t forget to invest in your actual life.

We make investments all the time, but they don’t always have to do with money.

The way you use your time and energy is important to developing the kind of life you want. For the most part, I have a kick-ass life. And most of that is due to the non-money investments I make.

If you’re looking to level up, here are a few non-money investments you should make. Some of them might even lead to a higher income down the road.

1. Learning.

One of the best things you can do is keep learning. This doesn’t mean being a perpetual college student. There are plenty of ways to learn that don’t involve going to college.

My favorite way to keep learning is to read a lot of books. Even fiction can provide you with insights and lessons.

There are plenty of places online to learn new things. Read something you don’t agree with to learn the other side. Take a course in something you don’t know a lot about. All of that can be done online.

I also find you can learn from mistakes and failure. Get out there and fail big time. Just make sure you pay attention to the lesson.

Take what you learn and apply it to your life. Whether it’s a new system that helps you be more productive, or whether it’s information about child development that helps you connect better with your nieces and nephews, learning is a great way to make non-money investments in your life.

2. Self-care.

A couple weeks ago, I was swamped. I had too much to do and felt stressed out. One of the items on my calendar was a mani/pedi. “I think I’m going to cancel,” I told a friend.

Instead of backing me up, he told me to go through with the appointment. “Self-care is an important part of staying well emotionally and physically,” he pointed out.

I try to take time for self-care regularly. This includes relaxing at home, reading for pleasure, and, yes, going to the spa a couple times a month to have my nails done.

My work is better when I take care of myself. I’m more productive when I make time to enjoy myself. And, most importantly of all, my relationship with my son is better when I’m in a healthy state of mind.

You don’t have to get a facial every month or a massage every week (although that sounds AMAZING) to engage in self-care. The important thing is to take time for yourself, doing something that you consider a pleasure.

3. Networking.

Networking is one of those non-money investments that can pay off financially down the road.

Getting to know people in your community and in your career field is an important part of moving forward and improving your life.

Networking can help you meet interesting people that you can learn from. It can also help you get an “in” with folks who can help you find a new job, start a business venture, or do any number of things.

I attended a charity benefit not too long ago and I saw a kid, just graduated from college, working it. His parents had brought him long for the express purpose of meeting a couple of attending luminaries and for networking with the cream of the business crop.

As an introvert, networking can be difficult. I know. I just spent an hour at a party, hiding, before getting back out there and smiling and visiting and making connections for the county political organization I head.

Invest the time it takes to learn how to network effectively. It will help you in ways you can’t even begin to fathom.

4. Personal relationships.

I’m not talking about collecting tons of friends. You don’t need a wide social circle to make meaningful personal connections. While I go to a lot of events and am involved in my community, I have a surprisingly small number of deep personal connections.

And I’m just fine with that.

However, the personal relationships I do have are very meaningful, and I like that. Most of us, as humans, have the desire for personal connections.

Good personal relationships enrich your life and provide you with needed emotional support.

Invest in your personal relationships. One of the most important relationships I invest in is the one I have with my son. I also value other relationships in my life. These relationships take time and effort to maintain. It’s worth it.

These relationships take time and effort to maintain. It’s worth it.

5. Health.

Your health is pretty much everything. You can’t enjoy life when your health sucks. I spent five weeks basically sick with everything that was going around at the time.

It was Not Fun.

An investment in your health today pays dividends in the future. You will be better able to meet your goals, and you will have fewer healthcare expenses.

You can benefit from healthy habits today as well. I have more energy when I eat right and exercise. I’m more productive. I make better decisions. My mood is better, and that helps my relationships.

Good health can fuel all sorts of ventures, including those that can make you money down the road.

Pay attention to your health and you will come out ahead in life.

This includes your mental and emotional health as well as your physical health. You might be surprised at how much good it can do to visit with a counselor or therapist on a regular basis to maintain good mental and emotional health.

Don’t forget about your spiritual health. I’m not religious, but there are many things I find edifying and refreshing in my experience as a human, akin to spiritual experiences. If you are religious, nurture your spiritual side and work on your relationship with the divine. It will be good for you in the long run.

What are some of the non-money investments you make in your own life? How do they benefit you?

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What is your passion in life? Can you even answer that question? Here’s why it’s important to find your passion now.

As a fresh college grad with a terrible diet and pack-a-day Marlboro habit, I knew it was time to get in shape. And after months of forcing myself into the gym every day, something finally changed.

I ran an entire quarter of a mile on the treadmill without stopping. Looking back now, it was such a small accomplishment, but one that filled me with confidence and the desire push myself harder.

From there, I worked my way up to a mile, then two, which then evolved into a full marathon — and then five more. At some point, running became my passion and it changed my life in several positive ways.

What’s yours? If you struggle to answer the question, it might be time to do a little soul searching and discover what you’re passionate about. Here’s why.

Your passion gives you a sense of purpose.

Maybe you’re someone’s husband or wife. Perhaps you have kids, or you’re hyper-focused on your career and kicking ass at it. All of these things are fantastic.

However, the older you get, the more you’ll notice your peers defining themselves by their relationships or what they do, not who they are. That’s an easy way to lose yourself entirely.

Having a passion affirms your values. Maybe it’s volunteering, painting, writing — hell, even playing video games. Your passion in life is a reminder of what’s most important to you outside of these other obligations. It allows you to find enjoyment in something that’s all yours, out of the control of others, and instills a deeper sense of meaning to your life beyond simply existing.

It drives you to accomplish goals.

Plenty of people live day-to-day simply going through the motions. And that’s fine, but it’s also incredibly boring.

Setting goals — and even more importantly, accomplishing them — makes life so much more enjoyable. Having a passion gives you something to strive for, whether it’s setting a new personal record in a 10k or achieving level 80 in World of Warcraft.

Not only will you feel good about yourself for reaching your goals, but you’ll be much more interesting at parties and have something to #humblebrag about on Facebook. And isn’t that, really, the ultimate goal in life?

You’ll inspire others and be more successful.

Passion is contagious. When you’re hungry, driven, and full of positive energy, it tends to rub off on others – which a great thing for everyone involved.

Richard Branson, one of the most accomplished and well-known entrepreneurs, gives a lot of credit to passion for his success. In a recent article for the Daily Monitor, he wrote, “When you believe in something, the force of your convictions will spark other people’s interest and motivate them to help you achieve your goals. This is essential to success.”

There are few accomplishments better than being a source of inspiration to the people around you. Except maybe becoming a wildly loved, self-made billionaire. Take it from Sir Branson, you need passion in your life.

Remember, it’s about you.

As a runner, I’ve won first place in my division and also been one of the last people to cross the finish line. I’ve logged 60 mile weeks and gone months without lacing up. Some days I feel like I could keep running forever, and others, my legs might as well be made of lead.

But I keep going, no matter my speed, age, size, or ability. Because having a passion is not about being the best; it’s about striving to a better version of yourself.

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Don’t get hung up on changing the world immediately. Start local and watch your efforts bear fruit sooner.

Do you want to live with passion and purpose? Do you want to change the world? Do you feel like I’ve shared froofy sentiments that don’t actually matter?

The reality is that you don’t need to try to change the world all by yourself if you don’t feel like you have the time, energy, or ability to make it happen.

What you can do is find a cause you believe in and start making a tiny corner of the world a little bit better.

Do you really need to change the world?

To often we get bogged down in the idea that we need to change the world in an earth-shattering way. We like the idea of making a big impact. But most of us aren’t going to change the world in that big way.

That doesn’t mean that you are inconsequential. Since moving back to Idaho, I’ve realized that I can help effect meaningful change right here, on a local basis. So far, I haven’t made a huge impact, but I’ve seen that some of my efforts do matter.

It’s easy to step back and say, “I can’t make a big change, so I won’t try.” But you can make small change, and you can help men, women, children, animals, and the environment right where you live.

When you find a cause you believe in, you not only make an impact, but you also live with greater purpose. You are more likely to feel good about your life, and enjoy the mental and physical health benefits that come with volunteering your time and energy.

Don’t get hung up on the idea of changing the world; think about what you can do locally to make a difference. Later, if it snowballs, or if you get an opportunity to change the world, go for it. But don’t sit around feeling impotent when you might be capable of effecting a change that matters to the people around you.

What matters to you?

The first step, when you want to find a cause you believe in, is to decide what matters to you. Figure out what makes your life worthwhile. Decide what you wish was different in your area. Look around. There’s always something that could be better.

What are you passionate about? Do you care about education? Do you want to fight for LGTBQIA+ homeless youth? Do you wish people were kinder to animals? Is there an environmental risk in your area? What kind of local policies are causing harm to under-represented populations? Do you believe arts education is vital to the preservation of our culture?

You can go crazy trying to fix every problem out there. And it’s impossible to do everything all at once — especially since you probably also want to put a roof over your head. Narrow down to the issue that matters most to you and focus on that first. You’ll probably find that there are interconnected issues that you can branch out with, but start small and simple. That one issue can provide you with a manageable way to start making a change.

Join with like-minded people.

How to Find a Cause You Believe In

Once you know what matters to you, look for like-minded people. Whether you work for change at the neighborhood, city, state, country, or world level, you can’t do it alone. World-sweeping ideas come around very rarely. TBH, most change is incremental and arrives only after years of work and effort in conjunction with others.

Look for people who share your passion and values. Chances are that there are others interested in changing the world the same way you are. When I first moved to Idaho Falls, I joined the Chamber of Commerce for networking opportunities and to figure out which business leaders and professionals shared my values. I sought out a local political organization that better fit my leanings as well.

These larger organizations allow me to meet like-minded people who are part of a smaller subset. Together we can lobby for change, and our volunteer efforts can make a difference locally. It’s been heartening to see some of what I’ve done matter — even if it’s to a small portion of the population. That sort of change has the potential to spread.

Contribute your resources.

What if you feel like you don’t have the time to volunteer? You can still find a cause you believe in and contribute your resources. I’m involved in certain activities that, when considered with my other responsibilities, mean that I don’t have time to volunteer with the food pantry or soup kitchen, even though hunger is a major issue for me.

I have to say no to some things, and I realize that I can have an impact by donating money to local relief efforts. I make regular contributions to local food banks. I love local donations because I can meet the people responsible for the way the funds are used, and I can see the impact my donations have.

I choose which causes get my time, and which get my money. You can do something similar. Look for an organization that could use your financial support, even if you don’t feel like you have the time to volunteer. My son saves 10% of his allowance and income for charity. Until now, he’s mostly just put it in for an offering when we occasionally attend a church, or he gives something to panhandlers. Lately, after much thought, he announced that he wants to find a way to help homeless LGBTQIA+ teens — a problem in our area.

My son saves 10% of his allowance and income for charity. Until now, he’s mostly just put it in for an offering when we occasionally attend a church, or he gives something to panhandlers. Lately, after much thought, he announced that he wants to find a way to help homeless LGBTQIA+ teens — a problem in our area. He’s researching local organizations to see where his money might do some good. He’s 13, and he’s thinking about what he can do to make positive change where we live.

It won’t be a lot, but it will be something — and it just might make a difference in at least one person’s life.

What issues are you passionate about? Have you found a cause to believe in? How do you support it?

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Have you thought about what it means to live a purposeful life?

“Follow your bliss.”

“Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

What does any of that mean?

Sure it would be nice to just hang out having fun and making money for doing whatever. The reality, though, is that most of us have to work for a living, and even if we love what we do, some days are just crappy.

As much as I enjoy writing, there are days I just don’t really “feel” it. But I do it anyway, because I like eating, and I think my son should wear clothing to school. Does the fact that some days aren’t bliss-filled and there are times I have to write shit I don’t care about mean I’m on the wrong path?

Of course not.

The real key is figuring out what my bliss happens to be and then incorporating that bliss in my life. That’s the journey I’m on right now. Rather than setting a bunch of quasi-meaningless goals for the new year, I’m making this a time of exploration for me. What do I want my purpose in life to be? How can I figure it out so I can follow my bliss?

Map it out: What does your bliss look like?

If you want to follow your bliss, the first step is to think about what it looks like. And be honest: would you really be happy lying on a beach somewhere doing nothing all the time? I know I wouldn’t be. Inspired by Harlan’s life map, I created my own.

Miranda Life Map

I named my map “Living with Passion and Purpose” because I decided that my bliss involves things that allow me to follow some of my passions while also living with a sense of purpose.

Many of us like to feel as though we can make a difference. Chances are, when you think about how to follow your bliss, part of that is working in a capacity that allows you to help people, whether that means volunteering or cultivating career opportunities that allow you to feel as though you are contributing to something worthwhile.

One of the reasons that phrases like “follow your bliss” get so much play is due to the fact that, for most of us, money isn’t the driver that makes life interesting.

Here is what Rosabeth Moss Kanter at Harvard discovered about what makes work worth doing:

In research for my book Evolve!, I identified three primary sources of motivation in high-innovation companies: mastery, membership, and meaning. Another M, money, turned out to be a distant fourth. Money acted as a scorecard, but it did not get people up-and-at ‘em for the daily work, nor did it help people go home every day with a feeling of fulfillment.

Follow Your Bliss -- Or At Least Figure Out What It Looks Like

Money is on my map, but mostly as a subject I write and podcast about — as well as the Thing that allows me to follow all my other interests. Chances are that money isn’t your main motivator, either, even if you don’t have same passions I do or hope to impact the world around you in the same way. (I prefer small-scale, local efforts.)

You can figure out what your own bliss looks like by going through the exercise of creating a life map as well. Sit down and think about the kinds of things you would be doing for work and in your leisure time if you were able to follow your bliss.

Add bits of bliss to your life.

Once you know what your bliss looks like, you can start adding it to your life. It doesn’t mean that you have to drop everything you’re doing right now to follow bliss. You can start looking for meaning in what you do, even if it is a crappy job.

Find other ways to add purpose to your life. Start a side gig. Volunteer. Take music lessons. Play with your kids. Netflix and chill. Join a book club. Spend the night in a hotel. Look for a way to make a small change that adds to your quality of life.

A few years ago, when I felt trapped in my life, I made time to take guitar lessons. For half an hour each week, I met with a teacher. I practiced for 15 to 20 minutes each day. Is that enough to become a good guitar player? Nope. But it’s enough to find some enjoyment and passion in the day, learn something new, and get to the point where I can accompany other people. It wasn’t much, but it added something to my life — a spark of joy.

Little by little, reduce the amount of time you spend on things that don’t bring you happiness and shift toward what adds purpose and passion to your life. This might take some time to accomplish since it might include some gradual career changes along the way. You don’t have to upend your life to follow your bliss. And you don’t have to stop what you’re doing just because you have a bad day.

Look for the little ways to enjoy life, and you’ll be surprised at how it all adds up until eventually you really do get to live the life you (mostly) want.

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Put your passions and interests down on paper. It will help you determine your life’s direction and how to spend your time.

Over the last year, I’ve been overwhelmed with possibilities for my life. New opportunities have been arising, and I’m interested in pursuing any number of these, and doing so might change the direction of my life.

The trouble started when I was much younger. Continue reading “Your Life Map Will Clear Your Path”

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