How to Invest in Yourself

I had a dinner table conversation with my daughter yesterday. My husband and I were talking about spending $5,000 on the kids’ education. My sweet girl said, “Mom, one day, when I get a job, I can pay you back.” I responded, “Oh, honey. You never ever have to pay me back. You are priceless. There’s no amount of money that I wouldn’t be willing to pay to see you thrive.”


As a parent, it’s so easy to spend money on my kids -- not just toys and books (our book budget is truly insane), but extracurriculars, educational opportunities, a house near good schools, health care, life insurance, and so much more. I never questioned the $100,000+ I paid to our IVF clinic over the years in order to get pregnant. I never questioned the $15,000 I recently invested in their college funds. My kids are priceless. Of course they’re worth it.


It is way harder to invest in myself.


Honestly, at first I didn’t even know what investing in myself meant. Sure I went to professional development workshops for work. I went to a conference or two each year. And my family would indulge in summer vacations and off-grid Thanksgiving breaks in the woods. But to actually invest in myself? What would that even look like? Should I actually pay money so that I could thrive? Is that selfish? What might the return on investment possibly be?


When a friend offered me some executive coaching sessions, I said sure. I wouldn’t be who I am today without that push. It was like therapy but focused on career, work-life integration, and self-actualization. Instead of dredging through my past hurts and traumas, professional coaching was forward thinking and encouraged me to take action towards creating the life I truly wanted for myself.


Soon afterwards, I found a powerful coach that I knew was the right one for me, but working with her cost over $5,000. I balked. Who am I to spend that much money on myself? I never buy fancy clothes or jewelry. How dare I throw money around like that? But with a little nudge from my husband, I went for it, and my mid-life crisis became a mid-life transcendence


In the past year, I invested $21,380 on myself in the form of trainings, books, and support. Of that, $17,530 was for professional coaching. That’s approximately the cost of a year of college tuition and fees at UC Berkeley. Or the price of a 2021 Toyota Corolla. Or a 13-day private National Geographic expedition for two to Patagonia. Or 870 large Moleskine notebooks if you are into that kind of thing. It’s a lot of money.


What difference has that made to my life? I’m a data gal. Let’s look at the numbers comparing myself from December 2019/January 2020 (pre-COVID) to now.

  • On Kaufman’s self-actualization scale, I went from 80 to 138 (out of 150)

  • On Brene Brown’s wholehearted inventory, I went from a whole lot of “Exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth”, “Self doubt and ‘supposed to’”, “Perfectionism” and “Anxiety as a lifestyle” to lots of “Authenticity”, “Self-compassion”, “Resilient spirit”, “Meaningful work”, and “Value clarity and commitment”

  • On my energy audit, I went from a 9 to a 22 (out of 25).

  • On the needs wheel that I use with every new client, I went from 56 to 73 (out of 80)

  • In my business, I met every financial target I set for myself.


But the real difference is in my own experience of life. I have significant amounts of time, effort, and money, with lots of support from professionals, friends, and family, to create the life I have now. I just returned from the women’s leadership retreat that I led with my best friend Tutti Taygerly. This is an artwork I made during the retreat.



At the center is a dragon sitting on her treasure beside a castle. The dragon represents my home. The treasure is my friends, family, and the tribe of people I support -- deep, meaningful, treasured relationships that fill me with love. The castle represents my business which provides me with a purpose and the opportunity to fully express my creativity. And that’s me riding a phoenix in the upper corner. I feel like I'm soaring. All the different facets of my life -- neuroscientist, teacher, leader, nurturer, adventurer, dancer, community builder, mom, wife, friend -- get full expression. All the different islands, the different phases of my life, played a part in getting me to where I am now. The present day and future islands of my life are floating into the air because it just keeps getting better.


Perhaps this seems like bragging to you, but the point I’m trying to make is that you too can create a life for yourself that soars. One of the wonderful women at the leadership retreat mentioned how her friends wonder why she seems so happy and fulfilled. She told them it’s because sets aside a personal and professional development budget for herself each year that gives her freedom to go on retreats and work with powerful mentors when she needs them.


So what would you pay to give your kids a life full of joy, deep relationships, meaningful work, and fulfillment? It’s priceless. The return on last year’s $20,000 investment was more than I could ever ask for. Moreover, my light overflows into the lives of everyone around me. I’m a better mom, a better wife, a better daughter, a better friend, a better coach.


So my question to you… how much would it be worth to you to create the life you’ve always wanted but never dared imagine was possible? What is its absence costing you? If you would gladly pay that for your kids, then why not for yourself?


Read more

This is a wonderful Scientific American blog piece by Scott Barry Kaufman that brings Maslow’s self-actualization theory into the modern day. At the bottom, there’s a link to an assessment you can take to see how you’re doing in the different areas of self-actualization.


Going further

If you would like support in seeking you own self-actualization or in creating the life you have always wanted, apply today for a powerful (possibly unforgettable) conversation to see if I’m the right fit for you. I offer group and individual coaching programs. And if I’m not the right support person, I’ll do my best to connect you with someone who is the perfect fit.


Join my FREE workshopWork-life resilience workshop for stressed out leaders” taking place on Zoom, Wednesday, September 16, 2021 from 1-2 pm Pacific Time. Email me at irene@irenesalter.com for the Zoom link or go to this Facebook Event. And if you can’t make it, don’t worry! I’ll record it and post it on my website. This free workshop offers concrete solutions for the stressed out, overwhelmed leader. Learn the science of your stress response and brain breaks to quiet your stress. Learn a key mindset shift to reduce overwhelm. Learn about three kinds of synergy that can fill your stress resilience reservoir.


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