Over recent years, I have set aside around $5k/year to invest in personal development. This money goes towards anything that includes educational products (books, online courses, workshops), conferences, coaching, and access to supportive communities.
Five grand might seem like a steep budget for self-investment, especially when it doesn’t include formal higher education. But I would argue it’s one of the most important things to spend money on (outside of basic living needs such as housing, food, and child care).
As a relatively frugal dude who hasn’t received a paycheck in six months, it’s currently a challenge to justify investing money in my development. But it’s more important now than ever.
Because it’s so important to invest in growth and development, it’s crucial to plan from both a financial and emotional standpoint. Otherwise, it’s easy to make sub-optimal decisions (or worse, no decisions at all).
I have found that asking specific questions helps me make better decisions when it comes to investing in my development.
Why am I investing in myself?
When evaluating any decision in life, it’s important to be clear on why you are doing it. If you don’t have this clarity, it’s a lot more difficult to feel a good about moving forward.
But it’s the quality of the why that matters most. Many bad decisions in my life have been made because my “why” was not well thought out. The “why” might be superficial or lack enough specificity, or it might be based on raw emotion. These are all precursors to regretting a decision because it was made for the wrong reasons.
Ever buy an expensive product and get buyer’s remorse?!?
This is a huge factor when deciding how to spend money on personal development. There’s an over-saturation of products on the market these days. And that makes it all the more important to have an agreement with yourself on what you are willing to pay for.
My criteria consists of the following points.
Do I trust the brand, or the person recommending it?
Appearances matter, and I’m not afraid to admit it. If someone without demonstrated success is trying to sell me a product or get me to join their community, I won’t be as inclined to explore it. If the course creator films shoddy promotional videos where it looks like they just rolled out of bed, no thanks.
But if they are well put together, well articulated, and carry an obvious passion for what they are doing, I’m already half way in the bag with my wallet ready and waiting. Likewise, if a person I respect and admire releases material, I’m likely to cough up the money to buy it.
Is the format agreeable and well-presented?
I seriously have taken online courses where the content is egregiously un-edited. If the person making it can’t take the time to put out a quality product, why should I fork over my money?
Likewise, I prefer the material to be downloadable and available for consumption when offline or at a later date. I don’t want to have to bookmark a URL and remember my login credentials if I want to refer to course material a year later.
Is there potential for a multi-faceted positive outcome from my investment?
This is a big one, and I admit it’s an intangible. But there are many potential benefits when you hire a coach, or enroll in an online course, or decide to attend a conference. There is the potential for business knowledge and acumen to be gained, but there’s also the community aspect.
In many ways, community holds more potential than anything else. You never know who you will be connected with and how it might pay dividends weeks, months, or years down the line. If I am considering buying a product, joining a community, or attending a conference, I will scope out the community behind it. If the community is engaged and helpful, I’m much more likely to commit.
Where am I on my development path?
When choosing how to best invest in yourself, your why will change based on where you are. At the start of any journey, the why is focused on foundational aspects.
When I started my journey of self-exploration and development a few years ago, I needed to learn how to understand myself. I needed help with my mindset and habits, and I needed help getting clear on where exactly I wanted to go.
These things aren’t as targeted and specific. All I knew was that I wasn’t where I wanted to be, so I invested in a coach to help me navigate this stage. I also purchased online courses to challenge me with answering more deeply-rooted questions about what I wanted.
Those investments continue to pay dividends today. I’ve learned so much about myself and my tendencies, and I’m thus able to make more self-informed decisions.
To evaluate where I’m at (and where I’m headed), I conduct periodic checkpoints. This informs future decisions around investing in my development.
How will I measure success?
When I am grappling with the decision to buy into a product, service, or community, I encounter immediate resistance to parting with my money. This is a short-sighted view of my future. I am parting with dollars now, but who knows how many dollars that may lead to in the future?
It’s challenging to reconcile this when the future is unknown and difficult to measure. Down the line, I might end up making six figures as a freelancer. Are the investments made now directly attributed to this?
It’s impossible to put an exact number on it, just as it’s impossible to know what exactly drives daily fluctuations in the stock market. But it is key to remember that the investments I am making today can pay dividends in ways I might not even conceive.
I might meet a future business partner, or find an accountability partner. I could befriend a peer who can connect me to other important people in my space. Maybe I’ll meet someone who needs help with things I have struggled with. Likewise, I might meet someone who wants to help me.
And I’ll certainly build a network of supportive, like-minded people who are taking steps to leave their mark on the world.
How much am I willing to spend?
Without having a baseline number allocated to education and development, it’s difficult to make sound decisions around what to invest in and what to skip.
If I don’t know how much I’ve already spent (or how much I’m willing to spend going forward), I could probably justify purchasing just about every product or service that seems remotely interesting to me.
I can be more intentional with my decisions when I have a set amount of money earmarked for personal development. It provides important context to my decision-making process. If it’s January and I’m about to exhaust my yearly budget allocation, it probably means I’m making emotional decisions and I need to re-evaluate.
I’ve personally found that setting aside $5,000 each year helps provide room for variety and higher-end services or products. It’s enough to attend a conference, buy some online courses, and also hire a coach or buy into a peer accountability group. I’ve also used travel hacking to make trips to remote conferences more affordable.
Am I repeating a prior mistake?
I’ve definitely paid for courses and products before, and totally floundered on using them. This leads to all sorts of feelings of guilt and shame, but what’s the root cause of this outcome?
As I’ve already discussed, having a clear and high-quality “why” for deciding to move forward helps avoid this outcome. So it’s important to ensure the reason is compelling before hitting the “buy now” button.
It’s also important to pay attention to emotional marketing tactics that manipulate deep fears or frustrations. I’ve paid for products for this very reason. I get a warm and fuzzy feeling that is in tune with whatever doubts or struggles I am having. So I throw my money at it without asking any further questions (and I certainly feel bad about myself when I realize what happened).
This isn’t to say that products with such marketing tactics are bad. It’s just that I need to ensure I’m buying in for a reason that is helpful to me.
I do everything in my power to ensure I’m not making a misinformed or emotional purchasing decision. Looking back on prior decisions helps me to do this better.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the many choices available when investing in your development. You can react to this by overspending, because it’s too hard to decide between products. Or you can enter a state of analysis paralysis, overwhelmed by all the alternatives – so you do nothing.
I’ve been in both situations. Asking myself the questions outlined above helps to ensure I avoid these opposite extremes.
The bottom line is that it’s crucial to invest in your growth and development in some way. It’s way too invaluable to let a price tag stop you in your tracks. Just be sure you are clear on how it fits into where you are and where you are going.