If you can make one investment this year, let it be in yourself.

Reaching your potential is not always about pushing yourself harder. I think it is more about  being able to take care of yourself better. Sometimes we think taking care of ourselves is being selfish, but it isn’t (even when your inner voice tells you otherwise). Giving yourself what you need allows you to be the best version of you. It can help in time management and more effective work practices. Investing that time and effort may also help you become a better person, and allow you to reach goals you have set for yourself.


Here are some ways to gauge whether or not you are giving yourself what you need to really meet your potential:


1. The Basics

I consider the basics to be regular eating, sleeping, and exercising. If any of these basics are not taken care of, you probably are not going to be your best self. Can you get by on little sleep? Sure. Is it a “big deal” if you haven’t exercised in a while? Probably not. Are you nourishing your body to fuel your mind? Or are you getting by on lattes and poptarts? Listening to what your body needs will help you make healthy, well-rounded choices.  When you actually give your body what is needs to be healthy, it sets the best stage for everything else.


2. Your Tribe

Who is in your world? Is your inner circle made up of people who challenge you to be a better person? To inspire you to go beyond what you think you are capable of? Are they there for you when you need them, or are you the one who always has to be there for them? The people that we choose to be close with lays a foundation of support we need to reach our potential (or not). Eliminating toxic relationships and fostering the nurturing ones will help you take the first step to cultivating a strong and reliable tribe.


3. Space

Having some planned space in your week is a lot different than just having free time. Free time sometimes means that you are just mindlessly scrolling through stuff on your phone, distractedly existing, not really being present. Afterwards you may feel guilty, like that time was wasted and/or meaningless. Planning to take time to slow down, be outside, or do something else that is honoring you is essential in creating balance.  Schedule the “me time” instead of wasting free time. Taking little steps to get time set aside to care for your personal space, be it mental or physical will help in organizing other aspects of your life.


Why is all of this important?

You need to be at your best when times get tough. You need to be resilient to overcome the obstacles that appear in life. And resilience is not this magical thing that happens on its own. Taking the time and energy to give yourself what you need to truly feel at your best builds strength that you can draw from when you need to. Covering the basics and taking care of your body allows you to handle stress better -- whether it’s average, every day stress or big problem stress.

So get the sleep you need, I know that my day is a lot harder if I haven’t slept well. Build a solid tribe. When we have friends that we can lean on it makes any hard time easier to handle. Schedule some time for yourself. If you feel stuck in your creative work or have questions about what to do next in time, finding the space in your schedule to slow down can give you a new perspective to get you unstuck.

And remember, it is a process. This doesn’t happen overnight, but taking the small steps to get started is a beginning to a happier you.


Vanessa Spooner, Psy.D.