The Greatest Investment in the World
As a financial consultant, I’ve had the privilege of meeting with and teaching many people about how to get their financial house in order. While we talk about various areas, such as insurance and debt management, the area I love talking about the most is their investments. I love seeing how my money can earn more money while I sleep, play, or am working on something else. When meeting with families, however, I find that most either don’t have the right kind of investments to reach their goals or don’t understand their investments. Often times their current investment strategy isn’t going to get them to where they want to go. With almost 100% consistency, when older couples learn about various options to help them in their financial goals, they say something to the effect of, “I wish I had learned this 30 years ago!” With that in mind, I wanted to write on something that has been on my mind for a few weeks after a conversation with my dad.
Is there an investment that will completely change an individual, family, or corporation’s future? Absolutely! It’s an investment that must be part of everyone’s portfolio. If implemented correctly, it will pay out huge returns. The best part about this investment? No need to worry about taxes! So what is this investment? It isn’t real estate, business, stocks, or indexed accounts…the greatest investment in the world is your thoughts.
How is this so? Let me explain by describing how this investment works.
Our brains make up less than 2% of our total body weight. Yet did you realize that this organ uses approximately 25% of all the energy in the body? This might make sense considering the brain is essentially connected to 70 trillion cells so it can convey and receive information regarding our internal environment and what’s going on in the outside world. Thus, it’s constantly getting and sending out signals to make sure we function correctly and stay alive. However, only 4-7% of the energy the brain uses is used to connect with those 70 trillion cells. So how does the rest of that energy get used up? It’s used for cognitive activity, or simplified, it’s used for thinking.
What does this have to do with thoughts as investments? ATP is the energy our cells use to function. You could say that ATP is the currency of the body. Every time we have a thought there are more than a hundred thousand chemical reactions occurring, not to mention that neurotransmitters, enzymes, proteins and other chemicals are made when we think. This all requires ATP, meaning we trade ATP (energy) in exchange for a thought. Thus we are investing ATP into thoughts. No matter what kind of thought it is, we use a lot of energy to have it.
Can you imagine having an investment that was taking 20% out of your paycheck; you’d want to know how it was performing, wouldn’t you? That’s exactly what it’s like with our thoughts. Every day we are using (or investing) a huge chunk of energy into thinking. However, the majority of people don’t even realize they are making an investment at all!
So if we know that our thoughts are investments, then what kind of return are we getting from them? Clearly not all investments are made equal, and some will bring better returns than others, while certain ones could leave you in terrible position. It’s the same with our thoughts. Now in broad terms, there are only two kinds of thought-investments. For today we’ll simply refer to them as Negative/Corrosive thoughts and Edifying/Correct thoughts. Let’s look at what these investments look like and what their returns are.
When considering negative thinking, what may come to mind is being cynical or thinking badly of others or ourselves. These definitely fall into this category, however, there are other forms of negative thinking. These include judging others, not forgiving, being ungrateful, envy, bitterness, and insecurity.
In broad terms, our thought investments will quite literally affect every area of our life now and in the future. Our thoughts form the way we view the world around us and how we see others (both strangers and those we are close to). When investing in negative thoughts we create negative associations with people, places and things. For example, we might develop an untrue view of our spouse or child. We begin labeling them negatively; “they’re selfish”, “he never listens”, “they never consider my needs”, etc. These thoughts then become habitual so that anytime we are with the person or even think about them we begin to feel negative emotions such as resentment, stress, or anger. We become cynical, doubtful, and skeptical.
Chronic stress is another return on negative thoughts. Chronic stress leads to many health issues. A big reason for this is due to the fact that when the stress mechanism is turned on energy is redirected. Cells and other parts of the body focus on protecting the body instead of regenerating and repairs. This is fine and perfectly healthy if this mechanism is only turned on for a small amount of time (such as a few seconds). However, when we become chronically stressed the stress mechanism is turned on for minutes at a time, if not longer, and occurs several times a day. If the body is trying to protect itself most of the time then there is no time for repairs and regeneration. This leads to cells becoming sick, which leads to health issues.
Other returns on negative thinking include, but are not limited to:
Lack of energy
Decrease in motivation
Lack of creativity
What do edifying thoughts look like? They are thoughts of gratitude, faith in the future, love, compassion, etc.
As stated earlier, our thoughts create our view of the world. When we invest in edifying thoughts, then, we get the opposite of the negative returns; we have correct and uplifting associations with people, places, and things. Instead of judging our spouse, we feel compassion and love for them. Being in their presence brings feelings of happiness and gratitude.
Investing in edifying thoughts brings health. These thoughts cause a balance of specific hormones and neurotransmitters to be produced, such as dopamine and serotonin. These chemical messengers cause our cells to regenerate and repair, strengthening the body. Additionally, they help us feel a desire to progress, love others, and feel good about life and the future.
Other returns on edifying thoughts:
Stronger relationships with others
Feelings of peace
Another reason to watch what we are investing in is because it will grow. Cynical thoughts bring about more cynical thoughts. Gratitude brings about more gratitude. Love brings more love. And so on and so forth.
Ultimately, our thoughts affect our actions, behavior, and character. Thus what we invest in is what we eventually become. Do we want to be someone who is unhealthy, cynical, and judgmental? Or do we want to become someone healthier, happier, compassionate, and able to accomplish a lot of good? We make that choice with every thought we decide to invest in.
No matter what you’ve been investing in up and until now, the good news is that the brain has plasticity. This means we can literally change our brains and habitual ways of thinking. We’ve developed our Cognitive Therapy program to help rewire the brain and help you start investing in the kinds of thoughts that will bring the returns you want.
No matter where you are in your thought investments, a good habit to develop is to ask yourself, “Is this thought a good investment?” If it’s not, then stop investing in it and transition to something that will bring you better returns. Remember what James Allen said, “A man can only rise, conquer, and achieve by lifting up his thoughts. He can only remain weak, abject, and miserable by refusing to lift up his thoughts.” May we all choose to lift our thoughts, and by so doing create a brighter future for ourselves and others.