When most people talk about investing, they discuss assets, real estate or material items. In considering investments, we think about net worth and all things financial — objects or options which will make us richer. Things, possessions, paper.

However, none of those things are worth even a fraction of what we should invest in. And it took me over four decades to realize it.

This morning, I woke up with my normal plan in mind. The take my kids to school, run, and work plan. Most of the time, the day brings the ordinary routine. But there are other days which bring new life and new insights, and today was one of those days which reminded me of what some of the more important things in life are.

It seems I’ve been having a lot of these realizations lately. I think it’s because I’m finally open to them. I’m more aware of everything that goes on around me and I’m more aware of everyone around me. I believe I’ve ignored these moments for so long that now, I can’t not see them.

I’ve become more in tune with myself and those around me. My head is up and receptive of everything because I realized there is nothing to see when my head and eyes are cast down. And it’s allowing me to enjoy life more than I ever have before.

But today, I believe I finally learned what I should invest in. I think I’ve known for a long time but never put it into practice. And while I believe we all know we should invest in ourselves, what we don’t seem to understand is once we finally learn to be honest with ourselves, that energy and investment should also go towards others.

Because the best thing we can invest in is each other. People are our best asset, and having meaningful relationships are vital to a balanced and happy life. @jefftherunner1 (Click to Tweet!)

The importance of relationships has been studied over the past 80 years. According to the research, what keeps people happy throughout their lives is close relationships. It comes before money or fame.

Robert Waldinger, the director of the study and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, states:

“The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health. Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”

The study also revealed the people with the strongest relationships with friends (and most importantly spouses), were protected against chronic disease, mental illness, and memory decline.

“Over and over in these 75 years,” Dr. Waldinger said, “our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned into relationships with family, with friends and with community.”

While the study only showed correlation and not causation, and I believe there are some serious flaws (only men) to the study itself, there has been other research which shows similar outcomes, especially in marriage.

But the main message of these studies is what is important.

We should invest in each other.

We should invest in taking the time to listen, to learn, and to understand each other. To pursue relationships which are healthy, loving, and safe, and avoid those which are toxic. To create strong bonds with those who we spend the most time with, and to be mindful of the importance these people have in our life because we often take them for granted.

We should focus on having compassion and respect (when deserved) of our friends, family, and significant others which are keys to fostering healthy communication. We should nurture the positive relationships in our lives and be accepting of each other’s flaws since we all have them.

We should invest in the relationships of quality and then you won’t have to worry about the quantity of your relationships.

And most importantly, remember to appreciate the return on your investments every day. Because when we invest in other people, we get love in return.

Jeff Barton is a writer, ultra-runner, lover of books and zombies, a practitioner of positive thinking, and most importantly, a dad. Living and loving life one day at a time. You can find him at jeffthewriter.com and jefftherunner.com.



Image courtesy of DESIGNECOLOGIST.