When you think about investing in your future, what comes to mind? Maybe the word conjures up long conversations about which loans are the worthy ones (a home in a good neighborhood with a great school district) and how many years it will take to become a 401(k) millionaire if you invest just $20,000 annually (the answer is around 27 or so). Perhaps it makes you think of personal time and self-care and continued education.

Investing in your future by investing wisely in the marketplace and in yourself are good things to do. But there are other ways to invest not only in your future but the future of the world around you—ways that will improve your mental outlook, your health, and your growth as a leader. I’ve got twelve of them for you to consider. The list is a combination of discipleship, mentorship, and citizenship—since all work together to refine us as servant leaders. We’re going to start small and work our way big, start close and travel far, start with family and friends and work our way to the world. Think of this list as concentric circles that wrap around you and me.

When we invest our time, talent, and treasure in friends and family, coworkers, neighbors, our community, and the world, we invest in our own lives too.

Use this list as a guide, but don’t limit yourself to the twelve things here. Share other ways you can invest in your future and the future of the world around you!


Be a good friend.

Take time to invest time in people who may already seem familiar to you. Step away from distractions, grab a cup of coffee, and listen well. Qualities consistently listed when people describe what makes good friendships are actually qualities that are beneficial no matter where we invest: trustworthiness, equity, warmth, genuine interest, and a great listening ear.

Serve others gladly.

Ask yourself, “In what ways might I be a blessing to others,” and then step up to lighten a load or brighten a day. Serving someone may be as simple as sending an encouraging text or buying a cup of coffee, or it may be as profound as offering to watch little ones so parents can have a date night. Remember, it’s not just about doing things for others—it’s about doing them without complaint or expectation.

Celebrate people.

Hang a banner, send a card, make a phone call and truly celebrate what is happening in the lives of those around you. Celebrating milestones like birthdays and anniversaries tells others, “I’m glad you are in my life—and I believe your life matters greatly.” And celebrations shouldn’t focus solely on friends and family. Research shows that celebrations in the workplace increase morale and strengthen teamwork.


Offer encouragement.

In addition to celebrating milestones in the workplace, you can actually improve the productivity of your coworkers by offering encouragement and appreciation for their contributions. The Harvard Business Review shares, “Studies show that people who have a sense of purpose are more focused, creative, and resilient, so leaders should make a point of reminding employees how their work is improving people’s lives.”

Give your personal best.

No matter your position, no matter your salary, no matter your reporting structure—you have an opportunity to lead by example. True leadership is revealed in the way you and I respond to opportunity and to adversity. Leading can happen in the copy room or the board room if we are willing to give our personal best.   “The leader sees things through the eyes of his followers. He puts himself in their shoes and helps them make their dreams come true. The leader does not say, “Get going!” Instead he says, “Let’s go!” and leads the way. He does not walk behind with a whip; he is out in front with a banner.” Wilfred Peterson

Share your wisdom.

What job skills do you have that others admire, or what leadership and management qualities come naturally to you? What essentials have you learned about strategizing, brainstorming and presenting ideas, negotiating, executing, or troubleshooting? Don’t keep that wisdom to yourself! Becoming a mentor will continue to strengthen your skills while strengthening your workplace community too. Your mentorship might look like one-to-one coaching, or it might take the form of group teaching, leadership articles, or YouTube videos.


Get to know your neighbors.

A study by State Farm Insurance revealed that only 25% of us actually know our next-door neighbors’ names. That’s a shame when the benefits of knowing our neighbors are plentiful. Community connection increases safety, provides support in times of need, and creates camaraderie and collaboration. And unlike connections within our friends and family circles or at work, neighbors may have decidedly different backgrounds and points of view. Getting to know our neighbors teaches you and I how to be better neighbors ourselves.

Support local businesses.

Some of those neighbors you’ll get to know likely own businesses in your community. One way to be neighborly is to support those local businesses. Besides the obvious benefit of growing the economy, you’ll get to know employees who are also your neighbors, learn about partnerships with other local businesses, and even discover local nonprofits that are doing great things just down the road.

Volunteer your time and talent.

I could do an entire article on the benefits of volunteering your time and talent. The studies are plentiful that prove volunteerism makes you happier, healthier, and even a bit nicer. But volunteerism can do something else—it can give you a new place to do everything shared on this list so far. Volunteerism is a place for you to join with friends and family and neighbors to serve gladly, a way for you to celebrate milestones, a creative space for you to share wisdom and encouragement, and certainly an environment where you can give your best. With benefits like that, what are you waiting for? It’s time to get involved in the world around you.

RELATED: Why Leaders Should Celebrate Their Rivals


Advocate for better.

I forgot to mention one additional and important benefit of volunteerism. As you serve in your community, you’ll learn about places where this world struggles—and you’ll also learn about ways to face those struggles with dignity and integrity. Volunteerism can equip you to become an advocate—someone who can influence others to get involved. As anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

Have a heart of gratitude.

Forbes lists seven reasons why you and I should have an attitude of gratitude throughout the year. Interestingly enough, some of the benefits sound very similar to those found in volunteerism and those found when we encourage our coworkers. The more we see our life and the lives of those around us as worthy of celebration, the less things like stress and worry can take hold. The more we view life as purposeful, the more life-giving our life will become. We become more empathetic, and we grow more attractive to others when we are thankful.

Pray like a warrior.

The final thing on this list of twelve unique ways to invest in your life as a leader is really the first thing too. The single most powerful thing you can do for you family and friends, coworkers, neighbors, community, and the world is to pray. Prayer can be done anytime, anywhere. Your prayers may be shared with others or whispered quietly. Prayer reaches beyond the walls of your home or office and into the lives of those who need its power, and you grow in strength, compassion, wisdom, and love when you pray for others.