The best investment you will ever make is not in a startup, stock, or mutual fund. No, you will get the best returns by investing in your inner wealth. Self improvement guarantees that the returns on this investment will last the rest of your life. So when you think about investing, think first about those investments that are closest to home. Everything else will follow from there.

Dr. Wayne Dyer, a well-known inspirational speaker, once said that people are a lot like oranges. When you squeeze an orange, what comes out? It isn’t cherry, apple, or grapefruit juice. No matter how hard you squeeze it all that comes out is orange juice, because that’s all there is inside.

Extending the metaphor, Dyer asked what comes out of you when you’re squeezed? When someone puts pressure on you by gossiping? Your spouse says mean things, or your best friend betrays you? Is it sadness? Bitterness? Resentment? Anger? Or is it calm, kindness, and compassion? Whatever is inside of you is all that comes out. Wouldn’t you prefer that to be pure, nourishing juice and not some toxic concoction?

When you have your inner world together, you are ready for whatever pressure the world puts on you. But how do we fill ourselves with positivity and good things? How do we make sure that when we’re squeezed, it is only good, constructive things that will come out?

I’ve put together a great list of where to start to begin your journey of self improvement. These are the seven categories that I’ve found most fruitful to focus on when investing in the self.

Attitude

Your attitude can be your best friend or worst enemy. The good news is that you are always in control of it. You get to choose it 86,400 seconds every day. If your tendency is to think negatively, you will attract negativity. It will color all your relationships. When you allow negative thoughts to cloud your thinking, it’s like storm clouds moving in. Instead of inviting rain, why not let the sunshine in? Work on thinking positively, whether in your career or personal life, and you will attract positivity. People respond to it. Just like negativity, it is infectious, and will grow like a snowball rolled down a hill.o.

Thoughts

Are you the gatekeeper of your thoughts? Do you control your thoughts or do they control you? Research has shown that we have many tens of thousands of thoughts going through our mind every single day. These thoughts roll across our consciousness like a slide show. Take a moment and think about all the thoughts running through your mind. We never really stop churning them out. Now take hold of your thoughts. Are they leading you in a negative or positive direction? Or are they merely neutral? Analyzing your thoughts is a great way to understand your temperament. If you find your thoughts overwhelmingly negative in character, try putting a positive spin on them and see how that affects your outlook. I guarantee that it will brighten your day.

Self Value

Make sure you like and love yourself. Not in an egotistical way, but in a way that says, “I’m happy that I’m alive and have gratitude.” Don’t pay attention to other people’s opinions of you. The most important opinion about you is the one you have of yourself. This doesn’t mean you become a complete narcissist, and don’t believe you can be improved. Always work on being the best version of your authentic self. You have been given unique gifts and talents. Develop these talents so that you can share them with the world. Let your life be an inspiration to others. We are all broken in some way, but even broken pieces can be turned into masterpieces.

Actions

We all shape the world by our actions. And of course, even inaction is an action. Never forget that! We always have a choice whether or not to leave an impression on the world. Wouldn’t you rather be known for building the world up and having a positive impact? Even small actions have benefits. Don’t discount them! I’ve written elsewhere about my habit of picking worms up from sidewalks and tossing them back onto the dirt. It may seem silly, but not only do such actions matter to the worms, they also inspire others to think about the choices they make every day.

Reactions

The way you respond to people and situations is entirely within your control. You are making a choice by how you react.  Do you choose to follow the path of peace or the path of violence? Sometimes other people can get on our nerves. Do you respond with an annoyed grimace and roll of the eyes, or do you use kindness and understanding to change the dynamic? Life gives all of us, at times, a challenge we don’t want to deal with. These can be professional, financial, or personal struggles. Or all three! The way you react will determine whether the challenges become too much to bear, or another invigorating, educational opportunity on this roller coaster ride we call life.

Effort

It may seem obvious, but you tend to get out of something what you put into it. If you are lazy or live without making progress, you will not get much in return. You must plant the seeds to get the harvest. Put in the hard work. Sacrifice! There are so many things you can drop right now to get ahead. Time is your most precious asset, and we only have so much of it. Cut out the partying, drugs, alcohol, TV, video games, and whatever else offers a mere short-term rewards and meaningless experiences. Think about the future. You can work hard now and have an easier, more rewarding life down the road, or take it easy now and deal with hardship later on.

Expectations

When you change your expectations, you change your life. Have a realistic perspective. Be patient. If you aren’t able to achieve your goals in the time you wanted, change your expectations. It’s not a bad thing to have high expectations, but it’s useful to temper those expectations with a more realistic perspective. This is by no means to suggest that we shouldn’t aim for the moon. However, when we do so we must be careful not to give up should we fail to accomplish our objective. If we are unrealistic, we risk being disappointed, which can lead to quitting. If we start with more realistic and manageable goals, we’ll be encouraged when we achieve them. This momentum will lead us, goal by goal and at long last, to hit the moon.