Do you suffer from portfolio envy? Do you see a stock such as First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR), which has roughly quadrupled over the past 12 months, and kick yourself because it wasn't in your portfolio? Do you think of fertilizer maker CF Industries (NYSE:CF), which has more than doubled in that period, and wonder why you didn't invest in it?

Well, calm down. There's a reason you never found these stocks or recognized their potential: You don't spend most of each day studying the stock market. You don't scour annual reports and financial filings for a living. You don't crunch stock numbers routinely. You're a regular person with a regular life.

But wait!
Fortunately, being a regular person with a regular life doesn't mean you're out of luck. You have options. These days, I increasingly rely on mutual funds, letting skilled professionals choose the most promising stocks they can find for my investments. (As my Foolish colleague Rich Greifner has noted, mutual funds are the "Best. Investments. Ever.") Better still, these pros decide when to buy and when to sell, sparing me from having to keep up with lots of companies.

Look at the Fidelity Growth Company (FDGRX) fund, for example. According to Morningstar, it's one of the top mutual fund owners of First Solar, and its market-beating five-year average annual return is 15%. Its recent top holdings also include Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), which gained some 30% in 2007; Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), which has risen some 22% so far this year (as of this writing); and Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO), averaging 10% annually over the past five years, beating the market handily.

The fund with the biggest chunk of CF Industries is Calamos Growth (CVGRX), with a 14% average annual return over the past five years. Its top holdings recently included Garmin (NASDAQ:GRMN) and Honeywell (NYSE:HON).

The downside
Should you snap up shares of these funds as soon as you can get to your checkbook? Not necessarily. For one thing, the Calamos Growth fund charges many investors a 4.75% load. (Beware of loads!)

Just because a fund owns a lot of shares in a super performer doesn't mean all its other holdings are similarly golden. You need to be picky when choosing funds. You want ones with low fees, run by smart managers with impressive track records and admirable investing philosophies. Ideally, you want no load fees and low turnover in the fund.

The majority of managed mutual funds out there actually underperform the market. So be choosy -- you want only the most promising funds you can find.

The upside
It is possible to find such funds. You can do so yourself, perhaps by starting at and doing a lot of digging.

Another approach I recommend (because I do it myself): Check out our Motley Fool Champion Funds newsletter. It arrives each month laden with mutual fund recommendations and updates, and it educates you along the way. Its picks are beating the market 33% vs. 10%, on average, since the newsletter began. You can try it free for 30 days, when you'll have full access to all past issues. You can read about every recommendation in detail -- with no obligation.

This article was originally published Dec. 4, 2007. It has been updated.

Longtime contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart. Garmin Ltd. is a Motley Fool Global Gains and Stock Advisor recommendation. Wal-Mart Stores and Coca-Cola are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Try our investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.