When you have debt you can feel defeated before you even begin trying to pay it back.
It’s very isolating to feel like you’re in such a deep, dark hole that you will never get out of it. When I graduated with 100k in debt it felt like such an insane number that I worried I would never be debt free. How do you even tackle a sum like that?
When you feel like you’ve lost before you even begin, you won’t be motivated to even try. Why bother starting on a path you’ll never complete? I needed to consciously change how I was thinking to make debt feel defeatable.
Take control back & make debt feel defeatable
As with anything, controlling your mindset can have a massive impact on how successful you are. I often think of paying off debt as similar to dieting or healthy eating. People usually know how; the knowledge is there. So why don’t they?
Paying off debt is simple, but it is far from easy. From a numbers perspective you would simply earn more, spend less, and tuck the excess on debt. Unfortunately, not every decision we make is based on logic. When you have debt, fear and regret can take a massive toll on your actions.
Sometimes success really is less about knowledge, and more about changing your mindset and establishing successful and repeatable habits. Consciously change how you view money and debt; turn it into a game you can win.
Since the thought of owing 100k made me feel ill, I stopped thinking of it that way. Instead, I broke my debt down into $50 chunks. I no longer owed 100k, instead I owed $50 2000 times.
I couldn’t fathom 100k. It was a number that I couldn’t visualize or make sense of. It didn’t feel real. But I know what $50 looks like. I know what $50 feels like in my hand, and what $50 can buy me
If you were dieting and wanted to lose 20 pounds, you would realistically know you could not lose that weight overnight. Your goal may be to lose 20 pounds, but you can’t start there. Instead, maybe you focus on losing 1-2 pounds this week. You break your goal into smaller, manageable goals. Meet those goals enough times, and now you’ve successfully lost the full 20 pounds.
That is how I decided to think about my debt.
I might not be able to make a decision that will make me 100k wealthier, but I can damn well make a $50 decision.
[For tips on finding extra money to pay down debt, read this post]
This has nothing to do with downplaying your debt or goals! It’s about giving you a sense of control back. Belief that you CAN achieve something ultimately huge.
By breaking my debt into $50 chunks, it was a number I could now control.
Skipped a dinner out?
One debt chunk.
Didn’t buy a work blouse?
Another debt chunk.
I had power back, and power is motivating.
I kept looking for ways to cut $50 from my spending or increase my earnings by $50.
Got offered an on call weekend shift that I maybe don’t want to do, but it’s $300 in my pocket?
That’s 6 debt chunks! I’ll take it!
If your debt feels unmanageable, try breaking it down into chunks that make sense to you.
The point is also to make you appreciate smaller sums of money. When you’re thinking about spending $20 on wine but owe $50,000, that $20 feels insignificant. But what if you’re focused on hitting your next $100 debt chunk? That wine is 20% of your goal! All of a sudden $20 feels like it has an impact.
Going to the gym for 9 hours one day won’t make you fit. But going 30 minutes daily will.
Going to the dentist twice a year won’t keep your teeth healthy, but brushing them properly twice a day will.
Make seemingly small but positive decisions regularly, and you will be shocked how far into your “impossible” goal you can be a year from now.
For a list of all posts I’ve written, look here