The most powerful weapon against debt: Your mind

By Will Chen on 5 December 2006 (Updated 10 June 2007) 9 comments

man standing shouting from joy by romeoergattoThe most powerful weapon you have against debt is positive thinking.

Unfortunately, it is hard to have positive thoughts about reducing your debt when the media is constantly overdramatizing the severity of our generation's debt problem.

It is easy to give in to that negativity and pretty soon you start buying into the idea that debt reduction is painful and hard.

Here's a sample of the common things people think about when they are trying to reduce their debt:

  • "I don't get to buy things I want anymore."
  • "I can no longer afford to be happy."
  • "I'm being punished for my past mistakes."
  • "People will think I'm a failure."
  • "Reducing debt is a long, hard, and painful process."
  • "My friends will think I'm a cheapskate"
  • "No one will date or marry a person who is broke."

Forget about getting out of debt! With that load of baggage on your mind all the time, you should be considered a damn hero for even getting out of bed every morning.

Why not replace those negative messages with the following:

  • "I don't get to buy things I want anymore."
    "I get to explore my resourcefulness and creativity."
  • "I can no longer afford to be happy."
    "I get to focus on important things that truly make me happy: Love, family, friendship, faith, charity, and laughter."
  • "I'm being punished for my past mistakes."
    "I'm building a bright future for myself and my family."
  • "People will think I'm a failure."
    "People will admire me for taking control of my life."
  • "Reducing debt is a long, hard, and painful process."
    "Building wealth is an exciting life long journey to success and independence."
  • "My friends will think I'm a cheapskate"
    "My real friends will be cheering me on."
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  • "No one will date or marry a person who is broke."
    "I'm lucky that I get to find a soul mate who will love me for who I am."
  • Why positive thinking matters

    A recent University of British Columbia study shows that when women were told their gender is irrelevant to their math abilities, they do much better on math tests. In one test scenario, the women who received this positive information gave twice as many correct answers as another group of women who were told the opposite: that women are naturally bad at math.

    The amazing part of the study is how little the researchers had to do to influence the women's behavior. All the researchers did was to simply have the two groups of women read two different essays--one stating that gender matters in math performance and another stating that it doesn't.

    If reading a short essay once can change test performance, imagine how big an influence your internal dialogue has over your debt performance. The voice in the back of your mind is a constant, never-ending driver of your behavior. If you allow that voice to say negative things about your financial plans, you will never succeed.

    Go ahead and make a list of the negative thoughts you have about your financial plan, cross them out, and replace them with positive ideas. Carry this list around and refer to it constantly. There is no better weapon to get you through the test of life.

    (Photo credit: Romeoergatto under Creative Commons 2.0 license)

     

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    Guest's picture
    Henry Mueller

    I just found this site and so far this is the most helpful article I have read. I am in the midst of a plan to pay off some large debts. The natural tendancy has been for my mindset to be despondant and self-pitying. I have been trying to come up with a better perspective while I am working through this.

    You article helped through the good old fashioned tactic of making me feel less "alone". I have thought almost every one of the negative items on your list. It is good to know others struggle with the exact same frustrations.

    So, I followed your advice and wrote down my own list of positive thoughts. It was very important to make them thoughts about good things happening _now_, as oppossed to thought about how much better it will be in the _future_. Here is my first try:

  • 1. Less stress when I can pay my bills easily each month
  • 2. My credit score is going up!
  • 3. Being finacially responsible is being a good father
  • 4. I am developing habits, skills, and know-how that will be an asset the rest of my life and to my kids
  • Thanks again for your article!

    Will Chen's picture

    Thank you for sharing your list with us Henry. I used to think that everyone else have their life in order while I'm the only one who doesn't. But that is simply not true. Most of us have experienced financial problems before. The nice thing about the Internet is that you get to share your problems without necessarily compromising your pride. Some things you can only share with strangers. =)

    To quote my favorite movie critic, Roger Ebert:

    "These conversations can really only be held with strangers. We all need to talk about metaphysics, but those who know us well want details and specifics; strangers allow us to operate more vaguely on a cosmic scale."

    I hope Wisebread can become a place where strangers come and find that they are not alone.

    P.S. It'll also be cool if they clicked on some ads. But yeah, that "not alone" thing is important too.

    Andrea Karim's picture

    Because when I think about it, I DO admire my frugal friends who are able to consistently make steep mortgage payments while working a job at a non-profit and bringing their lunches in every day. I never think, "Oh, those poor schmucks, brown baggin' it every day."

    There's plenty of positive thought (you don't even really have to force it) when it comes to being financially secure. You know that feeling that you get when you have enough money in your bank account and you can write a check without worrying that it will clear? That's the best feeling of all - and I really want to have that every day.

    Guest's picture

    Ah, I needed this. I have been bummed about my slow debt repayment. It's a shame how right you are about the negative thoughts people have (um, I had about 80 percent of them!), but I like your suggestions on positive thoughts. Good post!

    Guest's picture

    Ah, I needed this. I have been bummed about my slow debt repayment. It's a shame how right you are about the negative thoughts people have (um, I had about 80 percent of them!), but I like your suggestions on positive thoughts. Good post!

    Will Chen's picture

    You have to really focus on the awesome parts of your life.  In your case that's not too hard.  Medical Journalism sounds like a wonderful field to go into, especially given how concerned Babyboomers are about their health.  And you have good taste in Star Wars movies.  Really, who could ask for anything more.  =)

    angelfast's picture

    Learning the entire aforementioned post is as good as profit earning points. For entrepreneurs and business enthusiasts at this point, those were really helpful tips...For this reason, I really like to visit this site from time to time. All the posts here were very interesting and informational...There's more than I get aside from my car's maintenance and car parts like my Dodge oil filtersquadron and other accessories...

    Thanks! 

    Guest's picture
    Guest

    I always shout when I am in debt. It is the one way for me to release whatever emotions I have in myself. I go to the seashore and throw the glasses, chairs and every small thing I see. And after that, everything's fine.

    Guest's picture
    shaleh8

    This is an excellent article because the more I focus on becoming and staying debt-free will only bring me closer to retirement and some other things that I would like to pursue. It is no doubt that debt drains you emotionally as well as mentally, not to mention the money you shell out every two weeks. I hate debt and I want to keep on killing it until it comes to pass. This article is inspiring to me as well as a self-motivator.