A few weeks ago, I wrote about the difference between “I can’t and it’s hard.” It seems like saying “this is hard” instead of “I can’t do this” is nitpicky semantics, but I have seen it make a big difference this word choice makes in people’s attitudes and effort enough times that I just go with it.
I think the same thinking applies to “I’ll never finish” compared to “This is going to take a while.”
I’m thinking about this today because I’ve just reached a big milestone for me. I just made my final student loan payment. I graduated in 2009 with a relatively modest $30,000 in student loan debt (slightly above average, but certainly not the most I could have borrowed). But, with a sluggish job market, owning a business (and the accompanying variable income), having kids…have made this goal something that has taken awhile.
Ten years. It has taken ten years to pay this off. I mean, it only took four years to accrue the debt. But it took ten years to pay it off.
I’m also working on some credit card debt (acquired during some of the “variable” income phases of owning my small business). I remember a few years ago when I saw the balance growing and growing each month and feeling like I was “never going to get out this debt.” I got panicked. I thought about finding a different job. I feared that I’d have to give up on my business that I believed in, and I was super-duper afraid that we might have to do something really hard like move into my parents house.
I remember talking to a friend and realizing that this just wasn’t something that was going to be resolved in a month or two. It was going to take a while.
Somehow turning this big thing from something that was “never” going to happen to something that was going to take a while changed my attitude and my approach. I realized that it would actually be more effective for me to make smaller payments on my debts so that there was extra money in my budget for food I actually wanted to eat. My feeling is that you can only deprive yourself for so long until you splurge, so if you make room for treats and special expenditures as you go, it’s actually easier to stick to your budget.
Again – your approach is different for something that’s going to take a while. If I was “never” going to get out of debt, I might have just kept spending until I had to do something drastic like file for bankruptcy or close my business. Instead, we figured out how to make it work.
That’s not easy for everyone. But I’m glad we’ve made it work, and grateful to see what lies beyond this starting line.