Many times I hear people say, “It’s great that you’re debt free, but I’ll never be able to do that. I’ll always have a some kind of debt,” and then they elaborate on why they can never be without a car payment, mortgage, credit card balance, etc. “It’s just the way things, are,” they’ll finally sigh. I might try, if I’m feeling nice, to be encouraging and tell them that they don’t have to live that way. I might try to explain all the ways they can achieve a debt free life, especially if I detect that the person might be willing to make a sincere effort. But many times I’ll just nod, agree, and say, “Well, I guess you’ll always have debt then.” It seems callous, I’m sure. I’ve learned, though, that many people who say they’ll never be debt free will never get there, no matter what I say. Why? Mostly it’s because when someone says, “I’ll never be debt free,” their mental attitude is dooming them to failure before they even try.
Sometimes people think they can never become debt free because it’s not how they were brought up. Their parents always had debt and so they associate that with “normal.” They don’t see another possibility because they never had that possibility modeled for them. Therefore, because they haven’t seen it, they assume it’s impossible. Other people can’t believe they can shed the debt because the debt load is so high. These people simply cannot see how they can ever get rid of that much debt so they assume it’s impossible. A few have the “can’t” attitude but confuse it with “won’t.” These people can see how a debt free life is possible, but they are not willing to do the work and make the sacrifices necessary to get there. They say they “can’t” become debt free, but really the problem is that they “won’t.”
Whatever the cause, when someone really buys into the “I can’t be debt free” mentality they become their biggest obstacle. At that point it’s not about the money, it’s all about the attitude. Success or failure at almost anything in life is mostly mental. How many Olympic sprinters hit their daily practice sessions saying, “I can’t run that fast?” How many successful businessmen say, “I’ll never be able to close that deal?” How many students who get A’s go into a test saying, “I’m going to fail?” How many people who set out to run a marathon, climb a mountain, or hike the Appalachian Trail start the journey by saying, “I’ll never be able to do this?” The answer to all of these is: None. People who succeed at things approach them with a positive attitude, not with “I can’t.”
It’s not that successful people are oblivious to the obstacles they face; they’re not naive Pollyanna’s. And things don’t always go smoothly for them. Yet they keep on going because they believe they can do whatever they’ve set out to do. They simply accept the obstacles and sacrifices as something that must be overcome to get to the goal. The sprinter knows he has to pass on the chocolate cake in order to run the fast race, but winning the race is worth it. The student knows he has to give up time with friends so he can study, but he does it because good grades are important to him.
It’s no different for people who want to live debt free. They know how much they have to pay off. They know that they can’t have everything they want. They know that they have to watch their spending. They know there will be months where it seems like they’re getting nowhere. They know they will have to learn new things and that it may be hard at times. They know all of that and accept it, but no matter what happens they still believe they can reach the goal. They don’t say, ” I can’t.” They say, “I can. I just have to figure out how to overcome this obstacle.”
So when you say, “I can’t be debt free,” you’re probably right. As long as you don’t truly believe you can achieve the goal, for whatever reason, you’ll never get there. And it won’t be because you don’t have the money, or because you don’t know how, or because everyone has to have a mortgage or car payment. It will be because you don’t believe that you can do it. But once you change your thinking and believe that you can become debt free, you’ll find that you do have the money (or can get it), that you can learn what you need to know, and that not everyone has to have debt. A positive attitude opens you to trying radical things and to finding solutions you didn’t know existed. As long as you stick with, “I can’t” you’ll never find that resourcefulness within yourself and you’ll remain in debt.