If you’re anything like me, you graduated from school with student loans and subsequently spent time hating them. This was me a few years ago when I graduated from law school. But I didn’t just hate my loans, I felt like they happened to me. I didn’t understand how I could have $206k in debt and not even realize it. Fast forward to now, and I have a completely different mindset about student loan debt.
The number one factor that will determine if you get out of debt is the belief that you can. When you think someone else is at fault for your student loan debt, you won’t think it’s your responsibility to pay it off. This was me a few years ago. I didn’t understand how it happened, and I had a “why me” mentality.
Since stomping my feet and throwing a pity party didn’t work, I decided to start learning about money. This led to a total shift in my mindset that resulted in a commitment to pay off my debt. It’s your belief and commitment to getting out of debt that will lead to the result of you actually paying off your debt. That’s it. Simple, yes. Easy, no.
So, how do you start believing that you’ll get out of debt? Start taking responsibility. You need to switch your thinking from a victim mentality to responsibility. It doesn’t matter why you have the student loan debt or what you did in the past to get you to this point with your debt. The biggest impact you can have on the rest of your financial life is taking responsibility for your debt. Here’s what I mean…
If you have any of these thoughts, you are in a victim mentality with respect to your debt:
- How did this happen to me?
- Why is this happening?
- I’ll always be in debt.
- Someone should’ve told me.
- I didn’t know what I was getting into.
- The education system is flawed.
- How could I let this happen?
- How could my parents let this happen?
- How can the education system let 18-year-olds take out this kind of money.
- I shouldn’t have to pay this back.
- The system is flawed.
- It’s not fair.
These thoughts blame other people, an institution, or yourself. You know you’re blaming if you feel hopeless, weak, or out of control. These statements may be true. But here’s the thing — they’re not useful to you. At all.
If you believe someone else is responsible for your debt, you can’t do anything about it. You’ve given all your power away. How you think about your debt will literally determine the results you have in your financial life.
My solution: take responsibility for your debt. When you take responsibility, you will be empowered to take action. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have regrets. You can still believe if, given the opportunity, you wouldn’t pay for college the same way over again. You can still advise students now to do it differently. But you can’t change your past. It’s done. You have student loan debt. Bottom line: you are way better off adopting the mindset that supports paying off your debt as fast as possible (i.e. believing that you can).
Here’s how to change your beliefs about student loan debt.
There are a couple ways you can do this. First, start thinking supportive thoughts that help solve your problem.
Here are some new thoughts to consider:
- I chose to take out this debt.
- I own my debt.
- I have the power to change my circumstances.
- I can pay off debt.
Any thought that creates a sense of responsibility will work. However, you have to believe the thoughts for this to work. If you don’t believe the thoughts and you recite them, it’ll have the opposite effect and you won’t change your mindset at all. This is why sometimes affirmations work while other times they don’t. Affirmations only work if you believe they are true. The way you take action and get out of debt is by establishing beliefs that support that result. You have to actually believe the thoughts.
To change your beliefs about debt, start making incremental changes to your thinking that move you from negative, scarcity thoughts to more positive, supportive thoughts.
For example, consider these neutral thoughts:
- I am in debt and that’s okay.
- My student loan debt doesn’t define me.
- It is possible that I could pay off my debt one day.
Once you start to believe these thoughts, move to more positive thoughts. For example:
- I believe I’m responsible for paying off my debt.
- I believe I can pay off my debt.
- My debt happened for me.
- Because of my debt, XYZ is possible.
Remember – only use thoughts that you actually believe. Then, continue this process and inch your way toward more supportive, positive thoughts.
Second, ask yourself these questions regularly:
- What does my debt make possible?
- How can I pay off my debt faster?
- How can I spend less?
- How can I make more money?
- How can I pay off my student loan debt?
- How can I make smart financial choices?
Your brain loves to solve problems. If you ask the right questions, it will get to work on giving you the answers. The same is true about negative questions. If you ask yourself negative questions, you’ll get negative answers that blame and put you in victim mode (e.g.: “why did this happen to me?” or “why are all my friends debt free?” or “why doesn’t the government do something about this?”).
You will be amazed at the answers that come to you throughout the day when you give your brain questions to work on. The answers will come to you over time if you keep thinking about the questions. I like to ask myself questions at night and early in the morning so my brain goes to work while I’m sleeping and during the day.
How taking responsibility for my debt helped me.
I could’ve sulked and felt completely disempowered by my debt. I graduated with $206k in debt! I come from an educated family, where education is super important (think Rich Dad, Poor Dad). *Insert poor me thoughts right here.* But instead of adopting these “poor me” or “how did this happen” or “this isn’t fair” attitude — I immediately took responsibility and got to work. Well, let’s be honest — it wasn’t immediate. But shortly after my pity party didn’t work, I shifted my mindset to taking responsibility. And it made all the difference.
I started a blog. I quit my job as an attorney. I started working at a wealth management firm – taking a 50% pay cut. I became a certified financial planner. I monetized my blog. I paid off over $100k+ of student loan debt from the money I make online. My debt gave me the opportunity to learn about money, personal development, and online business. Without it, where would I be? I know that my life is happening for me, not to me, and that includes my student loan debt.
Encouraging change to the education system and how we pay for college is a bold endeavor. But it’s one that is completely different from taking control of your circumstances. What I mean is, if you already have student loan debt, you have the power to get out of your individual debt is in paying it off. Changing the system helps people in the future avoid getting into debt in the first place.
Remember, when you come from a place of “everything is happening for you,” instead of “everything is happening to you,” you will be empowered to take action and create the results in your life you want. (This goes for anything, not just debt!) Finally, I wrote this post because I’m constantly asked, “How can I get out of my student loan debt?” I have yet to have someone ask me “how can I pay off my debt faster?” or “how can I make more money to pay off my debt?” The mindset I see the most (without question) is that student loan debt happened to you instead of for you.
Your mindset is the biggest obstacle. Not your debt.
Natalie Bacon is an online entrepreneur. Prior to this, Natalie practiced as a certified financial planner, at a firm that managed over $1B in assets under management. Before her financial planning career, Natalie practiced as a business attorney. Natalie has been featured in CNBC, Forbes, and other publications. Natalie is most passionate about helping young, professional women design their dream lives. Read Natalie‘s full story at NatalieBacon.com/about.
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