Why Hyper Focusing on Debt May Not Be Winning in the Long Run

Do you dream of being out of debt? Are having financial freedom and financial peace goals for 2020? Awesome! They are great goals/ambitions/resolutions to focus on because debt shouldn’t feel overwhelming or burdensome. 

Here comes the BUT – like anything (diet, exercise, or habit changes), paying off debt needs to come gradually for lasting changes. It’s the reason so many of our goals don’t stick – we sacrifice too much all at once and then fall off the wagon soon after because we didn’t build a strong foundation to support long-lasting change. We also forget to align our rational plans and goals with our emotional needs and behaviors. If our emotional mind is not on board with where we want to be, then every mechanical solution will be doomed to fail. We also try to achieve our long-term goals by living a life of deprivation and simultaneously forget that hyper focusing doesn’t always serve our best interests as humans. We cannot maintain that level of intensity 24/7. What we can maintain is a process by which our minds focus on a goal and then keep going at a sustainable long-lasting pace. 

One of my friends posted snapshots of a day spent with her youngest daughter. The daughter doesn’t typically get much time with Mom. The pictures posted were of her little girl being totally enamoured with the whole day. Her face told the story of the gift her mom had given her with her presence and a little fun. However, the caption stopped me from scrolling further. The mom was completely deflated for spending $20 on the outing because she was unable to keep up with her debt snowball goals. 

It may be because of where I’m at that this seemed so wrong; how that $20 could serve memories being built in that little girl’s heart. How $20 is not $20 when invested wisely. Perhaps she’s intensely focusing on her family’s debt reduction for more freedom in the future. Perhaps I’m only seeing a snapshot and don’t know the whole story. What I do know is that for me and my family, focusing so intensely on the future while sacrificing mental health of myself or my kids is not worth it. Self control is crucial, but self-deprivation will fail, not to mention its diminishing life-satisfaction. What matters is the “here and now” while we keep the future in our periphery. 

“Waiting to live now so you can live later is stopping you from living now and later.” – Richie Norton

In this beautifully raw article by Brianna Bell, she outlines how she paid off all her debts, became a personal finance guru helping others, and then months later was drowning in debt. Why? Her mental health was compromised because she was narrowly focused on her career and the image of herself she was trying to uphold while her personal life had hiccups and setbacks that weren’t being managed. And subsequently, debt caught up with her despite preaching financing tactics for success. 

What I’m learning personally is that diets, exercise routines, paying down debt, all those things said to make our lives better doesn’t matter if we are robbing ourselves of day to day joy or at the sake of our mental well being. It has been paramount for me and my family to do a self inventory, check in, and then evaluate my values periodically to make sure they align with what’s happening in our lives. 

Natalie Norton on her Show Up podcast does a fantastic job outlining how to identify our values and how in holding ourselves to those values, goals follow alongside in achievable and sustainable ways. 

It’s so important to look internally and see what’s driving us, not necessarily motivation but the values (or lack thereof) in which we are associating with. Are we living our lives in accordance with our values? Are the things we do giving our lives meaning?  Kids are only young once. What message are we delivering to our kids? 

Life will change while our fundamental core values are pretty consistent during  the course of our lives. We can get pretty far out of sync with those values which leads to all kinds of emotional distress. Emotional stress bleeds over into our lives damaging our relationships with friends, significant others, and our kids. 

Did my friend enter into her family’s debt reduction while considering her values? Did Brianna foresee the life disruptors that would put her own financial literacy to the test?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to advise anyone not to pay down their debts or quit eating healthy. What I’m asking you to consider is where your mental health is, how your behaviors line up with your goals, and what sacrifices are you making to reach those goals? Are they worth it? Are they where you want to be? And are they where you want to go?

Remember that you are on no one else’s journey but your own. Take stock on where you are and the things that matter to you and no one else. Then, move forward in whatever ignites you and drives you to living your best life. 

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