DEBT AND THE IMPORTANCE OF MINDSET

In my last Personal Finance post (LINK), I mentioned the stressful effects of being in debt. I included contact details for several organisations that can help if the pressure of your debt problems becomes too much to handle.

A positive mindset, on the other hand, can reduce stress; it means looking for solutions rather than thinking only about the problem ( … and the conscious mind can hold only one thought at a time, or so I have been told). I cover this in Chapter 2 of “Back to the Black”, along these lines:

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Debt and stress

Being in debt increases stress: you probably know that, if you have ever been in that situation. How we react to that stress greatly influences our success or otherwise in getting out of debt. Sometimes we seek external aids: we might drink more than we usually do, as I did. If we are smokers then we might smoke more, or if we are ex-smokers we might start again, as I did. Increased drug use of all kinds is often caused by debt.

However, the stress relief we might get from these is only temporary. Also it costs money, which is not what we want. There is a better and more long-lasting way to manage stress, which is to use our knowledge of how our minds and brains work.

Napoleon Hill, an early writer on the habits and characteristics of successful people, wrote, “In my youth, when I worked as a bank clerk, (this was back in the early 20th century, when credit was hard to come by) I could tell, before a man was 10 feet inside the bank door, whether he expected to get his cheque cashed.”

Confidence is key

What he didn’t say was that less-confident customers probably had their accounts scrutinised more closely before being given any cash. Thus being confident, or at least appearing to be confident, might have helped some of his customers to get cash or, in effect, to get credit despite their accounts not being “in the black”.

“That’s all very well,” I hear you say; “getting credit has not been my problem. That’s been easy; now I need to get out of the hole that easy credit got me into.” My contention, however, is that exactly the same principle applies here. On my wall is a slogan: “Act as if …” and it has served me well over the years whenever I was in a difficult situation. It’s a very adaptable, multipurpose slogan, meaning that if you act as if things are going well, or are about to go well, then you increase the chances that they will. It’s sometimes called the power of positive expectations.

You might well say that confidence, or maybe over-confidence, or excessively positive expectations, led you to the debt problem you have now. That may or may not be true but your prospects of getting out of this situation are greatly increased if you can manage to remain positive.

My daughters used to laugh about the fact that I always seemed to find a parking space, because I always believed I would (nowadays I don’t run a car, so I don’t need a parking space). My explanation was that because I believed I’d find one, I was relaxed about it, thus when a space became free I’d see it quickly. It’s said that if you are stressed (even about something relatively trivial, such as a parking space) part of your brain shuts down; it’s part of the so-called “fight or flight” reflex.

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To be continued …

The above is an extract from “Back to the Black: how to become debt-free and stay that way”. [LINK]

 

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