Do you ever catch yourself thinking that life will be so much better when you are debt-free?
Or when you get a better paying job… or when you’ve finally saved a down payment… or when you can stop living paycheck to paycheck?
While there will surely be wonderful benefits with each of those milestones, delaying happiness is a dangerous exercise.
Life is too short to put off happiness. You risk missing the joy in the journey.
I haven’t caught myself saying “I’ll be happy when…” but I have found myself being eager to be finished with certain challenges that come with being in debt and raising a family in my in-laws’ unfinished basement.
If I allow my frustrations to fester, I will become discouraged and unproductive. Feeling discouraged not only hinders my progress, but makes me miserable too.
Thankfully, these thoughts related to our current living situation and other sacrifices we’re making to get out of debt also have power to do the opposite. Instead of discouraging me, the hardships can really keep me on track.
Putting myself in a uncomfortable situation motivates me and doing hard things keeps me laser-focused on my goals.
However, there’s a fine line between motivation and discouragement. For each of us it’s different.
What if we could turn those discouraging thoughts into motivating ones? I try to do this frequently and it’s ingrained in the way I think and act now. I’m not a psychologist, but I’m pretty sure it can work for you, too.
For me, the difference between a motivating thought and a discouraging thought is the action. By definition a motivating thought makes me want to do something. A discouraging thought makes me want to give up and wallow in self-pity, not to do anything at all..
The power of the trigger
What if we conditioned ourselves to have a discouraging thought trigger action? Instead of weighing us down with discouragement that leads to inaction, that discouraging thought could trigger an action that will point us toward our goal. Those discouraging thoughts can motivate us to do hard things.
Brainstorm some actions that would get you closer to your goal. Here are a couple of examples:
If you are trying to cut your spending, but have a hard time eating at home, meal planning would be an action that gets you closer to your goal.
If your goal is to earn extra income to pay down debt faster or to get out of the paycheck to paycheck cycle, think of a specific activity related to increasing your income. You could list items to sell online, create something for your Etsy shop, make a couple of pitches for your freelance writing business, or even just do some Swagbucks searches.
When you start to feel discouraged, train yourself to do something productive instead of becoming immobilized.
A real-life example unrelated to finance
Lately my kids have been disrespectful and bickering with each other. A lot! Feeling like the full-time referee is exhausting. Sometimes I think, “I must be failing as a parent if I haven’t raised my kids to get along with one another and show respect.”
I often wonder what I could have done differently. I have been pondering and praying over these topics for a while. Recently I received the answer that I need to be more intentional about showing love to my kids.
Now when I have a discouraging thought about having failed as a parent, it triggers the reminder to show love.
Turning my discouragement (feeling like a parental failure) into motivation (reminder to show love) has helped me be a better mom, though I still have a long way to go.
A real-life financial example
You could say that having six figures of debt is discouraging. While we’re so grateful for the opportunity, living in your in-laws’ unfinished basement as a family of six while tackling debt isn’t on most people’s bucket list.
It would be really easy to wallow and feel sorry for myself. I could be mad about how we got into debt in the first place or frustrated with the cost of education. Warranted or not, those thoughts are not productive.
Now when I’m overwhelmed by all of our stuff staring us in the face (we don’t have a single closet) or when I’m feeling crushed by debt, I let those feeling motivate me to do something productive to get us closer to being debt-free.
In fact, I attribute our long-lasting motivation to pay off debt to our ability to turn discouragement into motivation.
Make it a habit
A positive outlook is one of the gifts I’ve been blessed with. It’s easy for me to see beyond my current situation to an improved or even idealistic future. Even as a child, my wild imagination always had me winning, achieving, and succeeding.
I know that it take more effort for some people. Turning discouragement into motivation is not always easy. However, to some degree, I believe it is a habit that you can practice and get good at.
Next time you catch yourself longing for that future milestone or wishing for the ideal, try to turn your frustrations into motivations. Think of how to make those discouraging thoughts into an impetus for action, then take action!
How about you?
- Have you created any triggers that shift your behavior and mindset?
- I would love to hear how you have turned discouragement into motivation.
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