To Stay Out of Debt, You’ve Got to Shift Your Beliefs

Debt is a state of mind.

Tom Werner/ Getty Images
Tom Werner/ Getty Images

Don’t misunderstand me, I fully understand how serious debt can be. Trust me, I filed for bankruptcy not once but twice. The second one was following the dot-com bust of 2000 and I lost my house, my car — everything.

I went on to found Poo~Pourri in 2007 and can now thankfully say that my money troubles are behind me, but for the first four decades of my life, I struggled with my finances. When I started Poo~Pourri I had taken a four-year sabbatical of personal transformation and sworn off business altogether. I wasn’t thinking of it as a company, it was just an incredibly exciting and alive idea I knew I had to share with the world. Instead of doing anything I could to chase money like I did in my previous failed businesses, I built Poo~Pourri with a deep sense of love and internal abundance — and I believe that’s why the company is both debt- and investor-free to this day.

Now that I’ve been on both sides of the fence, I can see more clearly where so many of us, including myself, have gone wrong when it comes to money. I now understand that a major component of getting out — and staying out — of debt is shifting your core beliefs and habits.

Let’s think about the actual definition of debt for a moment: “Something, typically money, that is owed or due.” Consider the energetics of taking on debt and owing someone something; so long as that’s owed, it’s an energetic loose end that will occupy at least some small part of your subconscious mind. Some things, like a home, are certainly worth going into “debt” over — but are you willing to take on debt and have that hanging over your head in order to take a vacation or to buy that new purse that everyone else has? So often we purchase luxuries on credit and tell ourselves “No big deal, I’ll pay it off later” — then a windfall of money we were counting on never comes, or an unexpected expense pops up, and boom, we’re stuck in debt.

A few years back I helped a friend get out of debt; it was easy for me to help relieve the pressure they were under, so I did. But over the next year I watched that person keep up the same old habits and belief systems that got them into debt in the first place: excessive spending and refusing to face the reality of their financial situation.

Paying off that debt for them only helped alleviate the symptoms of debt, which was stacks of unpaid bills; it did nothing to treat the cause. Their core issue was a lack of integrity — spending money they didn’t have and not being truthful with themselves or others about their financial situation. Now, when I say lack of integrity I’m not passing a moral judgment; the secondary definition of integrity is “the state of being whole and undivided.” I simply mean that there’s a disconnect in what was really going on and what they were owning up to. They weren’t fully facing the situation they had created. Until they became aware of that and worked to shift it by being 100 percent honest with themselves and others about their financial state, going into debt again was inevitable.

Over the years I’ve found it’s much more constructive, both energetically and financially, to strategize how to get the things you want without having to owe someone.  From the very beginning with Poo~Pourri, I never took money out of my business; I always reinvested it in the company. If I wanted to buy something big or take a vacation I would use that strategy. If I wanted to spend $20,000, then I knew with my 20% net earnings from my company, I’d need to make $100,000. So instead of just going ahead and spending the $20,000, I’d strategize how I could first make that additional $100,000 in revenue. That’s one way I was able to build my company from the ground up with no debt and no investors. Many people end up giving away much of their business to investors, and it puts them in a very unempowered position where they sometimes have to do things they don’t want to or go along with decisions they don’t agree with.

Another all too common habit that causes many people to create debt is using “stuff” to fill a void. A new car, a bigger house, fancier shoes — why do we always want more, more, more? It’s because we walk around in a muted state of feeling most of the time, constantly avoiding and/or numbing in order to avoid uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings. Yep, been there! The brief thrill of making more money or buying something new gives us a quick hit of dopamine that we simply can’t get enough of — because it allows us to actually feel for a brief moment. (The same thing goes for drugs and alcohol, dramatic reality T.V. shows, and even Instagram likes!)

So how do we stop trying to temporarily distract ourselves with stuff that won’t make us happy, when at every turn we’re being bombarded with messages to buy, buy, buy? One tactic that will also create more abundance and joy in your life (major bonus!) is learning to fully feel and appreciate the money you have now, and spending each dollar from a state of complete gratitude. It may sound silly, but try it: When you write out your mortgage or rent check every month, really take a moment to pause and feel the gratitude that you have enough money to have a safe and warm roof over your head. That’s no small feat! When you hand over your debit card to buy groceries, stop and appreciate the incredible abundance that is having a fridge full of food.

Fully feeling that sense of gratitude and the joy that it creates helps us realize that we’re already abundant; we become more aware of and appreciative for what we already have, helping to alleviate that compulsion to acquire more, more, more. Strategizing how to get the things we want without having to go into debt for them gives us more agency over our own lives and shifts us out of “instant gratification” mode. They’re simple acts, but they result in big perspective shifts — and that’s how you start to transform old patterns that are no longer serving you.

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