I’m always the first one of our family to throw back the covers and climb out of bed on weekend mornings. My goal is always to get up, get to the gym, and get home before anyone else even thinks of getting up. One such Saturday morning I was composing a note to leave on the kitchen counter as I was preparing to head out to the gym. My wife likes to know what time I left so she knows approximately when to expect me back home. So, I ripped a piece of paper out of a notebook and wrote these words:
Went to workout: 7:30am
I had done this countless times, but for some reason on that day the words struck me as odd. The words just didn’t correctly convey what it is I go to the gym to accomplish. I crossed out the word, “workout,” and wrote in big bold letters “TRAIN.”
Went to TRAIN: 7:30am.
I nodded my head as I said the words to myself. Much better. The word, “workout,” conveyed a message of a static state of maintaining my current fitness level. That’s not at all what I want to do at the gym. I want to push myself, I want to get bigger, better, and faster. I’m working towards goals. I want to bench press 300 pounds. I want to run a personal best marathon time in 2015 with the ultimate goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
Make no mistake about it, I go to the gym to train.
Ever since that morning, whenever I read a blog post that uses the phrase, “paying off debt,” I get a similar feeling of uncomfortableness. It’s not that the author is not paying off debt any less than I go to the gym to workout. It’s certainly an fairly accurate representation of both actions, but it is incomplete.
A better phrase would be, “building a better financial future.”
The phrase, “paying off debt,” conveys a message of begrudgingly paying for past mistakes. It paints a negative picture of necessary restriction and deprivation to fix something. While that may not be an entirely inaccurate description of some of the actions in motion, it’s important to keep your eyes on what it is you’re really trying to accomplish.
Building a better financial future.
The mind is a powerful thing. It is your mindset that can keep you strong, and keep you moving forward when times get difficult. Your perspective can have a dramatic effect on your day to day actions. Let me give you some examples:
I’m in the gym, doing bench press. I’m contemplating trying to push the weight of my last set up an additional 5 pounds. If, in my mind, I’m simply there to workout I may decide to not bump the weight. I still lifted weights, so I fulfilled the requirement. But did I train? Did I make the extra effort to improve myself? Slap on the five extra pounds, and let’s train.
Now let’s say I’m paying bills and doing my budget for the next month. I make my debt payment as required. There, I fulfilled my requirement of “paying off debt” for the month. But if I really want to push and build a better financial future, maybe I tighten up my entertainment spending and pay an extra $50 extra towards that debt, or maybe put it into savings.
See the difference?
Say the words to yourself a couple of times:
Workout vs. Train
Paying off debt vs. Building a better financial future.
A change in perspective can mean everything. How’s your perspective today?
Could not agree more Travis! It’s a simple, well relatively so I guess, change that can really turn things on their head. Looking back to when I was paying off my debt it wasn’t until I realized and got that perspective that I was building towards something else that things really took off. Of course, I wanted to kill the debt, but it’s not like the mentality would stop once I paid it down. Instead, it was building towards something much bigger that I still work at today.
Paying off debt sounds like something you HAVE to do….building a financial future is something you WANT to do. Get that perspective and move forward! Thanks for reading, John!
I use those words pretty interchangeably, but I’ve never had a problem getting my exercise in, but I can absolutely see how that shift in mindset gives you that extra boost. Training means you have some kind of goal. And if that helps you (even if there is no real particular goal), then I think that’s great. In books I’m reading on the law of attraction, one big thing they point out is not to say what you don’t want, but what you DO want. It’s really the same thing in a way, but one is way more empowering.
I used to use them interchangeably as well, Tonya…..but they really do have very different connotations. I wish I could change the #pfworkout tag to #pftrain. 🙂
I learned the power of mindset when training for the marathon actually. Positive mentality coupled with positive action is 99% of the challenge.
Marathon training is a great example, Stefanie…….a positive perspective, and a well-trained mind is what gets you through the wall. Without mental toughness, you will likely fail.
I like it! I only wish I got to the gym before my kids got up on Saturdays. Someone PLEASE tell them to stop getting up t 6:00 a.m.! =)
LOL, I know that feeling, Holly….but my kids are a little older now. I have to wake my teenager up around noon, and even if they do get up, they’re self-sufficient. I miss my kids being little, but there are definitely advantages to them being a bit older.
I like it! People ask me now, what are we doing since we became debt free and I always reply with building wealth. I think it captures what we are trying to accomplish, whether its increasing our retirement saving, saving for college, etc We are all about building wealth now! A lot can be said for one perspective/outlook on things, positive thinking can make a real difference in achieving your goals.
I admire what you’ve accomplished, Brian – you ROCK! I think we can change that mindset even before the debt is paid off. Even when a person is in the “paying off debt” phase, you’re still building a better financial future!
Love this, Travis! It’s it amazing how a little tweak on phrasing can mean something completely different. Paying off debt, while obviously good, does have a somewhat negative, begrudging connotation to it. While building a better financial freedom sounds like something to truly strive for and positive action.
I’m a “glass half full” kind of guy, Shannon….I always put things in the most positive light possible. It’s what keeps my motor running, and moving forward! Thanks for reading!
Completely agree, Travis, What we call things matters immensely. This is how I started calling my debt ‘negative wealth. It is technically correct (debt is the part of your wealth with a minus sign infront of it and it helped me keep focused on building wealth rather than debt. Made me feel great and probably can account for paying it off so fast.
I can see how that would motivate you, Maria…..that “negative” word probably irked you so much that you just couldn’t wait to get rid of it!
Perspective is everything. I usually say we’re paying off our mortgage aggressively. I think there’s room for improvement. Building a better financial future to me sounds like I don’t like our finances now, but I’m pretty proud of them. Maybe I could say that I’m expanding our opportunities?
Expanding your financial opportunities…..LOVE IT, Emily! The more opportunities the better!
THANK YOU, Travis. I desperately needed this message today. 🙂
You’re very welcome, my friend…keep on keepin’ on! 🙂
Nice! This is sort of how I think about our savings goals–we don’t stop at 10% because that’s what ‘everyone else’ does. No, we push ourselves!
Something that occurred to me as I was reading this is that excellence in one area of life often begets excellence in other areas of our lives. Once we’re dialed in and really focused on goals, I find it permeates just about everything we do. You certainly do that and it’s inspiring!
I agree, Mrs. Frugalwoods – once you learn how to push yourself and be successful, you apply the concepts and skills to everything you do. Great to hear from you!
I think building a better financial future is a great way to curb spending as well. Also it works much better than “I can’t afford it. ” Mental toughness is as important as actions.
Why don’t you buy a new car? “I can’t afford it,” vs “I’m using my money to build a better financial future.” Yep, I like that answer MUCH better!
Great stuff. I always flip my thinking around to look at the positive side of things and never thought about the phrase “paying off debt”. You are right, it is a limiting thought. It’s along the same lines of budgeting.
Most look at a budget as something that limits their spending and they have to suffer because of it. I look at a budget as a tool for providing for a better tomorrow. It’s not that you can’t buy that outfit today, It’s I’m going to save money so that in time I can buy a couple of outfits!
My friend and fellow blogger Paula (from AffordAnything) says, “You can afford anything, just not everything.” Great words to live by – true, yet empowering!
I honestly feel fine saying “I’m paying off debt.” I think it’s a worthy goal in itself, and while I know that paying off debt will build a better financial future, I think of paying off debt as getting to the starting blocks. Once we’re there, and saving hand-over-fist, I think I’ll be more inclined to say, “I’m building a better financial future.” I hope this makes sense!
It certainly does, Prudence…..my examples are just that: mine. Each individual has to find the right mindset, and the right perspective that keeps them going. If “paying off debt” is a mindset that keeps you motivated (and more importantly, disciplined) then by all means, print off a 10 foot banner and plaster it across your living room. Have I told you lately how much you rock, my friend? Keep pushing – and keep writing about it. You are a continuous source of inspiration for me. 🙂
Awww! Thank you! That means a lot coming from a continuous source of inspiration for me : )
Great message! This small shift in thinking sounds like an excellent way to keep motivated and keep your goals at the forefront of your mind. I’m going to try it out with my goals.
There’s a quote from former Baltimore Ravens Linebacker Ray Lewis, “Greatness is a lot of small things done well, day after day.” Positive thinking is one of those small things, Gary!!!
Awesome article I try do the same in my life as well! its amazing what can be accomplished when you change your mindset and try to make little improvements day after day, month after month, and year after year always improving.
There’s a lot to be said about a positive attitude, FI Investor. Focus on each day individually and what you can accomplish. Greatness is doing little things day after day after day!
Great point, this like answering “not bad” when someone asks you how your day is. Why “not bad?” Why focus on the negatives (or in this case double negative). You should instead say “Good, or wonderful” instead. It drives me nuts now when people say “not bad… not bad at all.” A little shift in how you say things will do wonder to you life.
I’m so glad you mentioned this, Tawcan…..i feel the same way. When someone asks me how I’m doing, I always say “SPECTACULAR!” It almost always catches people off guard. 😉
I really think it is about the intensity of the words you choose.
For me paying off the mortgage early isn’t nearly as powerful as “Kill your mortgage in 7 years”.
Or back to your workout story. I used to go workout but now I go into my home gym to CRUSH IT!
If you want to grow and make improvement you have to crush your previous bests, whether its more weights, more reps, or what ever.
Intensity can definitely add some extra motivation to your goals. Great perspective!
Another perspective shift that works for both training and finance: when training for a half marathon for the first time, I started telling myself, “I am going for a run” or “I will run 13 miles” rather than, “I should go for a run” or “I’ll try to run 13 miles.” Suddenly, it wasn’t optional. In the same sense, I’m not “trying” to pay back my student loans before my 27th birthday – I will do it.
I like the idea of using phrasing that does not make the goal optional…I also like being very specific – example “run” vs “run 13 miles”. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Becca – hope you rocked that half marathon!