Five years ago, a running buddy and I were rounding Central Park’s loop when I blurted out, in utter defeat, “I’ll never pay off my debt.”
I thought nothing of striding six miles, but couldn’t imagine ever triumphing over my grad school loans and maxed-out credit cards. I felt overwhelmed and hopelessly tamped down by mounting expenses.
“You can, and you will,” said my friend. “Stop thinking of this as a mountain to climb. Start chipping away, little by little.”
That day, buoyed by her words, I bought a little notebook that changed my life. In it, I scribbled down all the scary numbers and faced the hard facts. It gave me exactly what I needed—a starting point.
When I received a letter in the mail two years later, confirming that I’d paid off a $26,000 loan, pride washed over me. What’s more, I had deleted all $12,000 of plastics debt and even plunked $10,000 into a mutual fund. What had kept me from doing it earlier? It wasn’t the debt itself—it was my misguided thoughts about money.
I slowly replaced my paralyzing refrains with productive thoughts, and so can you. To figure out the best way to rescript your brain for positive, actionable thinking, we asked St. John, along with two other experts, to highlight seven toxic money thoughts you should replace today.
1. ‘I’ll never be rich.’
Why It’s Destructive: ”I’ve heard this belief countless times,” says St. John. This kind of thinking is harmful, he explains, because your beliefs guide your actions and, as such, become true. Say it and believe it and you will be forever saddled with debt. You won’t be disciplined enough to manage your finances and get ahead. Ultimately you’ll feel—and stay—stuck. “It’s straight-up self-sabotage,” he says pointedly.
What to Say Instead: “I’m reliable and hard-working, and I will be rewarded with prosperity.”
Why It Works: The point is, you can only be as wealthy as you believe you can be, and there’s no reason, if you work hard, that you won’t get there.
But, adds St. John, you also need to decide what “rich” means to you. Does it mean having an emergency fund big enough to cover a potential disaster? Does it mean saving enough for retirement that you won’t have to worry? By putting good habits in place now, you’ll set yourself up to build wealth, and keep it.
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And if you don’t believe you can be rich, simply having more cash won’t change that. “Money acts like a magnifying glass,” says St. John. “Having money doesn’t change anything—it reveals everything.” By believing you’re worthy of wealth, you’re off to the right start.