Circumstances are neutral. — Brooke Castillo
I turned my six figure law school debt into a six figure business.
I started with $206k in debt from law school, and I have about $70k left (estimating I’ll pay off in a year or two). The kicker is I’ve switched careers twice in that time, and I built a business that will continue to pay dividends in the future. When my debt is gone, I still have my new career that is bringing in all this money, and I only see it going up from here.
Also of importance: I am not a unicorn and have no special, magical abilities.
So, how did this happen? How can you do it (or something similar), too?
That’s what I’m going to share with you in this post. It’s ultimately the real truth – the secret – that transformed my entire life with money (no exaggeration). And I stumbled upon it by accident…
If you want to listen instead of read, here’s the podcast episode that goes along with this post — The Debt Mindset.
Debt Doesn’t Mean Anything Until You Give It Meaning
Last year, I had a super painful emotional experience, which propelled me headfirst into personal development. That led to me learning the life changing magic from Brooke Castillo that…
- Your thoughts create your feelings.
- Your feelings create your actions.
- Your actions create your results.
- Circumstances are neutral.
Thoughts → Feelings → Actions → Results
Brooke didn’t make this up, it’s the way the universe works. If you do a lot of psychology and personal development work, you’ll figure out the same thing. She just put it so nicely in this framework.
As Brooke Castillo says in the quote above, circumstances are neutral. They’re facts. They’re neither good nor bad.
If you’re having trouble understanding this, here are two examples. First, take a peach. You might love peaches, while someone else hates peaches. The peach is neither good nor bad. It just is. It doesn’t become good or bad until we put a thought to it. Second, take death (let me get real morbid on you real quick). There are tons of people dying all the time. We’re really unaffected by it. We have to be. We can’t go around depressed about people dying we don’t know. But people are in fact dying. We are devastated when someone we love dies, though. Why? Because we have a thought about the death. We give the death meaning. This is true for everything.
Circumstances are neutral. You can make them mean whatever you want.
Debt is a circumstance. This means debt is neutral. It’s neither good nor bad.
Specifically, the debt you already have is a fact that is neutral. I’m not talking about going into debt in the future, which would be an action. I’m talking about debt you’re already in.
This is great news.
It means you can decide what you want your debt to mean.
It doesn’t matter what your spouse, your mom, your best friend, Dave Ramsey, or I say about your debt. YOU get to make it mean whatever you want.
When You Make Debt Mean Something Bad About You, You Hurt Yourself
When I first learned the concept above my mind exploded.
I was making my debt mean so much about me in a really counter-productive way. I had all this shame around my debt, as if it had power over me. I made my debt mean I couldn’t do things. I made my debt mean that something bad had happened to me (victim mentality). I was handing over all my power and control to my debt.
This was so stupid.
At the heart of this thinking is the scarcity mindset.
Scarcity thinking is when you think that there’s not enough – not enough money, not enough time, not enough love, not enough fill-in-the-blank.
And when you think this way, that’s the reality you create. Your brain is a wicked smart computer that is always trying to prove what you think right.
If you think your debt is the reason that you can’t do what you want or the reason that you can’t have the financial future you always imagined, then it will be.
I hear you – you’re like… but, um, I want to do all.the.things and I legit don’t have money in the bank because of my debt.
Instead of thinking about what you can’t do and can’t have because of your debt, think about what your debt makes possible.
This is abundant thinking. Abundant thinking is where you believe that there is always enough – enough money, enough time, enough everything.
Yes, you have debt. So what?
Feeling like it happened to you isn’t going to help you. Asking what your debt makes possible will help you.
How You Feel About Debt Determines Your Actions
Whatever you choose to believe about debt will determine how you feel about debt.
Remember, your thoughts cause your feelings. Your feelings cause your actions. Your actions cause your results.
For example, if you think that your debt is embarrassing, then you might feel shame.
If you think your debt is someone else’s fault, you might feel self-pity and identify as a victim.
If you think your debt is an opportunity, you might feel empowered.
Whatever you think about your debt will determine how you feel about it.
How you feel about debt matters more than anything else because it is what leads to action (or inaction).
Pay attention to how you want to feel about your debt. It matters more than anything.
To decide how you want to feel about your debt, decide what you want the end result to be and work backward.
For example, if you want the end result to be becoming debt free from a place of abundance, then you might want to think your debt is an opportunity. This will make you feel empowered, which will drive you to take action and get out of debt.
If you’re wondering how this actually works, you have to put it into action to get your own results. You have nothing to lose by trying it. Your brain loves solving problems. If you ask yourself “what does my debt make possible?” or “how can I turn this debt into an opportunity?” every night before bed for the next few weeks, there’s no way you don’t see some sort of improvement and new way of thinking. Your brain will go to work for you and find the answers. I do this over and over in my life and it works like magic.
Alternatively, you could feel ashamed about your debt. Focus on cutting all your expenses and downsizing to the point where you’re living in total deprivation and feeling like crap. You could still get out of debt this way, but it would be from a place of scarcity.
This isn’t to say that going frugal is bad or isn’t how you should do it. The tactic isn’t what’s important. What’s important is the beliefs and the feelings behind the actions.
When I was going the frugal, self-deprivation route, for me personally, I felt really bad. I felt shame around my debt. It was defeating. This is just how it made me feel, personally. You may get super jazzed about cutting things out. Everyone is different. You have to decide for you how to think and feel about your debt.
Just remember, it’s better to decide to think and feel a particular way that gets you the result you want from a place of abundance.
How To Eliminate Debt With The Right Mindset
When it comes to eliminating debt, here is what I want you to do.
1. Decide if you want to get out of debt. Do you want to get out of debt? Do you value living a debt free life? If the answers to these questions are yes, then move on. If not, then just hang out in debt (LOL I don’t recommend this but obviously, this is a personal choice!)
2. Choose what you want your debt to mean. If you want to get out of debt (that is the end result), then fill in the model below to choose how you want to think, feel, and act.
- Thought: ?
- Feeling: ?
- Action: ?
- Result: debt free from abundance
- Circumstance: debt
For example, if I was filling this out, it would look like this:
- Thought: my debt is a business opportunity
- Feeling: empowered
- Action: building a business
- Result: debt free from abundance
- Circumstance: debt
Your model will look different. Just make sure you have a positive, supportive feeling so that you are acting from abundance.
3. Consider making a new decision after the decision has already been made.For example, let’s say you purchased a car six months ago, but all of a sudden you’ve now lost your job. You can re-make the decision about your car. Would you buy that car again today? If the answer is no, then sell it. Just because a decision was made in the past, doesn’t mean you can’t change it. Always ask yourself, would you remake that decision now?
4. Create a plan for getting out of debt that fits your debt beliefs. This might mean you start a side hustle, start a coaching business, pick up a side job, or something else. Whatever the case, it means that you proactively decide how you plan to get out of debt. It doesn’t matter so much about what the plan is as it does that you have a plan at all.
5. Don’t cut expenses unless you feel good about it.Cutting expenses only works if you feel good about it and genuinely don’t want to purchase that item anymore. If you cut everything in your budget and feel awful about it, you’ll come from such a negative place that you’ll throw your mindset into a spin of scarcity for no reason. You are capable of creating wealth and part of that means you can create enough money to get out of debt. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
6. Consider minimalism.Minimalism means you only hold on to material items that you use or love. It means that you keep your life simple. I live out of a very small apartment. I only wear neutral colors. I have enormous constraint around what things I buy. Minimalism works really well for maintaining a debt free life. If you want to start doing this, begin by selling your stuff and using the money to pay for off debt.
My Journey With Debt
It’s worth mentioning again how much of an impact this has had on my life.
I used to make my student loan debt mean something about me.
I had so much shame around it. I hated it. I felt trapped.
My debt was the reason I couldn’t do things. It was stopping me from living. I gave it so much power.
You know what feeling shame and trapped got me? Scarcity. Feeling like a victim. Inaction. Trying to be frugal to pay off $206k of debt doesn’t work.
You know how I felt when I decided not to make my debt mean anything about me? Freaking amazing.
I felt like nothing could stop me. The emotion was empowered. The action I took was building a business. I don’t know anyone else who has turned their six figure student loan debt into a six figure business, and there’s absolutely no reason for that other than mindset.
You don’t have to make your debt mean anything bad. You can make it mean something motivating and inspiring. I’m giving you permission right now.
You can use your debt to create a future you haven’t even imagined. It works and it’s super powerful.
A Final Note!
So, the mindset to help you get out of debt is to stop making your debt mean something bad about you and start making it mean something that makes you take action from a positive feeling (using an abundant mindset).
Let your debt – and hopefully my story – inspire you to greatness.
P.s. You might want to read How To Attract More Money Into Your Life next!