What’s different now?
Just that one little question can open up such an emotional conversation. Each week when I’m at Weight Watchers and someone has met a weight loss goal, my Weight Watchers leader always asks that person “What’s different now that you’ve lost the weight?”
The answers vary. Some people feel better physically. Some have overcome years of bad eating habits. Others have found a passion for fitness. Some are thrilled to be wearing smaller sizes. Some folks say they feel more confident and in control.
And it occurred to me that the responses they give are often similar to if you asked yourself “What’s different now that I’m out of debt?” or “What’s different now that I’ve made the decision to get out of debt?”
Paying off a debt can be just as freeing as losing 50 pounds. That debt acts like a weight on your shoulders. Just like an extra 50 pounds might stop you from putting on a swim suit and hitting the beach, debt can keep you from doing things you love. It can keep you stuck in a dead-end job or a house you hate. It can make you miserable and unsure of yourself.
Shedding that debt is freeing. When I think about how I would answer “What’s different now that I’m out of debt?” I would say this:
1. I feel in control. I know how to save money and I know ways to reduce my expenses. I know that I am more important than money or things.
2. I know that I will make mistakes, but I will learn from them. If you make a bad spending decision today, that is no reason to give up. Making better choices starts with the very next thing you spend money on. You wouldn’t quit running a marathon simply because your shoe came untied in mile three, would you? You’d fix it and keep going.
3. I know I am not alone. When I first started to live frugally, it felt like I was the only one out there trying to do that. I’ve since found whole communities of people (both online and off) who share my passion for saving money and staying out of debt. Whenever I feel stuck, I turn to them for support.
4. My relationship with my spouse is stronger. My husband has always been a spender, and I’m a saver. Working on our finances together has brought us closer together. We understand each other better because of our journey to pay off our debt. We fight less about money because we share similar goals.
5. I feel hope for the future. I am putting aside money for our future. I am teaching my children how to manage their money and encouraging them to avoid debt. I hear from readers who tell me they’ve paid off debt because they’ve learned things from me. It all gives me a great hope that we can become a society that values people and experiences more than material things.
Whenever you set goals – whether they are money-related or health-related, I want you to set mini-goals. I want you to stop at the milestones along the way on your journey and ask yourself, “What’s different now?”
If you’re not reaching your goals, answering this question will usually result in a dose of reality. If you keep doing what you’ve always done, things won’t change.
But if you have reached those milestones successfully, asking yourself “What’s different now?” can do a lot to strengthen your convictions and propel you toward your goal.