Have you ever heard of the wildly popular book The Secret? The book is about the law of attraction and promotes the idea that positive thinking can change the course of your life.
If you’re a natural skeptic and pessimist like me, this warrants a big eye roll and sigh. Yeah right.
Though I’m still skeptical of the whole idea behind the secret, I’ve changed my relationship to the idea of positive thinking. Shifting my thinking ended up changing the course of my life, and the secret turned out to be a great source of student loan advice.
Life after college
After I graduated from New York University in May 2011 with my master’s degree, I had so much hope. I did well in school, worked part-time, and was proud of my work as a theater teacher at an after-school program in Harlem.
I did everything I was supposed to and thought because I worked hard, good things would happen. I figured I’d be able to pay back the $68,000 student loan debt I had in no time.
Six months later, I still hadn’t secured any full-time employment. The hope I had quickly diminished and my student loan payments were coming due.
I quickly learned that I couldn’t afford to live in New York City anymore and pay my student loans back. So I made a tough decision. I decided to move across the country to Portland, Oregon to live with my boyfriend and take advantage of cheaper rent.
Struggling to make ends meet
I thought I’d be a big fish in a small pond in Portland, but I soon learned that the economy was even worse there. I went from going on regular interviews in NYC, to hearing practically nothing at all in Portland.
I was able to secure temp work as an administrative assistant for $10 per hour. But since the job was part-time, I ended up taking home about $800 per month. It was barely enough to survive. To supplement my income, I went on food stamps.
This was not how I imagined my life after NYU. I thought I’d snag a decent job after graduation and live it up in New York. Instead, I moved to a city I didn’t necessarily want to be in, was struggling to bring in money, and was living on food stamps to survive.
To say I was disappointed and depressed would be an understatement. After dealing with this situation for over a year, I was frustrated and utterly lacking in hope. I didn’t know how in the world I was going to pay my student loans back.
Using the secret to change my mindset
By January 2013, a year and a half after I graduated college, things weren’t much better. I was in a low place financially and emotionally. But, I knew something had to change. I was sick and tired of being depressed about my life and my student loans.
After searching online and finding out about personal finance blogs, I decided to start my own. At the time, I had $57,000 left in student loan debt. And so, I proclaimed in my very first post that I would pay off my student loans in four years.
At this point, I was making $12 an hour at yet another temp job. Given my financial situation at the time, there was absolutely no way I could pay back my loans in four years. But, regardless, that’s the goal I set for myself.
Months later, when I was still struggling financially, my mom encouraged me to write a check to myself with my desired salary. Fun fact, this was also a tactic used by Jim Carrey, who wrote himself a check for $10 million.
So I wrote myself a check for $50,000. Given my low-income at the time, $50,000 sounded like an astronomical amount of money to me.
Embracing the secret and looking towards the future
I kept the check by my desk to look at every day. Between my blog and this check, I had set myself two larger-than-life goals: get out of debt in four years and earn a $50,000 yearly salary.
However, setting these big goals for myself shifted my thinking immensely. It gave me something proactive to focus on, instead of just complaining about my situation.
I realized I had let myself become paralyzed by my student loan debt. I felt ashamed and guilty for getting into so much debt — for an arts degree no less — and having no way to pay it all back.
I wanted a miracle — with a snap of a finger, my loans completely gone. But, I realized after much emotional turmoil, that nobody could help me get out of debt. It was up to me to figure it out.
Once I accepted this difficult truth, I started shifting my mindset. There was no other option but to become debt-free.
The secret as student loan advice
Once I set my goals and knew what I wanted, my mindset started to shift. I started to believe I would be debt-free in four years and that I would eventually make $50k, even though my current circumstances didn’t reflect that.
Over the next few years, I worked my butt off. I took on every side hustle opportunity I got my hands on. I eventually did find a nonprofit job that paid $31,000 per year. Not quite my goal, but a step up from $12 an hour.
As I continued my side hustles, I built up a full-time income and was able to become self-employed. Within two years, I went from struggling to find full-time work to creating my own job.
As I continued on my self-employment journey, one day I looked at some trinkets on my desk. And there was my check. Shocked, I realized I had made more than the $50,000 I wanted just a few years earlier.
What’s more, I had boosted my income significantly from what I was being paid in the nonprofit sector. And instead of paying off the last of my student loans in four years, I paid them off in three.
How the secret can help you pay off student loans
The secret, also known as thinking positively and attracting good things in your life, can play an important role in paying off your student loans.
But here’s another secret: you can’t just positively think your way out of debt, or anything else for that matter. You must do the work.
Our mindset is so powerful it can inhibit us from taking action, or even recognizing the right course of action. If you’re looking for unconventional student loan advice, try shifting your mindset.
It’s like what one of my favorite quotes from The Alchemist says,“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Once I committed to paying off debt, despite my circumstances, despite all obstacles, things started to change. And once I started to look for solutions and started to think positively, rather than just dwelling on my situation, the path ahead became clearer.
While the idea behind the secret can seem like new-age nonsense, it’s actually more than that.
Thinking positively, shifting your mindset, and setting larger-than-life goals can have a positive impact on your student loan repayment. It can sustain you during the long journey ahead, and fuel your motivation when you want to give up.
Typical student loan advice is all about the money. However, your mindset plays an important role in helping you achieve your goals.
Even if nothing happens, thinking positively is still better than being paralyzed by doubt and depression. And even if you don’t reach your goal, you’ll likely be further along than if you hadn’t set a goal at all.
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