You can read all the best frugal living tips and tricks. You can set up the best personal finance software. You can create your money goals and a strategy for reaching those goals. And you can have every intention of putting these things to work.
But all of this will get you nowhere if you don’t actually believe you can do it. Without belief, you will fail.
Ramit Sethi calls the mental barriers to our success “invisible scripts”. And, whether or not we admit it, we all have them.
Invisible scripts come from our culture, family, friends and ourselves. The problem is they are often so deeply ingrained into our subconscious mind, we don’t even know they’re there. And yet, they blindly guide our behaviors and decisions. And they are likely limiting our potential.
Here are some examples of invisible scripts:
“I don’t make enough money, so I can’t possibly pay off my debt.”
“I already busted my diet for the day, what’s a dinner at McDonald’s going to hurt?”
“I can’t get a good job because I don’t have a college degree.”
“I should get more exercise, but I’m too busy.”
“I deserve a new car because I work really hard.”
“I have too much debt and there is no way I could ever pay it all off.”
“I don’t have the skills to be a do-it-yourselfer.”
“I’ll always have a [car, house, student loan] payment.”
Identify your invisible scripts
Since invisible scripts are often subconscious thought processes, it’s not an easy task to identify them. But there are certain cues you can look for to start recognizing them.
You say (or think):
“I can’t …because…”
Whenever you feel like you are limited by something, it’s likely an invisible script.
For example, “I can’t pay off debt because I don’t make enough money” creates a mental barrier to even beginning to work on the debt, because there’s no belief in the possibility of actually doing it.
“I should do this…because”
The shoulds in our lives likely come from the influences of our culture or friends/family. Shoulds are the things we think are expected of us, not necessarily the things we need to do.
For instance, “I should get a college degree because I will get a better job” is a standard thought in our culture, but is it always true? Not necessarily. There are many, many people without college degrees that have had successful businesses and careers. Though a college degree is a necessity in many fields, it’s not a requirement for all good jobs (don’t forget apprenticeships, technical school, and military training).
“I deserve this because…”
This is simply a sense of entitlement.
Here’s an example: “I deserve a promotion because I’ve been working here for X years”. You are not owed anything in life, but hard work can often get you where you want to be.
“I need to do this one thing in order to be able to…”
A fictional barrier is often an excuse that leads to procrastination.
For instance, “I need to make more money if I’m ever going to be able to save for retirement”. It’s never black and white – there’s almost always another way, you just have to search for it.
If you really look at invisible scripts, they closely resemble excuses. And excuses come when we are uncomfortable with changes we need to make to overcome barriers, barriers we sometimes create for ourselves.
How to overcome invisible scripts
Realize there are no hard and fast rules for anything in life. There is always a different path to the same end result.
For instance, just because your friend paid off their debt by using extreme frugality doesn’t mean you have to do exactly the same thing to pay off your debt. If one person lost 50 pounds on the cabbage soup diet, it doesn’t mean everyone has to eat cabbage soup to lose 50 pounds. As the saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
If you have a lofty goal that you don’t believe you can accomplish, take a good, hard look at that goal and question preconceived notions you have.
Change the “I can’t” thinking to “I can’t yet”. Ask “How can I accomplish this?” to find workable solutions.
Once you identify your invisible scripts, challenge them. Think outside of the box. Believe there is a way. When you believe it can happen, then you can take the action to make it happen.