In Greek mythology, there lived a king who displeased Zeus to no end…
This king had it all. He was the founder and first ruler of Corinth, a strategic and wealthy city-state that connected the major regions of Greece. He was father to four boys, and husband and lover to a most beautiful young woman. He promoted commerce and navigation throughout his kingdom with brilliance and crafty cleverness.
But he was also avaricious and deceitful to his core. He murdered travelers and guests, committed incest with his teenage niece, and took pleasure in doing so.
The final straw, at least for Zeus, was this king learning of and betraying a secret in exchange for the favor of a new water source that would flow upon his kingdom. This king thought he was so clever, so utterly smart that he could rival and out-maneuver Zeus Himself.
So, who was this king?
Why Sisyphus, of course. And Zeus, more than a match for poor Sisyphus, extracted a cruel and devilish punishment.
A punishment that unfortunately seems to live today for many of us. Zeus forced Sisyphus to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill only to have the boulder roll back down just as it reached the zenith. It was an endlessly frustrating and utterly useless task, like digging a hole in one place only to fill and do it over. Again, and again.
Ever feel like Sisyphus? Like no matter what you do, you never make any progress?
I know a few folks who do feel like Sisyphus, particularly when it comes to debt. I can assure you, debt has no conscience, no heart, no favorite or favored and is spread across the income and asset spectrum. I know people with six-and-seven-figure incomes plagued by debt, by their ill-continued spending habits. Well, spending habits, like any other habit, can be changed.
Want to get out of debt? There are two starting points:
- One, and my favored, is to imagine the pleasure and confidence, the sense of freedom, that comes from having money in the bank. Place yourself in that space and hold on to that feeling, that objective.
- The other is to feel more pain with the debt than the pain of change. Once you hit that point, it is much, much easier to proceed, you are consistently making progress and experiencing less pain each month.
Either way, you want to understand what’s really important to you. What your priorities are. It’s your life.
- Think for a bit and then write down on a piece of paper the priorities in your life. Be specific. Number them 1, 2, 3 and so forth.
- Put the paper away for a day or two.
- Then, go back to it. Re-order your priorities, making sure your number one is in fact number 1, more important than number 2, 3 or 4. The same with number two.
- You see, once you have a firm grip on what’s important to you, the rest will fall into place. And, bluntly, if debt and things are more important, then so be it. It’s your life.
Now, for the more practical, you must know where you are financially.
So, take all those bills, statements, invoices, pay stubs, etc. out of the drawer and organize them. Turn off the TV, close the Xbox, and make a written list of your expenses. List your mortgage or rent, utilities, food, transportation, insurance, medical, all of it. Add it all up, and compare that number to the bottom line on your pay stubs. Hopefully, the number on the pay stub is higher. If not, you must do some soul searching…what are you going to give up?
Next, list your debts smallest to largest. Ignore for the most part the interest owed.
Pay the minimums on all but the smallest, and attack that one with a vengeance, with purposeful intent.
Once you have paid it off, I promise you will feel an emotional release. You have made an accomplishment.
Move down the list to the next smallest and do the same…attack it until it is paid off.
Repeat. Until you are done.
Most people that go through this exercise, all the way, will never go into debt again. They remember the pain, the sleepless nights, the churn and discomfort in their belly. They now relish a debt-free lifestyle and a freedom they will never give up.
Kick Sisyphus to the curb.