Remove "if" & "I can't" From Your Vocabulary (like right now)

Remove “if” & “I can’t” From Your Vocabulary (like right now)

This world will sometimes ask you to do some pretty difficult things.  For example, to go, financially, from where you are now to where you would like to be tomorrow takes a great deal of work and, mostly, discipline.  I was asked recently if I felt that every reader of this site would possess the discipline needed to follow the advice given.  It was stated,

“Not every reader possesses that discipline.”

I do imagine that not every reader is going to be ready to do the work required in any given post for one reason or another.  It may be a case that the advice given does not apply to your particular case.  It could also be that you are following other advice.  Those are fine reasons.  However, there are two discipline killers that I can’t sit idly around and not say something about first.  Here they are:

  1. Money Shame.  This is the paralyzing impact of shame felt over previous money decisions.  You are not alone if you have money shame.  We all have it to one degree or another.  We wrote about a path you can take to rid yourself of money shame in “How to Slay the Money Shame Monster Forever“.
  2. All of those nagging “ifs” and “I can’ts”.  Look back at the list of times you’ve said “if” and “I can’t” recently.  Here you will find all of the mental shortcuts you use to derail your own capabilities.  Believe it or not, this is actually good news because it means that changing your life is a simply matter of some mental retraining.  We’ve totally got this.

Let’s first understand the issue through example.

Financial Lessons Churning Up the “Ifs” and “I can’ts”

It was interesting to me that it was my post on time value of money earlier this week, the very foundation of all money management, that ignited the most “ifs” and “I can’ts” on my social media feeds once it was published.  It seemed to, I believe, churn up a bit of money shame, which was promptly beaten down and disregarded with things like:

“Well if I had $20,000 when my baby was born..”

“Well I can’t get a 10% return from my bank…”

A brain free from shame, one that didn’t take a simple compound interest problem and make it feel personal, would instead have said a little something like this:

“Sure, I didn’t have $20,000 to invest on the day my baby was born, but what can I teach my child early and often to ensure they have good money habits?

Let me be clear.  Investing $20,000 in your child’s name on the day they are born is not a marker of good parenting.  It is simply the most dramatic way to illustrate the principles of time value of money because compound interest would begin on the day a person is born on through to the day they retire (and beyond).  In my mind, ensuring your children have financial literacy is a far greater gift than putting $20,000 in a birth day account for them.

Similarly, a brain free from shame would have instead said,

“Let me find out what the best return I can get for my money is.”

By kicking up dust in your life with “if” and “I can’t” you are not limiting me one bit.  I was already taught about the time value of money, and I now follow the principle with success.  I know how it works, and I know that it works.  I just try my best on this site to light the path by removing all of the artificially pompous vocabulary that surround financial principles that serve no other purpose than to make financial pros feel smart.

Good finances should not just be reserved to those that took finance classes in business school.  The great things about things like time value of money is they do not discriminate.  Anyone can use them regardless of age, race, gender, nationality, education, socioeconomic group, or financial background.   They have the same exact power to work for us as they do for people that throw around words like “dividends” and “derivatives”.  They are lessons that can be used by anyone that is capable of buying the cheaper can of tomatoes in order to save to your very own greatest extent possible.

Projecting “if” and “I can’t” Onto Others

By wiggling an “if” or an “I can’t” into your mental vocabulary you are only limiting yourself from the extreme possibilities this world has to offer, and, unfortunately, those limitations are contagious as we start to project them on to those around us.  The most common victims of our projections are our spouse, our children, and, believe it or not, those living in poverty.  One social media comment from the time value of money piece was something along the lines of:

“Escaping from true, chronic poverty by saving is about as much of a long shot as winning the lottery..”

In all of my experience in poverty and out, I’d never before heard saving money be likened to winning the lottery.  I can tell you it is possible to dig yourself out of the most seemingly hopeless financial circumstances using the fundamentals of personal finance.  Once upon a time I was a homeless kid, and my family of four was living off of $7,800 per year.  Let me be very clear about something right now.  If you want to better your life circumstances financially then you must spend less than you earn. This is the only way.

“That’s How It’s Going to Be if That’s How You Say it’s Going to Be”

This post was actually scheduled on the editorial calendar to be published today many weeks ago.  The original inspiration for this blog post prompt was, believe it or not, Alicia Keys.  I can’t say it better than she can, so I’ll meet you below once you hear her words on the topic.

In the end, you are the only one that has the ultimate power over your life’s destination. If you litter your world with “if” and “I can’t” then you will make yourself right time and time again.  You have given yourself no better alternative.

But let’s just imagine for a moment what would happen if you built a world where you replaced every “if” with “when”.  Imagine a world where every “I can’t” is replaced with the knowledge that you are capable of doing anything in this world if you are curious to learn, willing to put in the hard work, and not scared off by early failures.  Yes, I made my way out of poverty, but I am really no one special (truly).  The not so closely guarded secret to my success is that one evening in elementary school, when my family was living on a camp ground, my siblings and I found a special place where we could view all of the city lights.  That evening I looked out into the world and simply replaced the word “if” with “when”.  Join me.

Melody grew up in poverty, and she was homeless throughout most of her childhood. Even after the hard work of getting out of poverty was accomplished, she still lived in fear of the next bad thing that could happen. She knew that, without the security of a safety net, one misstep would mean certain disaster. It was not until this safety net was established that she truly felt liberated and free from the anxiety of living in poverty once again. She is now motivated to share this sense of freedom with all women.


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