Swayaway1 / Vecteezy

Why Your Debt Issues Are More Mental Than You Realize

Years ago, Psychologist Ulric Neisser filmed a video of two teams of students passing a basketball back and forth, and superimposed another video of a girl with an umbrella walking right through the center of the screen. When he asked subjects in his study to count the number of times the ball was passed, an astonishing 79 percent failed to notice the girl with the umbrella. 

In the years since, hundreds of studies have backed up the idea that when attention is occupied with one thing, people often fail to notice other things right before their eyes.

This excerpt was taken from an online article at Scientific American. It details the fact that our minds are very powerful forces in being able to selectively focus on one thing at the exclusion of another.

We often fail to see things which are right in front of us. A simple example of this is our noses that we hardly notice. And, it’s right in front of us.

Many of us focus on the wrong things

For many years I have wondered why some people are so good with money while others are not. It’s perplexed me. And I understand that it is not simply one thing over another. There are a lot of factors at play here:

  • Environmental
  • Family of origin
  • Education
  • Willingness
  • Personality

… just to name a few.

Still I think there is also something else at play here that gets largely unnoticed (even if it is right in front of us): our ability to selectively focus on things that we deem more important. Scientific American called this: unconscious selective attention.

For those who are deep in debt, their focus is in the wrong place.

Personal story

For me, I spent years with this selective attention. For years, I spent money I did not have because my focus was on maintaining the lifestyle that I had (even though I couldn’t afford it).

I believed that the next big job was around the corner and my debt would be paid off. It was a kind of denial that kept me in the dark about how bad my situation had gotten.

One day I awoke to nearly $20k in credit card debt and no one to blame but myself.

In essence, I selectively focused on things things which were less important at the exclusion of something (debt / money-issues) that were driving me to financial ruin.

We often need a crisis to change

I’m convinced that a personal crisis propelled me to take stock of my finances and get a handle on things. It wasn’t until that crisis hit that was I able to fully change my focus to the problem that was right in front of me – but I had failed to address.

With my focus put on the right thing, I was able to make the changes I needed to make in my financial life and redirect my life’s path to financial freedom.

And while I still struggle with money-related issues from time to time, my attention is in the right place and I’m able to see that which had blindsided me in the past.

What caused you to address your debt? If you haven’t had a crisis, what do you think it would take for you to change your focus?

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