“The first stes toward getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.” – JP Morgan

Sluggish, drinking too much, eating junk food — we all know how bad it can become when we slide into a funk over high student debt. Believe me, I’ve been there.

Empowering ourselves is a choice. We have to get off the proverbial couch, stop drinking, start eating well and get our bodies moving.

I’ve been working with a fitness trainer for years. My long road to financial fitness, and the path I took to physical fitness are profoundly entwined.

When I’d work out, I’d gain the confidence I needed to deal with my finances. I’d deal with my finances and I’d feel so great, I’d have the energy to work out.

I promise you, no matter where you are, how down you feel, how much weight you’ve gained, and how much debt you have, you can pull yourself out of it.

We’ll talk in this blog about financial fitness, but before we do, I cannot stress enough how getting your body moving can help you feel better about dealing with your high student debt. Even a 20-minute walk can get the juices flowing. So, after reading on, get up, and move! How can we apply a physical fitness routine to our high student debt?

Step 1: Begin with Observation

In any process of transformation, a coach or trainer will tell you to begin by increasing your awareness, observing your habits.

The basic rules of financial fitness and body fitness are the same. There are no short cuts. There is only common sense. Calories in versus calories out is the fitness mantra, and the same can be said for finances, money in versus money out.

Just as with weight loss, there are no short cuts and no magic pills to financial fitness. My blogs, my website and upcoming book show you radical approaches, but even these adhere to the basics, bring more money in, put less money out, and you can pay off even a six figure student loan debt.

So start by observing your money habits. Often the best way to do this is to create a table. How much money do you make? How much goes out for bills? Where do you spend your money? How can you make more money? How can you decrease your interest rates?

Just as you would chart your diet and exercise to begin a fitness regime — what you eat, when and where, and what could be cut out — so too should you chart your financial diet. Observe also your emotional reaction to money. We all have stories about money that were passed down through our parents, age-old myths that block us and that inform our actions in the present. Observe these too. Read more about my personal money backstory here.

This “observation” phase will last throughout the process of getting financially fit. You will notice habits you didn’t even realize you have, and that awareness will continue to open up as you go through this process.

Step 2: Take action

Now that all of your financials are charted, it’s time to take action. Here’s what I did to get physically fit and how it can apply to slashing high student debt.

Changed my diet. I had to throw out junk food, change the types of foods I was taking in. How can you change your financial diet? How much are you spending? Perhaps it’s better to ask here, Where are you wasting your energy? Wasted energy is like junk food. An unpaid internship could be the junk food that needs to go in the trash. Sure working on a film production crew fed my ego, but it bled me dry, kept me in poverty and didn’t pay off a dime of my high student debt. What junk job or junk activity is taking up your time and not giving back? What can you cut out?Joined a gym. How can working out the muscles at the gym relate to financial fitness? What if your gym was about taking this on as a research project, read books on the subject, blogs, etc.

There is a lot of information out there on getting out of debt. Build the muscles of your financial knowledge. Read my blogs, peruse my website. There is a lot of free information out there.Hired a fitness coach. Could you hire a financial coach even for an hour session to review your financial chart? To give you advice? I offer such one-on-one coaching. I’m passionate about helping you feel empowered enough to pay down your six figure student debt. I did it, and I know you can too.  There is also the option of asking a friend to get financially fit with you. You can keep each other accountable and cheer each other on.Committed to exercise several times a week. You have to commit to the path. Keep at it. Keep looking for higher paying jobs. Every day explore options. Look at ways to increasing your credit score. Keep going. It’s the only way to succeed.

Step 3: Set clear, attainable goals

As we all know, when you want to lose weight and get fit, it’s crucial to set incremental, attainable goals. Without goals, we cannot assess our successes. If a goal seems to overwhelming, parse it down to a smaller goal. Make sure the goals are truly attainable in the time-frame you create. Do not set yourself up for failure.

What is your financial three year plan? Five year plan?What credit score do you want to attain and how soon?What income do you want to receive and by when?How much of you high student loan debt do you want to pay down? Over how many years?

Perhaps these goals are too big and feel overwhelming. Parse them down. The higher income goal could be a much simpler first step: I will begin by looking for three new jobs per week with higher salaries. Or you can move even further back, and make your goal to simply look at your student debt, become clear about how much you actually owe, and seek out books on getting out of debt.

Step 4: Give yourself credit

Every time you reach a goal, no matter how small, stop and give yourself credit. Toot your own horn. Celebrate. Fitness trainers know tough love can be a great motivator, but they also know that positive feedback must occur to keep the momentum going. What congratulatory “gift” can you promise yourself when you achieve one of your goals?

Imagine a life where you’re physically fit, you’re happy, and you’re paying down your six-figure student debt. It’s not just fantasy. You can do it. I promise.

Now get up and move!

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