Debt can be paralyzing. The stress it puts on a person can cause them to think narrowly, to act on impulse, to feel less-than others and become obsessed with what they can’t have. This mindset will destroy your every effort to make a change and improve your situation.
It’s time to try a different approach. The steps used in asset-based community development can be applied to each of us as individuals and families, and offer us new eyes and the energy we need to make lasting change. Conduct your own personal survey. What are you good at? What do you like to do? What comes naturally to you and what do you do well?
If nothing comes to mind, ask the people that know you best – your spouse, partner, kids, neighbors, best friends. Ask them for stories about when they realized you had a specific talent/knack/interest. For further exploration, check out resources like Cliftons Strength Finder for more insight into your gifts and strengths.
Start with what you have. Now that you’ve got a better sense of your skills, consider other assets you already have. A house? A working car? A strong relationship? A great internet connection? Your health? A garage full of tools? Access to a great park? Try to think outside of the box. You might surprise yourself with how wealthy you actually are.
Make connections. Consider the areas where what you have, what you’re good at, and what you can learn align. Don’t narrow it to vocational ideas – perhaps you have all you need to start a book club, help a friend work on their car or create something beautiful – these are all wonderful gifts that can be lifegiving to you and the people in your community, not to mention incredibly helpful for killing the poverty mentality. Focusing on your strengths and assets might also be just what you need to get out of debt. Is there something you can or should be doing at work to capitalize on your strengths to get you that raise, promotion, extra sale? Do you have all you need to start a home-based daycare
program? Could you be getting paid for something you already do or would like to do? For example, walking dogs, mowing lawns, watching a friend’s child, working in a store/shop/restaurant you enjoy, repairing tears or rips in clothing? What about things you have that aren’t being put to use. Could that tool collection be cleaned up and sold? Could that trunk full of old clothes be brought into a used-clothing store that pays?
Make it a group effort. One of the biggest lies debt will tell you is that you are alone in your poverty. Through these steps, we already know we aren’t defined by poverty. But you still need to tackle the loneliness. Let people in on what you’re going through, discovering about yourself, considering starting. Do not give into the shame and isolation. If you’ve already begun to isolate yourself, it is not too late to make a change. Pick up the phone, ask a friend you let drift away out for coffee, make a point to go see your family – just do it.