What I Learned From ASCEND: I Can Do Hard Things

Today’s blog is going to be a little different.  EB isn’t writing this one.

I’m Debi, her sister (you can hear the podcast we recorded together here), and I am going to to talk with you about my experience at ASCEND (the first live, Primal Potential weekend workshop which was held in November)

I want to share what I learned about the power of questions and how the idea of doing hard things led me make real progress in paying down my debt.

I have struggled with paying off debt for too long.  I have student loans (from undergrad & grad), some credit card debt, a car loan, the list goes on.

{Note from EB- Debi never struggled with her weight. I always did. She’s tall and effortlessly lean. I was incredibly jealous that she didn’t have a weight issue, but she had other issues, and the solutions to our individual challenges, and yours, are remarkably similar.}

Historically, when Elizabeth and I talk about my financial issues and spending, it doesn’t go well.  She gives me feedback I need to hear, I get defensive, and our conversation is largely unproductive, leaving both of us frustrated.

In preparation for ASCEND, Elizabeth asked my mom and I if we would participate in an exercise with her, to see if it would be a useful tool.

Someone had to pose a problem they were having in the form of question.  

Sounds easy so far, right?

However, where things differ, is that you could only answer the question with questions.

No statements. Only questions. Back & forth conversation with questions only.

I started it off by asking, “How do I balance working so hard to pay off my debt with living the life I want to live?”

In our standard conversation, I would defend, explain, and justify. The conversation would be tense & argumentative.

However, by only asking questions, it allowed us to have a conversation in which we could come from a place of curiosity and focus on solutions without getting defensive.

My mom and my sister started to ask me questions.  I didn’t feel defensive.  And I don’t think Elizabeth felt frustrated.  I didn’t feel judged.  We were able to have a conversation about money without negative emotion for the first time.

I was asked questions like,

“What are the two ways that you can have more money?

Are you happy with the way you are spending your money?  Do you feel like you know what you need to do to pay off your debt?

Why aren’t you doing it?

Remember though, I couldn’t answer these questions.

If Elizabeth called me out on not doing what I needed to do in our normal conversation, I would have jumped to my own defense and listed off ten different reasons why I wasn’t doing it.  Or why I couldn’t do it right now.

When you have to respond in questions, it forces you to reflect, be curious, and to think long and hard about the choices you are making and why.

The question conversation ended in me feeling ready to take action instead of leaving me feeling defensive and judged.

At ASCEND, Elizabeth and I did this exercise in front of the audience.  A practice in vulnerability. She asked me some powerful questions.

“Wouldn’t paying off debt allow you to live your best life?”

“What’s holding you back?”

Having done this for myself, I want to encourage you to ask  yourself hard questions, the one’s you’ve been avoiding. Ask yourself the questions you tend to get defensive about.

I knew that I was the only one holding me back.  I knew that I had the answers.  I knew what to do.

I wasn’t doing it.

I needed to be willing to make sacrifices to get to where I wanted to be.  I wanted to pay off my debt.  I wanted to feel that freedom.  To not feel the burden of debt weighing on me day in and day out.

This question really hit home for me: “When you go to bed at night, what is the thing that gnaws at you? That you still hold on to, no matter how good other things might be?”

For me, it was paying off debt.  My answer was different from many others in that room in Nashville.

That didn’t matter.  What mattered was me.  What mattered was: was I willing to do the work?

At the airport on the way home from ASCEND, I looked at my budget.  I cut things out – things I did not need right now.  They were things I was willing to give up.

What mattered more to me was the freedom that paying off my debt would create, the life I would be able to live without this burden.

I transferred the money to my credit card with the lowest balance.

Every week, I looked at the extra money I had outside of my fixed expenses.

And, as I write this blog, I can proudly say that the balance of that credit card is now ZERO.  I put almost $2000 towards that credit card in the 30 days since ASCEND.

I don’t remember the last time I felt this proud. And let me tell you, proud feels good.

Proud feels better than buying that cup of coffee in the morning, than paying extra for that yoga class in the studio, or saving pennies for traveling.

This is what it means to ask yourself the questions.  The tough questions.  What can you do today to feel proud?

Ask yourself the questions that need to be asked.  Do you know what you need to do to reach your goal?  Are you doing it? If not, what is holding you back?

What can you do today?

What choice will lead you to be able to live your best life?

Do it. Do it now. Because we are all capable of doing hard things.

I encourage you all to try out the questions exercise with someone you trust, or even with yourself.

Start off by thinking of a problem, something with which you struggle.  Turn this problem into a question.

How do I develop greater consistency with my morning routine?

What can I do to improve my food choices?

Then, start to ask yourself questions in response (or have someone ask you).

Maybe you ask, “What does your routine look like now? What is working for you? What’s not working?  What’s getting in the way?  Is there something you can shift or cut out?”

When you respond back, respond in question form.

Consider questions like, “What if my morning routine changes everyday? What if I feel like I can’t control the things that are happening?  What if I am too tired?  What if I know it is not working? What if I don’t know what to cut out?  What if I know where to start and I am having trouble doing it? What is one thing you could do today?”

In case you forgot, we can all do hard things.

Elizabeth’s been busy doing hard things lately, too! Check out her blog about her hard thing here.


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4 replies
  1. Linda Granberg
    Linda Granberg says:

    Great post, love it! Thanks for your guest appearance and for sharing your thoughts on this Debi, this really starts some good questions in my head. What is holding me back – and then answer that with questions. I’m SO going to do this when I get home from work tonight. I have all the answers, I just need to ask the right questions.

    Best,

    Linda

    Reply
  2. Louise Castaldo
    Louise Castaldo says:

    That was just one of the many awesome things I got to experience at ASCEND ! I have done this exercise a few times and whoa ! It’s not easy but so eye opening !! So happy for you Debi , what a great accomplishment in such a short time !! It was such a pleasure to meet you !

    Reply

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