Focus on What you Can Control: Success is in the Inputs

The farther I’ve gotten away from my student loan debt, the more I’ve realized that I didn’t have full control over my situation like I thought I did. Yes, I paid off $45k in debt in 15 months. But there were numerous factors that helped me get there. A few of those factors include:

  • I have a good income
  • I have an employed spouse
  • I don’t like to spend
  • I don’t have kids
  • I don’t have pets
  • I didn’t face any emergencies.

These factors are all inputs. Individually, no single factor listed above paid off my debt. Each one, with many others, worked together to set me up for financial success. By earning and not spending, paying of debt was an excellent output.

I have a varying level of control in each of these factors. For example: I choose not to have pets or  kids right now. These two factors  alone limit the number of unexpected expenses I have to deal with and made paying off debt that much easier. I was also extremely fortunate that I didn’t have to deal with any emergencies while paying off debt.

Now that I’m transitioning to getting in shape, I’ve realized that the same principles apply. To get where I need to go, I need to focus on the following inputs:

  • Meal plan healthy food options
  • Eat according to my caloric needs
  • Learn how to manage high caloric situations
  • Lift things up and put them down to build lean muscle mass
  • Hydrate
  • Go to bed early.

If I can manage these inputs, I will eventually lose weight.

Life wants you to focus on the outputs

Life wants you to focus on the outputs. I am guilty of it. I talk about how “I paid off $45,000 in 15 months” while I also want to lose 40lbs. I want to fit into a size 6 and have a massive net worth. These are all outputs.

These outputs don’t happen by themselves. These are all results of a series of inputs over a period of time. Without the proper inputs, the desired outputs are out of reach.

We’ve all heard people who want the output but don’t pay enough attention to their input. “I want to get out of debt but I won’t challenge my ‘fixed’ costs or earn more.”or “I want to lose weight but I don’t want to eat less or move more.”

We have little control over the outputs. 

When I was paying off debt, any number of things could have happened and sidelined my progress. Me or Hubs could have lost our jobs. Hubs could have come home with a puppy. I could have gotten pregnant. We could have dealt with any number of expensive emergencies. We could have dealt with an emotionally expensive emergency that disabled my ability to give a shit. If any of these things happened, it would have slowed down my ability (or desire) to pay down debt.

For my current quest, I want to lose 40 lbs. If I do everything I am supposed to do, I hope to lose about 1.5 lbs per week. However, even if that is my plan, my body gets to decides if it wants to do that. I don’t control the timeline. With the right inputs and time, my body should eventually comply with my requests. My body has ultimate control over the timeline.


A fun fact about me is that I grew up in a family of alcoholics. Thankfully, most of the them were recovering alcoholics, but alcoholics nonetheless. The big thing that kept them sober when they were sober was Alcoholics Anonymous or AA. A major part of AA is the Serenity Prayer. The first three lines of the Serenity Prayer are as follows:

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 11.01.58 PM

I wasn’t expecting to draw inspiration from a prayer that helped my family stay sober, but the truth of this prayer is true to debt and weight loss as well. None of us have the ability to directly change our debt. You may want to get out of debt, but without the right forces in place, it’s not going to change anything.

You have control over your income and your spending. You can’t control what happens between managing your money and lowering your debt. That machine in the middle between the inputs and the output is life and life is unpredictable. 

So, if you are managing your inputs, whether that’s increasing your income and lowering your expenses or managing your food intake and moving your body, you are on track.

Create a plan for your inputs.

Follow the plan.

Life may get in the way for a while and that’s okay. You can’t control that.

If you follow the plan, you’ll eventually get to the output you want.

I promise.

Success is in the Inputs.

8 thoughts on “Focus on What you Can Control: Success is in the Inputs

  1. Excellent post! So important to remember. I think that by looking at the series of inputs and circumstances, then you create a tremendous list of things to be grateful for. And gratitude is always good. Focus on the inputs and let go of worrying about the outputs. Well said. Great advice.

  2. Wonderful post! So many great points, but especially love the point that we don’t always get to decide the timeline. But that shouldn’t dissuade us from walking the path.

  3. Focus on what you can control! Absolutely! I have wasted so much time worrying about and trying to manage things that are completely beyond my control. It has taken me a long time to accept that I should only focus on things that I CAN change! What a great lesson and reminder. Thank you!

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