A few days ago, I was going on my semi-annual purge and getting rid of some stuff. I was sifting through the piles of paperwork on my desk. Check stubs, tax forms, I9s, and there it was…a check.

A check that I wrote to myself three years ago, when I was struggling to get by financially and emotionally.

The check, from me and made out to me, was for $50,000 and represented the salary I wanted to make. During that time, I was making $12 per hour in a seasonal job and had recently hit my lowest point — succumbing to food stamps to help me get by.


The check in question + my old food stamp card. Oregon's food stamp card is literally called the Oregon Trail card.

The check in question + my old food stamp card. Oregon’s food stamp card is literally called the Oregon Trail card.

At the time I felt stuck. Stuck in someone else’s life. This wasn’t me. I was never “supposed” to be on food stamps with a master’s degree from NYU. I wasn’t supposed to be in a low-paying temp job.

But there I was, stuck in this situation. I was really depressed because I felt I wasn’t myself. I felt I lost my potential and that I had wasted my (very expensive) education. My mind would run in circles and every day, on schedule, I’d break out in tears for a new reason.

It wasn’t a pretty time. I found low-cost therapy so that I could chat with someone about my feelings. It helped a little, but I still felt stuck.

I remember calling my mom one day — one of the many teary phone calls over a period of two years — and she encouraged me to think of the future and stay hopeful. She said, “Write yourself a check of what salary you want to be making.”

Reluctantly, I did. I made it out for $50,000 and kept it in my desk for safe keeping. Over the next couple of years, I’d look at it and think about just how far I was from that goal. Even when I had my full-time job, I was only making around $30,000.

When I wrote that check $50,000 felt like a million bucks to me. It felt so far out of reach. I thought it was a reasonable salary and one that I should strive for.

Just last week when I was cleaning my desk, I saw that check and I started to cry. Holy shit. It took me a little more than three years, but I did it. I am making $50,000 (if not more). I cried because I never thought this day would come.

My mom, one of my great supporters, always told me to not lose hope and keep up with the positive thinking. If you’ve ever been in a rut, or in a deep depression, you know just how hard this is. It feels like you are swimming upstream and drowning. Sinking. But you keep working harder, but it’s freaking exhausting.

I’ll be honest. For a long time I thought this positive thinking stuff was bullshit. I thought that you couldn’t possibly change your life or your world from positive thinking. Things were good or bad and that’s it.

I was very narrow-minded and stubborn. Cynical. I didn’t believe in this new-agey nonsense. But even though I didn’t believe it at the time, it was my life-preserver. I needed something to believe in — a little bit of hope. So even though I thought it was lame and weird, I started to think positively. I wrote that check to myself and tried to see the best in situations and not the worst.

Now, I see that check and feel like that positive thinking manifested itself into reality. I think the problem is we often think that positive thinking will have immediate results — but as I’m seeing, it can take years. It’s about resetting your mental energy and attracting good things in your life.

So if you’re struggling right now and feeling like nothing good is happening — like it’s all worthless and pointless, don’t lose hope. Know that you are worth more. Good times are ahead. Your effort to change will create something positive, eventually (even if it’s years away). And remember, being in a bad situation doesn’t mean you are a bad person. Keep on swimming.


Melanie is a freelance writer currently living in Portland, Oregon. She is passionate about education, financial literacy, and empowering people to take control of their finances. She writes about breaking up with debt, freelancing, and side hustle adventures at DearDebt.com.

Currently she puts more than 50% of her income towards debt, while living a frugal, fun life. In addition to her love of personal finance, art and music, she is also a karaoke master. Follow the adventure @DearDebtBlog.

Latest posts by Melanie (see all)

46 responses to “The Power of Positive Thinking”

  1. Kirsten says:

    Now I have Dory, from “Finding Nemo” stuck in my head with her keep swimming song!!!

    But I’m also going to march downstairs and write myself a check. Gonna tape it to my laptop so I see it every day and I’m going to go ahead and thank God for that money!
    Kirsten recently posted…Why I Left My Job with $280,000 in DebtMy Profile

  2. J says:

    Such an inspiring post, Melanie! I’m sure there are people who are going through difficult times who will feel a lot better after they read this. I counted, it took me about 5 years to get out of my dark days. A few years, but I got out! That’s the most important thing, isn’t it? 🙂 Thanks for sharing this.
    J recently posted…5 Stages After Saying No To Impulse BuyingMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Yeah, unfortunately these things don’t happen overnight. They can feel like an eternity when you are in it. But you got out and that IS what is important.

  3. Staying positive and support is key to getting through any tough time. I am just glad you were able to get through it and grow from. Also, I thought I was the only one who wrote a check for a financial goal. I keep mine in my wallet and wrote it for $1,000,000 dated 2024. I think it is doable!
    Sylvia @Professional Girl on the Go recently posted…My pledge to myself – I will not quit anymoreMy Profile

  4. Wow, what an inspiring story, Melanie. The power of positive thinking truly is extraordinary. Cheers, friend!
    Kate @ Cashville Skyline recently posted…How Much Do We Really Owe Our Employers?My Profile

  5. Melissa says:

    Wow, this is a powerful post, Melanie. I too have a master’s degree but feel like I am wasting that expensive education, and it really sucks sometimes. It feels like an existential crisis, because you’re taught good college = good paying job = good life, but what if it doesn’t work out that way? I’m so happy you made it – it seems like positive thinking really does work!
    Melissa recently posted…More Free Photo Sites for Bloggers & CreativesMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      It does suck because we were fed this false equation of how the world works. But sometimes you have to carve a different path. I’m so glad I did.

  6. That’s awesome! You should have written a bigger check. lol! I had something similar happen when I wrote out on some random piece of paper some things I wanted, like a gym membership. I stumbled upon it and thought it was funny because I has actually achieved some of those things like the gym membership (which I barter and do not pay for). Hey, it can’t hurt, right?

    • Melanie says:

      That’s what I’m doing next! This time I’m really going to dream BIG. Hey positive thinking doesn’t hurt anyone and that’s so cool about the gym membership.

  7. Michelle says:

    I am feeling a little teary eyed reading this! Jim Carey once wrote himself a check for 10,000,000 (seriously) before he ever became famous. It was at a time when he was really struggling. Well, we know the rest of that story. This is why I love vision boards!!! You have to put intentions out there into the Universe.
    Michelle recently posted…Girl Gone Frugal Episode 6: Mrs. Frugalwoods from Frugalwoods!My Profile

  8. Michelle says:

    Love this! Very inspiring and such a great idea. Thinking positively is always important!
    Michelle recently posted…Are You Interested In Traveling The World And Working At The Same Time?My Profile

  9. Chonce says:

    I love this post Melanie and I appreciate the encouragement! This is why I’m a huge supporter or visualizing and manifesting your goals for the future and always having a positive outlook. It may take a while, but it pays off.
    Chonce recently posted…Back to School Shopping Tips from a Former Student and Newer MomMy Profile

  10. Once again, your past looks like my present – which inspires and reassures me that if this trend continues my future is looking damn good!!
    Amanda @ My Life, I Guess recently posted…It Wasn’t Easy, But I Did It (My Way) – Becoming Debt FreeMy Profile

  11. OK, so that one made my eyes all misty. If you don’t mind, I’ll steal your idea and write a cheque of my own : )
    Prudence Debtfree recently posted…Our (Sobered) Renovation PlanMy Profile

  12. I absolutely loved reading this. Congratulations on accomplishing such a huge goal! I went through a very similar time in my life and I am finally getting out of that slump. You`re so lucky to have someone as supportive as your mom.

    Thank you for sharing!
    Alyssa @ Mixed Up Money recently posted…How To Save Money Without People Thinking You’re CheapMy Profile

  13. That’s amazing, congrats! When my depression was particularly bad, my therapist urged me to change how I phrased things. I thought it was idiotic, but it worked.

    I hadn’t been allowing for my disability, so I’d say I was too lazy to go somewhere. Really, I was too fatigued. She made me start saying the latter, and within two weeks I was better respecting my energy limits and felt less critical of myself.

    I always thought of myself as someone who didn’t buy into that new-agey crap too. But it can work.

    And really, how much different is it to write yourself a check than to set a payoff goal for your debt? It’s all about how things are framed.

    I’m glad you’ve made it to your goal. I’m sure it’s really helped with repayment.
    Abigail @ipickuppennies recently posted…A bit of housekeepingMy Profile

  14. I’m a little behind on my blog reading this week, but I just had to chime in on this amazing post. Wow! Wow! Wow! Melanie, this is amazing. I am floored by the message you are sharing in this post and I’m so excited about the progress you’ve made. Thank you so much for sharing this story!
    Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore recently posted…Online Income: $2,502 in July 2015My Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Thank you for the love! I now see it was all part of the journey. Those lows make these highs even sweeter. I am grateful. I feel stronger. I will continue to persevere, through good and bad, and believe in myself, always.

  15. SO, SO proud of you and happy for you, my friend!!! Although not at all surprised that you did it. 🙂 Ironically, the power of positive thinking is found in many different religions and ways of thinking. The mind truly is a powerful entity. HUGE congrats to you, Melanie!
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…The Four Tenets of Physical Self SufficiencyMy Profile

  16. I love it! This is awesome, Melanie! I also believe that you can will things into happening; it’s all about putting the positive energy out there, then putting in the work.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted…Why I’m Retiring at an All-Inclusive ResortMy Profile

  17. I love this post, Melanie!

    I am so very proud of how far you have come, it’s been two years since I found your blog and it’s been inspiring to follow your journey, although I may not have been around much for the last 12 months.

    Here’s to positive thinking and to many more checks of even greater value! 🙂
    Eva @ Girl Counting Pennies recently posted…Life After DebtMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Yesss! Things have changed SO much in the past two years and you were right there at my lowest point. So glad you are back. I did write myself a larger check, too. 🙂

  18. Kat says:

    I just randomly stumbled across your blog, and am so glad I did! As a fellow freelancer writer who’s also saddled with those pesky student loans, I feel like I can totally relate to you.

    I absolutely love this post, and congrats on how far you’ve come in a short period of time! I’ve gone through my fair share of financial struggles, and I feel like it really helps you to feel grateful for the good times — even though I feel like finances will always be a point of stress for me!

    Kat 🙂
    Kat recently posted…Finding Your Blog’s FocusMy Profile

  19. Tre says:

    This is such a great story to share. When you are down, it’s hard to imagine that things will ever get better.
    Tre recently posted…Odd (but Legal) Ways Women Side HustleMy Profile

  20. I think this is amazing. 🙂 You’ve come such a long way and you’re such a hard worker. 🙂

  21. Chella says:

    I must say that I am so inspired after reading this piece. I am so encouraged. The fact that you made it through your predicaments and you have come this far. I think this story should be shared to lots of people out there who have lost hope in life. from now on i endeavor to be optimistic at all times despite the prevailing conditions. thank you so much!
    Chella recently posted…Planning for money and Wealth InheritanceMy Profile

  22. Hello!!Nice blog..The power of positive thinking is a very big help to achieve your goal in life..

  23. Wow! This is so similar to the Jim Carey story.
    A few months back, inspired after reading Think and Grow Rich, I wrote a manifesto to myself and 2 cheques in my name – one 5 years down the line and one 25 years down the line. I have made a start towards them but as of now they are still audaciously high numbers. However, I have little over 4 years to get there 🙂
    Aparna @ Elementum Money recently posted…Top 5 Spend Tracker AppsMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge