William Liao

July 19, 2021

Problem debt

You have problem debt anytime you have an unsolved problem that could be solved now. 

And like debt, problems left unsolved over a period of time begin to incur interest in the form of necessary fixed costs, unmet goals, and headaches. 

The bigger the problem, the greater the interest. 

So why, then, would anybody sabotage themselves and take on problem debt? 

Because taking on debt, ironically, provides its own form of temporary relief now.

You get to deal with it later. 

And because you only ever have to pay the debt in the future — either in a lump sum or in small, virtually unnoticeable increments — the prospect of ignoring the problem all the more enticing. 

In fact, choosing whether or not to take on problem debt is a constant battle between your present self who seeks quick albeit temporary relief from the problem, and your future self who seeks the kind of relief that can only become possible when problems are truly solved.*

Don’t let your present self fall into the trap of accruing interest charges on delayed problems. 

Given enough time, the relief from solving a problem will almost always outweigh the temporary relief you get from ignoring it. 

Remember this and solve the problems you can now. 

Your future self will thank you. And perhaps your present self can feel good about it. 


*There’s a lot of good research on reconciling the competing motives between future and present selves: https://www.halhershfield.com/research-blog/tag/Considering+The+Future+Self