Clemetin pays his rent every month. That may not sound like a feat to you, but for Clemetin, it’s a big deal.
Who is Clemetin?
My friend Clemetin spent more than half of his life in prison. He’s done 27 years of “hard time” in some of the nastiest maximum security prisons of New York State (think Attica).
If you’ve spent most of your life in a cell under the watchful eyes of prison guards, you probably haven’t learned many of the basic life skills you’ll need when you get out.
When you’re in prison, you don’t learn how to manage money. You don’t learn how to set up a bank account. And you don’t learn how to pay bills. And that’s just the beginning of a long list of life skills you don’t learn.
If you had spent decades in prison, you probably don’t know how to cook chicken soup, or navigate the subway system or drive a car. And you don’t know how to use a computer or a cell phone. Add to that the fact that you can’t get a job and don’t have a place to live and you have a recipe for failure.
The deck is stacked high against people who have spent long periods of time in prison, and more than 40 percent of them are back in prison in less than three years. But it’s been nearly five years and Clemetin is still out and paying his rent!
For more than a year after he was released, Clemetin lived in shelters and on park benches. But eventually, with the help of Volunteers of America, he got an apartment he could afford on his monthly SSI checks. Though it’s small, it’s got 5 windows — and that’s heaven for Clemetin.
But, like most of us, every month he has to pay the rent.
Recognizing the Problem
At first, Clemetin was flummoxed.
He had no bank account and no check book and he couldn’t pay his rent in cash. And cashiers checks cost money — about $10. Waiting in line at the bank made him very anxious and he’d get rattled when the uniformed bank tellers asked him what he wanted.
So for a couple of months he just didn’t pay his rent, almost losing the most important bit of stability he had — the roof over his head.
But then, Clemetin figured out a simple, three-part system that works.
Creating a System of Accountability
About the middle of every month, once all of the money on his benefit card is gone, he gives me his card to hold for him. Then, on the first of the next month, he comes to get his card and I walk with him to the bank. He gets money from the ATM and gives me cash for his rent.
Then, I, having no fear of bank tellers and a bank account that gets me free cashier’s checks, stand in line with him and get a cashier’s check that he then uses to pay his rent.
Since he came up with that plan, he hasn’t missed a rent payment. Not even once!
3 Steps to Self-Discipline
Clemetin’s method accomplishes three things that can work for you too.
- Remove temptation. He separates himself from immediate impulse by leaving the card with me.
- Create a regular pattern. He sets up a regular pattern. If he doesn’t show up on the first of the month, he knows that I’ll wonder where he is and call him to find out.
- Get outside help. He gets help doing the things he just can’t bring himself to do — standing in line at the bank and dealing with the uniformed bank tellers.
Here’s how Clemetin’s method works for dealing with my very favorite sin-food, chocolate chip cookies.
- I’ll put them in the freezer so they are rock solid when I’m tempted by the idea of a soft chewy chocolate chip cookie.
- I’ll decide on a time and place that I can eat a pre-determined number of them.
- I’ll work with a personal trainer so my motivation to get stronger has a better chance of overcoming my appetite for cookies.
Use Clemetin’s 3-Step Method in Your Life
Are you having trouble getting yourself to do something you know is important? If so, try Clemetin’s method. Create a barrier to immediate temptation. Set a regular time and pattern for the action. And then get someone to be your accountability partner.
You’ll find that this simple system truly works.
What important thing do you have trouble getting done and what are the ways you’ve tried to help you be more disciplined about it?
Share your story in the comments.