“Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everyone else.” – Stephen Covey
When we think of the word ‘scarcity’, many of us will immediately think about money. On some level, this is understandable. After all, it is expensive to live, and many of us concern ourselves with stretching each dollar. However, scarcity comes in many other forms – time, relationships, health, intelligence, judgment, willpower, etc.
Having thoughts and feelings of scarcity automatically orients the mind towards unfulfilled wants and needs. Furthermore, scarcity often leads to lapses in self-control while draining the cognitive resources needed to maximize opportunity and display judgment. Willpower also is depleted, which makes one prone to feelings of giving up. People in this state attend to the urgent while neglecting important choices that will have a drastic effect on the future.
It’s very important to understand that a scarcity mindset is exactly that: a mindset. We can change our ways of thinking to an abundance mindset while opening up a new world of opportunity. But first, we need to be aware of the pits in order to avoid the fall.
So what are some signs of a scarcity mindset? Here are five important ones:
1. Believing that situations are permanent
Believing that life’s situations are fixed is perhaps the biggest pitfall of the scarcity mindset. We think “Well, that’s just the way it is” instead of changing our frame of mind and seeking out our own happiness. Thinking this way has a negative effect in many regards – it depletes our energy, harms our self-esteem, and makes life a burden in general.
Nothing is permanent. Again…nothing is permanent. This bad situation, whatever it is, will pass! Is the situation daunting or scary? Maybe…but it’s just that – a situation; a period of time. There are moments in our lives that will take our breath away and thank the Heavens that we’re alive. An abundant mentality thinks this way. An abundant mentality sees life as a dynamic and moldable; something that is ours to shape and make to our liking. Perhaps most importantly, an abundant mentality sees life as an adventure. A scary and uncertain adventure at times, but an adventure nonetheless.
2. Using thoughts and words of scarcity
What we tell ourselves ultimately becomes an extension of us, if left unchecked. It’s important to understand that negative thoughts and words alone cannot negatively affect us if we realize them for what they are – innate responses without merit. But when we start believing those negative thoughts or words, they can become an extension of our character.
To this end, it’s important to refrain from using words or thoughts of scarcity when possible. For example, “I’m not smart enough”, “I don’t have enough money”, “I can’t do this”, or “I’ll have to go without”. Instead, start using words of abundance: “I can handle this”, “I can always make more money”, “My mind is a powerful”, and “I’ll always have enough”.
Remember, it’s normal to have negative thoughts from time to time. It’s important to understand that thoughts and words are important only if they’re important to us. When negative thoughts arise, simply become an observer and refuse to engage with them. Most certainly, do not allow these thoughts to manifest into words that we tell ourselves or anyone else.
3. Being envious of others
Feeling envious towards others is a double-edge sword: it kills gratitude and stokes the fire of scarcity. Envy does absolutely nothing to better personal circumstances in any way.
Why do many of us feel envious, anyways? Someone has a nicer car, larger home or better-paying job? Who cares? These are all achievable things. But they’re only achievable if the mindset of scarcity is systematically replaced for that of abundance. Perhaps the sharper edge of that double-edged sword is the dissipation of gratitude – not appreciating the good things in our lives.
When we stop becoming envious and instead choose to focus on gratitude, we come to the realization that life, for the most part, has been pretty good to us. When it comes to bettering our circumstances, we can consciously choose to devote our time and energy towards doing so and not wasting it on envious thoughts and feelings.
4. Not being generous
When one lives with a scarcity mindset, they’re more apt to “skim off the top” with time, money, relationships, etc. These actions have unintended consequences and make it less likely to generate the positive effects that we seek in our own lives. Life has a strong tendency to reflect back on us, which is why our energy and actions are so important. If we believe in lack, by default, we believe in giving less of ourselves.
As with other scarcity beliefs, this too can be overcome. They can be overcome by making a conscious decision to give more of ourselves, not less. Understand that this does not necessarily mean money, although donating to a worthy cause such as a charity is certainly a noble action. It also means being generous by smiling, saying kind words, investing our time in people, and simply serving a greater good.
Oh yes, it is possible to overindulge with a scarcity mindset. When one thinks in terms of scarcity, they are most likely to overeat, overspend and, in general, become more gluttonous. This is because of another temptation: instant gratification. There are many examples of this, but let’s use one: overspending.
When we think of money as a scarce resource, there’s a tendency to use that resource for pleasure. But pleasure is not an antidote to scarcity. In fact, pleasure can reinforce the scarcity mindset that one already possesses. Let’s say that we’re having a tough day, feel down on ourselves, and need something positive. As we see it, we have a couple of choices: we could do something constructive like spend some time with the family (abundance)…or…we could put that new, cool gadget that we’ve wanted on our credit card (scarcity).
Notice that the abundant choice has absolutely nothing to do with money. We’re focusing our time on what matters the most and not succumbing to some temporary pleasure that, while good for a time, does nothing more than add to the notion that we simply don’t have enough.
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Let us choose wisely. Let us give gratitude and think selflessly. Let us have an abundant mindset.