Scarcity comes in many forms: money, resources, time, energy, friends. We all worry about it from time to time.
But if the missing pieces of our lives weigh very heavily on our minds for an extended period, they start to wield an inordinate influence over our lives.
What's the opposite of scarcity? Abundance. So a change in focus is a great place to start.
The key to avoiding scarcity-based thinking isn't exactly easy to implement if you've already gone a-ways down that path. If you've formed certain habits of thought, it takes some time and effort to rewire your brain. But it can be done.
This obviously isn't a magical way to get what you want, to provide you with whatever you need. It's about changing the way you think, which can help you see options and possibilities that may have always been there.
The Problem With Scarcity-Based Thinking
An obsession with scarcity, or even a habitual pattern of thinking, can be damaging to your mental and physical health.
Scarcity-based thinking can manifest in anyone, rich or poor. It seems obvious that people without enough money will obsess over having more, but people with enough money often end up thinking the same way about time.
In the book “Scarcity,” the authors argue that feelings of scarcity affect everyone in similar ways. When you feel pressured by limited resources, you tend to focus more on short-term goals. This can be good for solving your immediate problem, but it doesn't really help you get out of your bigger situation – the one that got you in that short-term mindset in the first place.
This is the trap of scarcity-based thinking: once you're in it, it gets harder and harder to get out of it. While you're busy focusing on that looming, in-your-face problem, important other aspects of your life get ignored, often the parts make life feel worth living.
If you don't have much money but need to get your car repaired, you may neglect some bills to pay for it. This can hurt your credit, which will make loans more expensive in the future – costing you money in the long run.
Similarly, if you don't have much time, you may neglect getting your car repaired so you can keep making your appointments. But the problem could get serious while you're on the highway, or way out in the middle of nowhere – costing you even more time in the long run.
Scarcity-based thinking makes us focus on what's right in front of us, desperately looking for trade-offs and sacrifices to get one step ahead. So what can you do to get out of the trap?
A Change of Focus: Abundance-Based Thinking
Scarcity is focused on the necessary, the urgent. So negate that.
Here is the golden rule for re-orienting scarcity-based thinking into abundance-based thinking: remember that there is a difference between the urgent and the important. Take care of the urgent, but never forget about the important.
Remember what's important to you, and to the human race as a whole. You're part of it, so you have a stake in our overall scarcity, or abundance, of resources.
Take inspiration from some of the most innovative entrepreneurs, thinkers, and cultural shakers of today. Learn about people who are solving huge, worldwide problems, on platforms like HeroX and the XPrize. These innovators don't let the word “impossible” stop them from changing the world.
Abundance-based thinking is about focusing on possibilities, rather than limitations. It's about seeing what works, rather than keeping busy with what doesn't work. What are your limiting beliefs? Why do you keep reinforcing them?
If you find yourself stuck in scarcity-based thinking, it's important to break the chain of headlong rushing from one thing to the next. Take the time to do exactly what you feel you shouldn't do: have a short period of unplanned time every day or two, when you won't worry about what you're missing.
Forget about it for a little while, maybe 30 minutes or so, and then you can go back to worrying afterward. But make those 30 minutes count.
Recognize that scarcity-based thinking, and the suffering that comes with it, happens to everyone sometimes. Be compassionate when you see it affecting other people, and it will be easier to deal with it in yourself.
Do you get stuck in this loop, moving as fast as you can without seeming to make progress? Let us know how you get out of it. The problem of scarcity can seem massive at times, but the future promises abundance!