There are two types of people in this world: the scarcity type and the plenty type. If you are one of those who are constantly worried that there will not be enough of anything; enough money, enough time, enough food, enough of … well, you fill in the blank, then you belong to the first category, the scarcity type. If you are one of those who think that if there are not enough slices of pie for everyone, then the best thing to do is to make your own pie, then you belong to the second category, the plenty type.
Having a scarcity mindset is pervasive and is literally eating away your energy and mental capacity. In the world of science and psychology, this is called tunneling. We have very limited cognitive space and bandwidth. When you focus heavily on one thing, there is just less mind to devote to other things and as you devote more and more time dealing with scarcity you have less and less for other things in life.
In the world of economics and psychology, having too little means so much
The starting point is to acknowledge the fact that resources are scarce and limited. How much something costs depends on how scarce it is in relation to another resource, and the price will be driven by supply and demand. Sellers will charge you more for a product if they can convince you that this product is scarce or available only for a short period of time. It always baffled me to see how travel tickets and hotel rooms hyper-inflate around Christmas time, Easter, and summer vacation. I understand the concept that a lot of people would want to travel around those vacation times to meet up with family and friends, but I found it reprehensible to see how the service providers are taking advantage of this surge of demand, but I digress.
In the book “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much” economist Sendhil Mullainathan and psychologist Eldar Shafer discuss the effects of scarcity mindset on our ability to think clearly and make informed decisions.
“Scarcity captures the mind… when we experience scarcity of any kind, we become absorbed by it. The mind orients automatically, powerfully towards unfulfilled needs. Scarcity is more than just the displeasure of having very little. It changes how we think. It imposes itself on our minds.”
Scarcity has a good, a bad, and a very ugly side. The good side of scarcity shows its lovely face when you have a limited amount of time to complete a task due to a pressing deadline, this can help you be hyper-focus on the task at hand. The bad side of scarcity shows it preoccupied face when all your energy is wasted away on the feeling of lack, leaving little mental capacity to focus on more important matters. The ugly side of scarcity shows its ugly face when you are creating your own self-fulfilling prophecy of doom and gloom because you are unable to make good decisions based on your unhealthy obsession with scarcity.
In the world of self-help and self-development, having a plenty mindset is the way to go
An abundant mindset refers to the paradigm that there is plenty out there for everybody. People with a plenty mindset see opportunities everywhere instead of limitations. If you have the choice of hanging out with someone who sees the glass half-full or half-empty, for sure you will decide to spend time with the person who is positive, vibrant, who sees life as half-full, and who is feeling grateful for the things that they have.
People with a scarcity mindset believe that if one person wins, another must lose. It is very black & white. It is natural of course to want to be winners and not losers. The good news is that there is something in between losing or winning, it is called win-win scenarios where both parties get something from the transaction. So, instead of staying stuck in the paradigm win-lose all the time, try to create win-win scenarios.
Opportunities are everywhere but some people are blind to them because they have tunnel vision which triggers them to focus too much on one particular aspect of the issue. If you have a propensity to do that, you will not notice other possibilities that are right in front of you. If you keep repeating to yourself that you can’t do something and if impossible is part of your daily vocabulary, your brain will absolutely believe it. What you believe is what you receive.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right” Henry Ford
It is possible to switch from a scarcity mindset to a plenty mindset by following the following tips [This list is non-exhaustive, feel free to add your own suggestions in the comment box]
1. Hang out with the right type of people, i.e., people who see the glass half full.
2. Be grateful for what you have and don’t wallow in self-pity if you want a piece of the pie and there are no more slices, go and make your own pie.
3. Create win-win scenarios in your professional and personal life.
4. Train your mind to recognize the possibilities that are all around you.
Given the choice would you rather be a farmer or a nomad?
Before you decide to switch off on me and quit reading the rest of this article, there is a point to this question. Your answer will indicate whether you have a scarcity mindset or a plenty mindset. In the early days of civilization, you had two groups of people: the farmers and the nomads.
Young farmers were taught to use resources intelligently in order to create plenty of food. Young nomads were taught to take from a world of limited resources. The nomadic existence was based on a plunder model, placed on top of a clan model. The farmers’ model was based on creativity and collaboration.
The nomads lived in a very rigid structure. At the base was the family clan, in these small groups, there was a great deal of sharing and cooperative decisions making, but the important and final decisions would have been made by the senior, dominant, patriarchal male who had an enormous amount of clout on the rest of the clan. Clans tended to constantly compare themselves to other clans and opposed any change of status between them. The rigidity of these structures led to rivalry, conflicts, and hatred between clans that sometimes endured for centuries.
The farming society operated as a decentralized structure. These farming groups kept alive an old tradition to gather in much larger groups for a few weeks every year. At these gatherings, ceremonies would be conducted, and festivals held, to make marriage arrangements and trade goods. The farmers became prosperous, food was plenty, goods could be accumulated, large communities could be formed, specialist activity could be developed, and innovation could take place. Music appeared, written language, basic mathematics, and sciences developed. The creative capability of men and women could be exchanged within the various groups and they could inspire and teach each other.
The farmers were living happily and peacefully on their land, growing their crops, exchanging resources and ideas with their neighbors, and using their creativity to fill their days with arts, music, and newly acquired knowledge and connections. At some point, the nomads who were roaming around the country bumped into those farmers' communities. They became jealous of the farmers’ prosperity and their wealth, which made them look like second-rate. So, they mounted numerous looting missions on those farmers. These attacks drove some of the farmers away, pushing them to pack their belongings and leave to find a more peaceful area to settle and start all over again.
The nomads realized that instead of looting the farmers and driving them away, they could instead steal a limited amount from the farmers, so as not to drive them away. Those nomadic groups sustained plunder at a level that was low enough for the productive farmers to accept their rulership and “protection” from other thugs. For the farmers, giving a fifth of his crops to a thug was less bad than facing death or going back to a traveling gardener lifestyle. This way the nomads could work the same ground for life, and this is how the first rulers were born – out of plundering!
The moral of the story: Having a scarcity mindset eats away your energy and mental capacity. Switch towards a plenty mindset. If there are not enough slices of the pie, make your own pie. And if you think that it is easier to steal from the baker instead of making your own, accept the fact that that will make you a thug.
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