I was recently out to dinner with my parents. Let’s get this out of the way first: I love them dearly. It’s just that at times they drive me nuts. One of the things we talked about was making the switch from a brick phone to a smartphone. They’ve been contemplating this for more than a year now.
Yes, it’s 2017. They’re scared to death about it. As they are about most things that are new and unfamiliar to them.
The mere thought of taking action and doing something they haven’t done before conjures up images of their whole world going up in flames to the soundtrack of demonic laughter.
But that’s not what drives me nuts.
What drives me nuts is the moaning and complaining about what others should do and how bad things are.
Not what I’d call inspiring dinner conversation.
So I suckered myself into trying to make them see all the action they could take themselves to improve what they thought needed improvement.
Bad idea. Never go directly against someone’s beliefs.
In the span of our discussion I heard what seemed like a billion arguments about why they couldn’t take action themselves: too old, not educated enough, no time, no people around them 24/7 to answer every possible question they might have, no guarantee that it would work, not simple enough, not easy enough, it might not lead to exactly what they want, it costs money, there’s too much risk,… At some point it even sounded as if the whole world is populated by mobsters out to get them.
By the end of the conversation I was ready to blow a fuse. Of course it’s not always like that (thank god). We all just got a little carried away.
What I’m trying to get at is to make you aware of the mindset behind these arguments, a mindset that is very common in most people. A mindset that wreaks havoc on many people lives.
It’s called the scarcity mindset.
THE SCARCITY MINDSET
Don’t be alarmed if this resonates. We’ll get to the part about how to change this later in the article. In a scarcity mindset the basic assumption is that there is only so much of everything (money, recognition, success, business opportunities,…).
So to get your little piece of the pie you have to fight others for it and guard it with your life. This means that someone else’s gain is your loss and vice versa. In your view of the world there are winners and there are losers. Although you pretend otherwise, you are on the lookout for strategies to snatch your little piece of the pie and quickly run away with it to your secret hiding place.
The predominant questions you ask yourself in a given situation are “how can I benefit from this?”, “what’s in it for me?”,… If there is nothing for you to be gained from a certain situation, you deem it unworthy of your attention. And if your gain comes at the expense of others, you don’t really care. All that matters is that you get what you want.
At the same time you’re always suspicious of others because they’re out to take advantage of you. Ultimately, people just want to take what’s yours. Your time, your money, your knowledge, your idea, your clients,… So you default to distrust and mostly keep to yourself instead of reaching out and connecting with others, let alone collaborate with them.
When you’re in a scarcity based mindset, your focus is on the negative, on difficulties and limitations. If something takes effort or you don’t know immediately how to do something, you say it’s “impossible” or you have a ton of excuses ready why it won’t work for you. At the same time when you see others around you are doing well, you think it’s because of their supertalents, because they have the right connections or because they were lucky, not because of their hard work.
Because your focus is on the negative, you focus on the cost of something instead of its value. Because of this you are very reluctant to invest in yourself or your business. Investing to you is a necessary evil that feels like you’re giving your money, time, effort,… away for free and you’re not getting anything in return. So the few times you do invest you instantly expect a 500% return and need every penny accounted for.
A strong sense of entitlement is also very common in a scarcity mindset. While you have a tendency to declare something ‘impossible’ without investing any real effort on your part, you are quick to point out what others should be doing to make it happen because you feel entitled to it.
There’s also an emotional component to a scarcity mindset. In a scarcity mindset you will mainly experience emotions such as stress, worry, fear, suspicion, envy, jealousy, discouragement, feelings of intimidation,…
THE ABUNDANCE MINDSET
Luckily there’s also the abundance mindset, which is the exact opposite of the scarcity mindset.
If you live in an abundance based mindset, your basic assumption is that there is enough of everything to go around and you will gladly share what you have with others (money, knowledge, success, business opportunities,…).
Your focus is on the positive and you see possibilities and opportunities for everyone to get better. The most predominant questions you ask yourself are: “how can I contribute to this situation?”, “what can I do to make this a WIN-WIN situation?”, “how can I help others achieve their goal?”,…
In an abundance mindset you are prepared to give what you have without expecting anything in return. (If you do expect something in return, it’s basically just an elaborate form of scarcity based thinking). Because you don’t expect anything in return, people will feel you have their best interest at heart, they will trust you and they will give back. This will present you with new opportunities, more business coming your way, new and interesting people for you to meet… So while you’re not expecting anything in return, you get a lot more than you could have hoped for in return.
Of course, occasionally it happens that someone will just take what you give and run away with it, thinking he’s outsmarted you. But he hasn’t. Because you expected nothing in return and now you know this person probably can’t be trusted.
Instead of seeing someone as a competitor, you see him as a potential partner that you can collaborate with because you know there’s enough business for everyone. So you can work together and create something that is more than what you could have accomplished if you had worked on your own.
When you’re confronted with not knowing how to do something, you’ll gladly invest the time and effort to learn how to do it. You don’t worry about failing because you know that even if it doesn’t work out there is something you will have learned from the experience.
In an abundance mindset you mainly experience emotions like happiness and wellbeing, a sense of contribution and connection, inspiration, creativity, optimism, love, self-love,…
WHAT’S YOUR MINDSET AND WHERE WILL IT TAKE YOU?
So we have made the distinction between an scarcity and an abundance mindset.
Now let’s apply this to your own life. How do you usually approach a situation? Take some time to think it through and be honest with yourself. You might be shocked to find that in a lot of area’s in your life you are actually operating from a scarcity based mindset without even realising it.
- Not speaking up and sharing your ideas during a meeting because you’re afraid to look like an idiot
- Avoiding a difficult conversation with your partner because you want to keep the peace
- Not sharing information on a topic because you’re afraid to lose your ‘edge’
- Not giving someone credit for his accomplishments because you think it will cast a shadow on yours or taking the credit for someone else’s accomplishments
- Charging someone for every single thing you do while you expect others to basically work for free
- Blaming someone else for a mistake you’ve made instead of taking responsibility and offering to help solve the problem
Now let’s go deeper. Use pen and paper for this.
Take one specific situation from your life, personal or professional, that you know you’re ‘secretly’ approaching from a scarcity mindset.
Answer the following questions:
- What are the consequences for yourself and others of approaching this situation from a scarcity mindset?
- What will be the long term consequences for yourself and others if you keep approaching this situation from a scarcity mindset?
Now take the same specific situation and approach it from an abundance mindset:
- What could you do differently?
- What will be the consequences for both yourself and others?
- What will be the long term consequences for yourself and others if you keep adopting an abundance mindset?
Now compare the consequences of adopting a scarcity mindset versus the consequences of adopting an abundance mindset.
I’m guessing the difference will be vast.
HOW TO SHIFT FROM SCARCITY TO ABUNDANCE THINKING
As you probably figured out by now, it’s absolutely possible to go from a scarcity to an abundance mindset. And that it will have a dramatic impact on your life and the lives of those around you.
An abundance mindset is not something you either have or you don’t. It’s more like a skill that you have to practice. And keep practicing.
The most important part in developing an abundance mindset is awareness. At first you will have to monitor your mindset from situation to situation because you haven’t developed it into a habit yet.
You can ask others to help you and call you out when they notice you are approaching a situation from a scarcity based mindset.
As soon as you are aware that you are approaching a situation from a scarcity based mindset you have the opportunity to decide to change your mindset from scarcity to abundance.
This sounds easier than it is. You are going to feel resistance because you’ll have to get out of your comfort zone. Being abundant means that you will have to give without expecting anything in return. So it’s going to hurt a little. Fight your resistance and act.
Focus on the effects of your actions. You will start feeling better knowing that you’re contributing, you’ll start noticing a more positive response from those around you, etc.
Keep shifting your mindset from scarcity to abundance from situation to situation as much as you can. After a while you’ll start to notice a bigger shift in your mindset, you will start seeing new possibilities and opportunities, you’ll find it easier to connect with people. The more you do it, the easier it will become.
Eventually it will turn into a habit. Even then you will have to stay mindful of your mindset in order not to slip back into a scarcity mindset. The biggest trap you can set for yourself in any area is thinking that you’ve mastered something and then stop paying attention to it.
What results are you getting from shifting your mindset from scarcity to abundance? What are you doing differently because of it? Contribute to others and share your experiences in the comments!