When you hear these two words, what thoughts do they invoke? If I were to ask you what you thought your “base wiring” towards them would be, how might you respond? Are you more “glass half empty or a “glass half full” oriented? How do you think that came about? Were you born that way or were you conditioned that way? (I recently heard someone call that “culturalized that way”). Do you think that you are trapped in that way of thinking or do you believe that you can change it? What would it take for you to change that?
I found abundance defined as: “an extremely plentiful or oversufficient quantity or supply: an overflowing fullness; affluence; wealth” and scarcity defined as: “insufficiency or shortness of supply; dearth; rarity; infrequency”.
Well known author Stephen Covey is quoted to say: “People with a scarcity mentality tend to see everything in terms of win-lose. There is only so much; and if someone else has it, that means there will be less for me. The more principle-centered we become, the more we develop an abundance mentality, the more we are genuinely happy for the successes, well-being, achievements, recognition, and good fortune of other people. We believe their success adds to…rather than detracts from…our lives.”
He also uses the pie analogy, whereby the former only sees one pie of a finite dimension and generally approaches life from the perspective of if one has more, then there must be less left for the others. In the latter, in the abundance mentality the approach is rather one of there being plenty of pie to go around and that we can always “grow the pie”.
Big difference, isn’t it? The two are poles apart.
For me these two terms constitute so many different opposites.
Abundance is akin to having trust, whereas scarcity thinking rather sees fear.
In the constraints of scarcity, thinking creativity is stifled because it concerns itself more with worry and is more prone to see threats or obstacles. In abundance thinking our creativity can run its course, with enthusiasm and it more often sees opportunity rather than threat.
Being up or down
I have found that when I have allowed myself to be “down”, I can be prone to become more scarcity oriented in my thinking. Understandable, given that this is all about our outlook, isn’t it? It is much easier to be more expansive or abundant or creative in our thinking when we are “up”.
My wife and I have become quite good at playing taking the opposite position in situations we need to deal with. If I’m “down”, she’ll take the “up” and vice versa. It is important we aren’t both “down” or things can become quite morbid. It’s just as important that we aren’t both overly “up” so we don’t get ahead of ourselves.
So if you find yourself overly afflicted by scarcity thinking in certain challenging situations, why not practice Using “the Gap” to reframe yourself and try to reframe your thinking about that situation? If you were to consider Gratitude instead, wouldn’t that potentially help you see the more positive aspects you want, rather than all the negative?
I’m sure we have all worked for someone afflicted by a strong scarcity attitude, right? Frustrating, isn’t it, if everything seems to be constrained and subject to excessive controls? Aren’t these type of leaders also often quite negative in their outlook? I have found they are certainly not very good delegators and struggle with “letting go”. You probably wouldn’t call that experience as being part of a “learning organization”?
If you are in a leadership position I sincerely hope that you are well able to be more expansive in your thinking and to give your people opportunities to learn and grow and act independently of you? Abundance thinking can be inspiring. It gives people hope and motivates them that they are more likely to pursue something they believe in. If one of the tenets of leadership is to drive business growth, then please be sure that there is a good supply of abundant thinking.
Of course in business we sometimes need to temper overly enthusiastic or emotional approaches with due diligence and exercise the necessary governance and caution. Scarcity thinking as an opposite to overly abundant thinking can be quite useful, like I wrote in Planning in scenarios.
I have learned that this thinking forms a significant part of our attitude – our outlook on life. Remembering that if nothing has meaning other than the meaning we give it, then it is the unconsciously held drivers that colour the meaning we will give to what we perceive around us. And so every person will give things a different meaning, based on their own “map of their world”. And some will have a more scarcity and others a more abundance view of this world.
I love hearing people here in Australia suggesting that you are either “born into a Ford or a Holden family” and so the conditioning starts. As kids we simply accept what our role models influence us to think or believe. Isn’t it remarkable how as adults we can still catch ourselves deeply influenced by such conditioning, when challenged on our buying strategy towards one or the other?
One of my clients is currently going through a very substantial cost cutting exercise in order to respond to short term market necessities. All staff in the organization is obliged to support this drive and some are severely challenged by it. Of course that brings with it a risk of “oh woe is me” constraint thinking that can have severe short term motivation consequences. If it results in a redundancy, it can certainly invoke scarcity thinking through that situation.
I remember struggling with this in my early corporate career with a global organization, where over many decades we experienced numerous “ups and downs” mainly from competitor and economic pressures. Until I recognized certain patterns that prevailed, which I called the “corporate political pendulum” where for instance the Procurement function would be decentralized only within about a decade for it all to be centralized again. And a decade later? You guessed it the pendulum swung the other way again.
For me this recognition helped me better understand the inevitability of certain situations and taught me to control my short term “angst”. I understood that this had nothing to do with constraints thinking but that it was simply a political reality. I learned that I could nonetheless still maintain my abundance attitude thinking, despite some of these short term constraints.
How does one go about the transition from scarcity to abundance thinking?
In my impending book “Life Learnings of a Life Coach” I have a chapter called “There but for me, go I” in which we discuss the recognition of and becoming aware of (unconsciously held) personal obstacles that are holding us back from being the best “we” that we can be. Once they are in our conscious awareness we can set about doing what it takes to let them go and replace them. We learn there that if these obstacles are largely “made in the head”, and then their replacements can also be “made in the head”. This is what coaches do to help us “move on”.
Coaches usually pick these up by recognizing limiting language or behaviour or approaches to certain challenges. By “calling” the person and making them aware of the possibility of their language indicating the presence of such thinking, we awaken their awareness of what is happening “behind the scenes”. We held develop an understanding of the impact of that conditioning and teach them Letting Go.
And so it is with converting scarcity thinking into abundance thinking. Given the views we each hold on them is part of our attitude that has been painstakingly built up over decades of conditioning and life, we will obviously need some time and some effort to do so, right? Is it a worthwhile effort do you think? Can you see the value in doing so? Because only if you do, will you do what it will take to achieve and will there be any point in embarking on the orchestration of this change.
If you find through this conversation that your outlook is actually more prone towards scarcity than abundance in your thinking, what might you do in this coming week to see where your thinking “is going the wrong way” and arrest that form of constraint on you? What if you engaged in a conversation about it with someone you trust and asked them to help you recognize language or behaviour indicative of such thinking?
What if over a few weeks you noticed that more often and started the transition from one to the other? How might that impact your outlook and how might that impact your life?
And if you are acknowledged to be more abundance oriented, could you perhaps assist others around you that struggle with that to see the merits?
What if you could?