Even before Stephen Covey wrote about the scarcity and abundance mindsets in 1989, life was giving me a crash course. I moved to Morocco in 1984. Being a young naïve Californian, I was blissfully unaware of the reality of life for those less privileged, whether in other parts of the world or the U.S. Understanding poverty in theory wasn’t much preparation for seeing it up close and personal. It was shocking to see vast numbers of people living below subsistence level and many more just at the line. The scarcity mindset was visibly at work in Morocco, superimposed on a culture that is otherwise the epitome of generosity and graciousness. Particularly when it came to opportunities to get ahead, people behaved as if there wasn’t enough to go around. There were no win-wins, only win-losses. Case in point—I tried to help a friend get a visa to send his brother to the U.S. to study. We were repeatedly stymied by low-level bureaucrats, first in the Moroccan passport office, then in the U.S. Embassy…who evidently believed that this man’s ticket out would otherwise be their own. It didn’t matter that all of the requirements were satisfied, we were never able to get the visa. The jealousy and envy surprised me…but the people involved believed there weren’t enough opportunities to go around.
Scarcity mindset is marked by feelings of fear and envy. Conversely, abundance mindset is synonymous with feelings of personal worth and security. An abundance mindset stems from a paradigm that there is enough for everyone, therefore enough to share.
My most memorable experience with abundance came at a time in my life when I had very little money. We left New York City and sailed off into the sunset on our small sailboat, leaving behind my financially secure job. We had no more than one month’s salary in the bank, though we had no bills (this was before cell phones became ubiquitous). And we had so much else—sunshine, clear water filled with tropical fish and coral, gentle breezes, new friends, time to enjoy reading a book, exploring a new anchorage or watching a sunset. These were the best weeks and months of my life, and they were achieved living on a shoestring. It was easy to compare favorably the simple joys of my new life with the more expensive but less satisfying habits of my past.
Fake it ‘til you make it
Moments of abundance are one thing. Choosing to leave a scarcity mindset behind and live in abundance is a process. The first step to changing our mindset is realizing that we have one! If you discover, like I did, the roots of scarcity in your outlook, change is possible.
Living in scarcity sucks—we’re victims, fearful of life, jealous of others. If our lives look like that, there’s little risk in choosing an alternative! Let’s pretend all we want and need is abundant—that we can choose our actions and affect our outcomes. Then take the following actions:
Keep a gratitude journal—you’ve heard this advice repeatedly. The data shows that people who are grateful are happier. Jot down at least three things for which you are grateful each day…and strive to name new things each day. This helps move our focus from what we don’t have in our lives to what we do have--abundance.
Give to others—when we feel we don’t have enough, giving time, attention, money or possessions to others is difficult, but freeing. Supporting others results in almost immediate good feelings about ourselves. It also shows us that we do have enough—we can give something away yet still have enough for ourselves. This feeling is a key to living abundantly.
Celebrate your uniqueness—get to know yourself better. Embrace the ways you’re different, the characteristics that make you You. Pay attention to the factors in life that bring you joy and learn to ignore the noise—what others do, want and have. Knowing what truly moves the happiness needle in your life allows you to make better decisions and feel the abundance around you.
Edit the inputs—media and social media encourage us to compare ourselves to others, often in superficial ways. It can be hard to screen out (pun intended) what marketers want us to buy and friends already have to make our own choices, true to our unique selves. Cut back and be selective with these inputs. Give yourself space to consider what you want and need, regardless of the pack.
Practicing the steps to abundance will change your mindset. Recognizing the abundance we have is the key to designing the lives we want. Getting our financial houses in order becomes an organic part of the design. If you would like to talk over your unique life design with a financial professional, give me a call at (336) 701-2612.
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