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There will always be more: overcoming Scarcity Mindset

Elissa Burdick - Mental Health Coach at Headspace. Master’s degree from Naropa University. Focused on bringing mindfulness to relationships with others and with yourself.

New beginnings, such as the beginning of a new year, can sometimes bring up feelings of regret over wishing that you had accomplished a certain goal or life milestone by now. From those that I coach, I often hear things around this time of year like:

“I’m the only one out of my friends who’s still single.”

“I should have gotten a promotion/raise by now.”

“I have no money. I’m stuck living paycheck-to-paycheck.”

These statements are a great example of what’s called a “Scarcity Mindset”, and it’s a common source of stress for many people. Scarcity Mindset can be defined as a pattern of thinking that focuses on what you don’t have and the underlying belief that you’re not ever going to have the things that you want, even when you have access to basic needs, like food, water, housing, income, etc. Whereas scarcity itself is typically defined as not having some or all of the things that are necessary for survival, this definition isn’t meant to diminish the real stress and anguish that can be caused by Scarcity Mindset; in fact it highlights how impactful this mindset can be.

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In this article

  • Enter Abundance Mindset
  • Strategies for shifting from a scarcity to an abundance mindset

Scarcity Mindset isn’t new. It’s been a facet of the human experience for as long as there has been wealth, poverty, and materialism. Today, we can see it play out on social media, in lifestyle blogs, reality TV, commercials, and so on. It often looks and feels like a mask that can drive people to spend a lot of energy trying to appear or act “the right way”. I’ve seen this show up in trying to keep up with other people’s spending habits, rather than spending within your own means. Or in thinking that there is one way to be a “good parent” or a “good friend,” and then internally beating yourself up for the ways you fall short of these ideals.

By identifying this experience as a mindset, as opposed to “how things are”, you can begin to move away from a discouraging (and exhausting) thought process and towards one that is empowering and motivating for you, like an Abundance Mindset.

There will always be more: overcoming Scarcity Mindset

Enter Abundance Mindset

Having an Abundance Mindset means not feeling limited by the things that you don’t have, but instead, focusing on the opportunities you do have in order to gain what you want in life. Whether it’s a long-term romantic relationship, financial security, moving up the career ladder or any other personal or professional goal, your mindset plays a significant role in how well you’ll do in achieving your goals. A very common area that people tend to feed their Scarcity Mindset is in not believing or trusting that they are able to gain the skills or resources needed to meet their goals. This is where leaning on your supporters and existing resources can be a game changer.

Once someone is able to work and connect with someone who can hear them out non-judgmentally and reflect back to them how they may be treating themselves, like a close friend, mentor, coach, or therapist, they can start to become aware of what is standing in their way and start to plan around it, which is how abundant thinking works. It’s a mindset that helps you start from a place of assuming that you are able to get to where you’d like to go and then you can begin identifying the steps you need to take to get there. Alternatively, Scarcity Mindset is like wearing blinders and all you can see is what you don’t have, not the possibilities that exist for you.

Having an Abundance Mindset can help you start to shift the statements you read at the beginning of this post to sound more like:

“I’m able to reach my goals through using my resources, and can find new ones as I need them.”

“I’ve been stuck for a while and am ready to learn ways to get unstuck.”

“I trust that I’ll figure out a plan to get me where I want to be.”

Developing an Abundance Mindset is a way to develop and strengthen your self-belief and self-trust. When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, envious of others, or ready to change but unsure of how, try reflecting, journaling, or talking to someone you trust to understand what you’d like to achieve and to see more clearly what’s holding you back. Being able to look at your situation from a different perspective, which is how a trusted friend or coach can help, is an effective way to better understand how your beliefs about yourself can either hinder or help you in achieving your life’s goals.

Through this process of reflection and receiving support, you can break out of the trap that Scarcity Mindset sets for us, and start pursuing the things in life that you want from a place of self-trust and abundance.

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Strategies for shifting from a scarcity to an abundance mindset

1. Start your day by reflecting on the positive things around you.

  • Wake up a little earlier to start your day off at a slower pace than usual. Use this time to notice the good that is around you.
  • Before getting out of bed, take a moment to reflect on how you feel and to engage your senses. For example, rather than focus on the bad night of sleep you may have had, appreciate that you have a bed and that you likely have enough energy to get through the day.
  • Most people start their day with a list of things to do, but try making a list of things you have that will help you enjoy the day. Maybe your list includes important relationships, resources, personal qualities, or material goods.

2. Practice showing appreciation for others.

  • One big indicator of a scarcity mindset is being critical of others. For example, maybe you view your co-workers as competition or you automatically don’t like your friend’s new friend. Finding ways to appreciate others is a good way to start to combat this mindset.
  • Start actively pointing out things you like about someone before you start to think of the negative. Over time, your brain will start to change it’s go-to thoughts of criticism as you continue to challenge it.
  • Thinking about positive aspects of someone else is a great first step. Take the next step by actually complimenting someone else.

3. Look back to notice how far you’ve come.

  • Often we get caught up in wanting more that we forget how much we already have. Taking time to reflect on your life can help you notice what you have and how that has helped you get to where you are now.
  • Set time aside to really reflect back on your life, go back as far as you want. Remember that first apartment, your first job, your first relationships. Admire how things have changed and how you’ve always gotten by with what you have.
  • Reflect on your childhood or even the journey of your family through the generations. No matter how you do it, taking the time to really appreciate your path can help you build pride and remind you that you have had everything you’ve needed all along.

When you start to change your mindset from scarcity to abundance, you may notice your overall well-being and happiness increase. If you’d like support with any of the strategies here or support with developing an abundance mindset, reach out to a mental health coach who can chat more about it with you.

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