How to Move Past Scarcity Thinking

Oct 21, 2013

One of my passions is to help people understand how they make sense of their world.  The big idea is that how we think, how we construct meaning, is what determines our experience.

Life is an aggregate of our experiences. If you’re experiencing a lot of negativity in your life, it might be worth your time and effort to understand your own thinking patterns.

We have the capacity to understand and construct our own thoughts, and here’s the big news.  Our thoughts are not always factual.  We make stuff up.  Sometimes the stuff we make up gets us into trouble.  At the very least, scarcity thinking can cause us to stop before we even start.

If your life is on the stuck button, it’s highly possible that your thinking is keeping you from positive results.  I’ve talked about fear-based decisions.  Scarcity thinking results in even more consistent paralysis.  We can’t seem to creatively move beyond our own circumstances.

 What is it?   

The simplest way to understand this very complex phenomenon is to realize that scarcity thinking is the belief that there is not enough.  Of anything. This way of thinking is often embedded in our subconscious mind, and it shows up in a variety of ways.

We all engage in some level of scarcity thinking.  In my house, it often shows up around food. Whenever we have people over, we have a tendency to over buy, over cook, over prepare.  My husband is Italian, and I come from a relatively poor background.  A dinner party for eight can easily result in enough bread to feed Haiti.  Our fear?  What if we don’t have enough bread to satisfy our guests?  Or, enough dessert? Wine?  Or . . . You get the point.

Scarcity thinking can result in a tendency to overdo, over give, over achieve.  Conversely, it can also also result in hoarding of time, money, information, and innovative ideas.

Worst of all, it can result in lack of intimacy and an inability to love ourselves and serve others.

What to do about it?

The first question I often get is, how do I know if I have a scarcity mindset?

My contention is that if we’re honest with ourselves, we always know.  We know because we feel the fear.  At some level, we know that fear is running us.  We experience the stress and pain at the deepest core of who we are.  We simply train ourselves to ignore that reality.

The point is to learn to pay attention to that which is causing distress.  Learn to bring the unconscious thinking to a place of consciousness so that you can develop ways to counteract any propensity toward scarcity.

Here’s a few suggestions on how to begin that process.

 Focus:  Pick one area of your life that is causing you stress or grief.  It can be a relationship, a business issue, or something tangible, e.g., a major purchase.

Name the Fear:   How much negative self-talk goes through your mind as you ponder this issue?  What is the source of your fear?  Where specifically are you hearing yourself shift into a “not enough” conversation.  Is your fear stopping you from moving forward?  Why?

The why is crucial since the beginning of scarcity thinking often comes from our early developmental years. You need to know what the monster looks like before you can defeat it.

Gather the Facts:  Remember that scarcity thinking is based on emotion that produces fear.  Factual information can counter the fear and help you move into abundant options.  Once you learn to pay attention to the negative self-talk, that internal conversation becomes fairly easy to notice.  It may take a bit more practice, however, to develop positive thinking.  You must train yourself to do so in order to break the paralysis of scarcity thinking.  Factual knowledge helps you move in that direction.

Here’s an example:

When my husband and I decided to purchase our first home, we were terrified.  We clearly did not make enough money at the time for a large mortgage.  What if one of us lost our job?  What if our cars blew up?  We were consciously aware of our fear of the unknown.  We decided to balance that fear with an analysis of what a house might cost us if we waited for 3-5 years.

Once the facts were in, the decision was easy.  It would have been foolish for us to wait until we had saved enough money for a large down payment.  Inflation would over take us.  We had to take the calculated risk.  We purchased our first home knowing that evenings out and summer vacations would have to be put on hold for a while.

The result?  We found a home suitable to our budget, worked some extra hours, and before we knew it, we were able to adapt our earnings to our new life style.  Sometimes you have to step into possibilities and create what you need.  More importantly, we have to trust that our God is a loving God who delights in blessing us with abundance so that we, in turn, can bless others.

Let me add that we sold that same house three years later for a significant profit.  The purchase and sale of this first home was the precursor for much of our success later in life.  We learned to move past scarcity thinking to the truthfulness of abundant thought and action.

Scarcity thinking is complex and not easily rooted out.  Stay tuned for more ways to move beyond scarcity to abundant thought.

Question:  How has scarcity thinking impacted a moment in your life?

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