Bruce thought his problem was that he didn’t have enough money until I got a hold of him, and then got a hold of himself. In no time at all, he realized 1) no amount of money would get rid of the negativity that had a life of its own inside his head, and 2) that the negativity was exactly what was making it hard for him to grow and enjoy anything, including the love and the money in his life.

Scarcity v Abundance Mentality

In 1989, Steven Covey, in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, introduced us to the idea of Scarcity versus Abundance Mindsets. Simply put, scarcity thinking sees life as a pie. If I take a piece there is that much less for you. And vice versa. Win-lose all the way around. Abundance mentality sees plenty out there for everyone, unlimited possibilities to grow the pie.

I was able to find research that positivity is associated with better health and 7.5 years longer lives, but had trouble finding any stats on the actual relationship between abundance thinking and wealth. Maybe it’s in Think and Grow Rich but that wouldn’t be all that current, so If anyone has a stat on this please let me know.

Meanwhile, it is a widely held belief these days that the link is there. Thus, the assertions of so many business development gurus that business success is 80%, if not 100%, mindset. “Life is what our thoughts make it,” as the great Stoic, Marcus Aurelius, has said.

What’s even more interesting, however, at least to me, is all the many people who are actually living in abundance and don’t even know it, can’t even feel it, so what’s even the point.

Living in abundance with a scarcity mindset is a real thing. And it hurts. Just this week I had a conversation with a financial services business owner who told me she thinks this abundance wrapped in scarcity is rampant with her clients. Why, why, why should this even be?

Origins of Scarcity Mentality

To help with this question, here is an excerpt from Getting to G.R.E.A.T.: 5-Step Strategy for Work and Life:

Sibling Rivalry at work? You bet. In the mammalian world, since procreation is the thing, a mother nurses her offspring until it begins to appear that the offspring has become better able to find its own food. At that point, it becomes a better parental investment for her to be spending herself and her calories suckling a newer younger sibling. Since she cannot even make a new baby until she has stopped nursing, at some point mothers wean their young to prepare for bearing a subsequent offspring, even if they do not exactly have one. “The young mammal puts up a holy stink, hounding the mother for access to the teat for weeks or months before acquiescing.” Bottle-fed babies put up a holy stink too. And this could well be the holy stink you see at work. Bear with me here.

By this account, we all wanted to take more than our parents wanted to give, the implication of which is staggering. Could it be that somewhere within each and every one of us lives a deep seated and too easily triggered experience of having wanted more than we got, that and a keen eye for who else might be getting some or more of whatever it is we want. No matter if you were an only child, you got weaned too, left wanting something you couldn’t have because of some other kid who may never even have materialized. You got weaned out anyway. And far be it for you to just sit there and watch someone else at work getting more recognition, a better title, better pay, an office with a window, a hug from the alpha male, or the alpha female, or whatever. Not without your feeling at least a twinge on some occasion of something you wish you didn’t feel, and more than likely wouldn’t tell anyone that you did.

You were not asking for that much. All we ever really wanted was to be the center of the universe forever more and, when that doesn’t happen, someone can throw a fit, a fit with legs. Take baboons:

…50% of aggression is displacement aggression onto an innocent bystander. A male loses a fight, chases a sub adult male, who bites a juvenile, who chases an adult female, who slaps an infant—and almost everyone feels better afterwards.

So we are hardwired for this scarcity mentality. But what a shame for the people who suffer it most, not just for the individuals suffering needlessly, but for everyone else in their lives too. They tend to be worried, worrying, stingy, essentially no fun to be around, and not the best people to help others grow into their own happier, healthier, productive lives.

3 Simple Steps to Turn Scarcity Around

But, of course, it doesn’t have to be like this. It may be natural, but we can dial it down. So how can people who suffer and inflict a scarcity amid abundance mentality turn this around?

  1. Focus  on What You HAVE. Not just your money, your property, your career, your business if you have some of that. Not just the sun and the stars. The art, architecture, music, nature…freely available all around you. Personal achievements, experiences, relationships. The list is endless, you will see. Practice living in “I have.” Oh wait, that makes your feel guilty? Because not everyone else has what you do. Fine, that’s #2.
  2. Manage Your Guilt. Remember that your unhappiness helps no one. In fact, it hurts people, including you, but definitely not just you. Your happiness is not your guilty pleasure. It makes you a better spouse, parent, employer, coworker, neighbor, citizen of the world…something you owe to everyone else. See if that helps.
  3. Choose Good Company. We are the average of the people we hang out with. Mindsets are contagious. Surround yourself with people who live with an abundance mindset. Create the world you want to live in—a place where people live in a mindset of abundance—with abundant gratitude and generosity—a mindset of plenty of all.

See if this works, and let us know what you think.

Warm wishes,


Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels