By Maribeth Neelis

Around this time of year, we're reminded to appreciate what we have. But even though we may be grateful, in this digital age, it’s difficult not to compare ourselves to others and determine that we’re coming up short. There is a related philosophy that suggests the existence of two polar views: abundance and scarcity.

Originally based off of an economic principle and later adopted by the field of organizational development, the concept of abundance vs. scarcity can also be viewed as a personal philosophy that you can apply to your own life. Some say maintaining an abundant mental model will actually help you become more successful.

A mentality of scarcity reveals the overwhelming lack in life; one person’s success is another’s failure and there are few chances allotted to each person.

Scarcity sounds like:
  •  “I’ll never be as successful as the people I read about in magazines.”
  • “My company will never have enough clients to compete with the big guys.”
  • “There are just no new ideas left to have. Everything creative has already been thought of.”

As you might expect, this outlook provokes fear, anxiety, and desperation. On the other hand, the model of abundance suggests there are many opportunities afforded to all and we can prosper together.

Abundance sounds like:
  • “I’m excited for the challenge of creating my own success and good fortune.”
  • “There are plenty of potential clients out there who I can help.”
  • “The potential for new ideas is limitless.”

This way of thinking lifts pressure and inspires courage.

Focus on Scarcity and You Will Find It

You can often hear people trying to disprove abundance by giving examples of the lack around them. Sometimes it can certainly seem as though you have to work really hard just to make ends meet, or that life isn’t fair for you compared to others, but this mindset fails to take into account one very important thing: you usually see what you are looking for.

If you are searching for scarcity, you will surely find it. By focusing on all the things you lack, you are inviting more of the same into your life. Conversely, abundance as a mindset creates a different path where you focus on the things you have in plenty and the amazing experiences that you keep coming across.

This outlook is not meant to deny that there is hardship, merely that there is no reason to prepare yourself for hardship by focusing on it daily in the form of all the things you don’t have or all the ways things might go wrong. This doesn’t actually help you avoid a negative outcome; in fact, it ensures its likelihood all the more.

From the abundant view, life is fun and worth living; we’re not competing with everyone, we’re all in it together, and mistakes aren't catastrophic because they help us better ourselves and continue after our objectives. From this standpoint, focusing on the good areas of life and on their goals, people start to see more of the possibilities available to them. Not to mention, if someone is just enjoying the ride, they don’t have to take every misstep so seriously.

How to Develop an Abundant Mindset

Focus on abundance, rather than lack.
What you focus on in your world is what you will see. Turn the areas in which you see lack into opportunities for abundance. For example, don’t stress out about not having enough work or an unfulfilling job. Instead, focus on all the possible ways there are to build your business or expand your skillset. Brainstorm all the ways you can do what you are passionate about outside of work. The more you place your energy here, the more likely it is that you will see things you had previously missed.

Develop an attitude of gratitude.
When it’s hard to be grateful, start small. Every day, make a point to notice the little things that you enjoy. This allows you to see the abundance in your world. Unlike scarcity, which makes you pull in, a grateful demeanor creates space in which to see opportunities.

Pick up on good vibrations.
If commercials and social media can cause you to think in terms of lack, then you can change your input in order to think abundantly instead. Be selective with what you take into your mind. Surround yourself with optimistic people, read up on ways to increase your own positivity, and cultivate happiness by celebrating others’ success instead of just your own.

Share what you have.
If you feel you don’t have enough of something, give some of it away. Not enough money? Donate $5 to a local charity. Not enough love? Do something nice for a friend. While seemingly counter-intuitive, giving away the thing you feel you lack, will demonstrate how you actually have it in abundance and help you feel more appreciative.

Happy Thanksgiving week!

Additional Reading:
Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic. New York: Free Press.
Orman, S. (2001). The courage to be rich: Creating a life of material and spiritual abundance. New York: Riverhead Trade.