I was first introduced to the concept of “abundance” in a grade school thanksgiving project that involved a cornucopia. It was one of those exercises that felt prefabricated and devoid of meaning other than abundance just means “a lot of stuff”. So here is a bit of a deeper and more careful consideration of the concept of abundance. Abundance and it’s counterpart, Scarcity don’t just reflect a pile of stuff that is sitting over there (or not). Rather, they refer to a viewpoint that affects every little thing we see, hear and feel, and the decisions and actions based on that input. Indicators of where one lies on the abundance-scarcity spectrum are subtle and numerous. Here are some ways I have been alerted to the presence of scarcity thinking, and the specific underlying beliefs that cause these behaviors.
- There is not enough for me. Do you finish food off your children’s plates, even though you are not hungry, so it won’t go to waste? Do you spend a significant time clipping coupons, downloading apps, shopping at different stores to try and save money? Do you feel an imbalance between your actions and the actions of those around you? Do you feel powerless?
- If I don’t reduce my impact, I will destroy our environment. Do you try to make yourself smaller, less impactful, because you are afraid that your actions are hurting the earth? Do you regularly sacrifice personal safety, expense or hardship to protect the environment? (ie. not showering to save water, even though you stink; walking or taking the bus rather than driving, even though having a car would buy you much needed time and help your sprained ankle heal, going without lunch for a week so you can donate the money to a particular cause)
- Excessive attachment to ownership. Do you stop your toddler at the playground when he picks up a ball that “belongs” to another child and tell him to give it back because “that’s not yours”? When you end up at a potluck and you forgot or weren’t able to bring something, do you refrain from eating even though there is lots of food available, knowing that “you didn’t do your part” to contribute? Does your insistence on keeping your own space and your own things to yourself get in the way of making friends, meeting new people and sharing with others?
- I’m the only one who can help here. Do you pride yourself on being the one who can fix a situation when no one else can? Do you see yourself doomed to be a Cassandra, frequently being the only one who knows of the impending problem, and certain that others cannot or will not believe or understand you? Do people regularly and repeatedly come to you for help with things that you can do better and more efficiently than they can? Are your overwhelmed and worn out from always having to be the one who takes care of things?
- There’s not enough time. Do you delay starting a project that sounds fun because you won’t be able to finish it in the next hour (day, week etc.)? Do you feel stressed because you have so much to do every day? Do you frequently find yourself checking your watch, rushing from one meeting to another, feeling guilty for arriving late? Do you schedule meetings with just exactly enough time to get from one to the other?
- Only the best are worthy of the test. Do you find yourself making excuses not to do things because you are not the ideal candidate and therefore not good enough? (Even though I love children, I couldn’t be a foster parent. Even though I have a camera and take pictures now and then, I’m no photographer- you’ll have to ask someone else for help.) Do you limit who you will allow to help you with a particular situation because they don’t have something that “shows their worth” (a title, a degree, credentials, a logo, a fee), even when they demonstrate they are able and willing to help?
- Exclusionary verbiage. Do you find yourself using lofty field-specific vocabulary, and citing data, using gestures and postures that communicate, more so than the content in question, that you are knowledgeable, correct and right? Do you feel split energy when conversing with others- part of you wants to give, but part of you wants to hold back? When you reply to an online thread do you feel a sense of curiosity and connection (opening) or a sense of determination to get closer to winning the argument, being right, fixing another’s situation, setting things straight (narrowing)? Do your conversations give you power over another person by showing them the knowledge you have that they don’t, or power with the other person in finding mutual understanding? When someone states a problem are you eager to jump in fix it for them by suggesting solutions or describing similar problems that you had and solved, rather than taking time to fully understand the problem, or to see if they are even asking for help fixing the problem, or maybe this is not even a problem at all?
- Obsession with closure. Isn’t it satisfying to check things off your to do list? Do you ever write down something that you just completed just so you can have the satisfaction of crossing it off? If a coworker brings you a coffee, and refuses to take money for it, do you leave the money or her desk anyway, just to “keep things straight”? Do you have an established end-of-phone call banter (ok, talk to you later, love you, buh bye) that reliably and safely takes you to the end of a conversation? If there is just one tissue left in the box, might you use it for something unnecessary, or just stick it in your pocket so that you can recycle the box and feel that satisfaction of starting a fresh one? Does it feel like every tick mark, every deed accomplished, every dollar saved, every point earned is getting you one step closer to … something? Does it feel uncomfortable to leave things hanging, to have silence in a conversation, to ask a question to which you don’t already know the expected answer?
- Just say no, it’s safer. Are you quick to say no, to find the reason something won’t work? When a toddler asks if we can have pizza for breakfast, rather than asking what kind of pizza they like, or commending them on such a fun idea, do you jump straight to the reasons why we will not be having pizza for breakfast? Do you find that your great ideas and moments of inspiration only last so long because you make short work of reasons why this won’t work (“We’re busy on Saturday.” “Those washers cost over $5 a piece!” “Last time we tried that it didn’t work.”)?
- Life is a game and I am a winner! For any competitive game to work there must be a winner and a loser, and there must be some sort of scarcity so we can have someone who wins (has) and someone who loses (has not). If you hold this belief, that you are a player in a competitive game, then you will intentionally create scarcity so you can keep this belief intact. Do you constantly compare yourself with others to see who has more stuff, better stuff, nicer skin, more money, bigger salary, smarter children, cleaner houses? Are you aware of the latest fashion trends, political gaffes, and popular songs, memes and shows? Do you create an appearance of being ahead and having it together- selfies with makeup, surrounded by friends in an expensive restaurant? Do you make a point of saying things out loud to others for no other reason than you think they will like you more by knowing it? Are you sacrificing sleep, health, relationships, or personal freedom so that you can pass go and collect $200?
To be clear, it is still possible to work for cleaner rivers, play board games, settle debts, have fun chatting with friends and fix problems with a heart of Abundance. What these indicators point at is the sad, desperate and lonely underlying feeling that there is not enough and that I am not worthy. Scarcity, though subtle, can be pervasive. When operating from such a place of closure, lack, narrowness and stress so many aspects of day-to-day life are affected.
- Scarcity offers limited and few possible answers. In Abundance, the possibilities are endless. This greatly affects problem solving, decision-making, imagination and creativity.
- Because of its closed view of the world, it is much more stressful to be in a place of Scarcity, than in the relaxed and open world of Abundance. Scarcity directly affects health, well-being and peace.
- True Partnership occurs in an ambience of Abundance. Be reinforcing Scarcity beliefs, people maintain the old ways of competitive, oppressive and painful domination relationships and miss out on the balance and connection they might have with potential Partners.