Scarcity mentality

Till not too long ago, I believed that in order to succeed – and our society defines success all too often in terms of prestige and money or material possessions – I had to put in hard work and mow problems out of the way. I had bought into this quite rigid model of success, hence, figuratively speaking, I needed to run into walls with my shoulders to knock issues down. Society taught me: “If you get there too slowly, someone else will get it before you, and you’ll be the sucker left behind. It’s a world of sharks out there.”

Over time, I have come to realize that this is some form of deeply life-alienating thinking. Life-alienating, because it disunites us from one another: We come to see other humans as nuisances; a hindrance on the way between us and success. I also came to understand that this kind of thinking is based mostly on our fears. On those fears of not having enough, of not receiving enough, or more in general, of missing out on something so precious that the mere thought is too ghastly to contemplate.

Nowadays, I know that things are not so, and I see at least two common denominators that are removing us from our true selves with this kind of thinking. One is the scarcity mentality, and the other, our inability to recognize and follow our passions, and generate a comfortable living, while actually playing. The scarcity mentality involves pauper’s thinking, a way of looking at life that many of us were taught to adhere to, based on the idea that if I leave something for the time being, it will not be available to me in the future. It also involves the belief that there is not enough to go round, of anything really. For instance, our thinking might go along the lines of: “If I don’t get this job now, someone else will, and I will be left without any. I’ll be jobless for a long time, perhaps the rest of my life!”

Yet, let me stop here for a moment, so that I can make a distinction. There are opportunities that present themselves under our noses; often some event that we really wanted to attract. Just as often, when these situations arise, we run away from them and we self-sabotage. A person seeking counsel that I worked with, kept sending out the message that she wanted to have a loving, tender, and generally fulfilling relationship. Then, inevitably, when a man showed up who fitted the bill, she would find excuses as to why this relationship would not work, and run away from him. Situations like these are real lost opportunities that are not likely to come back. When we act in this way, we manage to attract the exact misery that we would love to be away from in the first place. Somewhere in our minds, we create negative thoughts, and the hidden idea underneath is that we don’t deserve a particular outcome.

Let me now come back to that scarcity thinking. Based on the assumption that there is not enough to go round, we believe that we need to go out and “get it before someone else does”. This state of mind makes us live in a place of constant stress, alertness and unease. It makes us feel as if we are living “beside our life”, only visiting, because we are too busy with other issues. We are never present with our true intentions, nor with ourselves, nor with others.

On this particular subject of scarcity, Mahatma Gandhi pronounced these often invoked words: “There is enough for everybody’s need, but not enough for anybody’s greed.”

This statement by Gandhi seems to sum it up so well: If I share with others, there is plenty for all of us; there is harmony because there is a certain form of balance; there is flow.

However, if I try to hold on to things, I do this with that fear-based mentality, and all on the planet suffer, as there is no flow. For instance, those that have little or no food suffer because of their empty bellies, those that have too much food suffer because of the cardiovascular and digestive diseases that over-eating causes, and because often over-eating is a form of psychological compensation.

This scarcity set of mind, permeates most of our activities and decisions, without us being aware of it. Coming back to the example of that job we would like, or perhaps a house we badly want to buy, it is quite likely that at some stage we tell ourselves something along the lines of: “I need to beat others!” and so we start competing not only with others, but, unwittingly, with ourselves.

We start creating what I refer to as the rush-rush-mentality; we create a personal world in which we want to move faster, and faster, and faster till, at some stage we get to that point that our society has come to refer to as “burn-out”.

In reality, if we were, collectively, as societies, able to realize that burn-outs are nothing but a state of not giving ourselves enough time to come to terms with what life throws at us, then we would be able to simply scale back and live in ways which create harmony, rather than stress. Perhaps, in some cases, this would mean embracing, willingly, a simpler way of life, with fewer material goods, with fewer engagements yet, probably, with more personal spaciousness and more deep-going human bonds.

In the case of most of us – and this leads me to the second theme that I want to talk about in this chapter – it would mean stopping, and taking time to recognize what our passions are, and living them. For instance, if Alexander Graham Bell had not stood still to explore his passion, and had instead taken up a banking job, we would probably not have had the telephone, or at least not at the point in time it was brought to humanity. If Einstein had not followed his passionate curiosity to go explore the universe, and had gone to find a hamburger-flipping job instead, we would not have had the theory of relativity, among many of the contributions he made. If Mozart had not listened to his burning musical talent, and had contented himself with playing music written by others at events in Vienna’s courts, we would have been deprived of some of the most incredibly, wonderfully inspiring symphonies the world has known.

All these examples are not meant to talk down any job, yet they are meant to show that all of us have some innate passion, some innate capacity to produce something that is extraordinary for ourselves, something unique to us, and to share it with the world. At this stage many people ask: “What about the money though? This is all nice and fine, yet how do I pay my bills?”

Again back to the same point: Follow your inspiration!

When you do what you are passionate about, the results will follow suit at some stage; leave the details to higher forces, to those situations we often call coincidental. It might take weeks, it might take months, it might take years, yet the results will show abundantly, providing you stick with it and are 100% convinced of your project. The two conditions I just mentioned are fundamental, because if we do not believe in our own project, and therefore set in motion the necessary energies to see change in our lives, it will simply not happen.

The three examples I offered earlier on, are obviously of well known individuals, yet, it is likely that in our everyday lives we all know at least one person who is following her own path, who is listening thoroughly to her inner voice, and living the life of her dreams. It seems to me that one characteristic all these people have in common, is that they see abundance showing up in their lives, in the way that each and everyone of them desires. Einstein got to pursue his research career, Mozart to write music, Bell to get the world to talk. All three men were desiring to abundantly contribute to others. Interestingly, all three of them were amply compensated economically by life, each one of them in the way they preferred, and probably beyond; this, despite the romantic 19th century claims that Mozart was a pauper. An exhibition in Austria in 2006 showed that he was probably among the top five percent earners of that time in Vienna, and that he was buried in a standard mass grave, as was common practice in those days. Life took care of them financially, so that they could buy food and shelter and concentrate on doing what they knew best: letting their creativity be of service to others.

So, next time we start feeling heavy about the job we currently have, the relationship we are in, the friendships we seem to attract, some situations that seem to come our way over and over, let’s remind ourselves that we have a choice. We can choose to stay in our old thinking patterns that deliver results that we don’t want, or we can choose to drop them and create new ones, and attract a different, more fulfilling and joyful way of life, either in the current situation – with our new thinking – or in a new set of circumstances.


Jerry Zondervan (1967-) HDSS, is an internationally known author, e-counselor (spec. healthy relationships) and speaker in the area of self-development and self-growth. His first book, 

was reviewed by a reader in the UK as: “As one who has entered into therapy in both the US and England, I can say that this book is an excellent guide on how to approach and hopefully be an emotionally healthy person through honestly looking at oneself”. Joe G. England (UK)


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