My career is immensely fulfilling. I am able to engage with insightful students and colleagues, present at conferences, and empower professionals in their communication journeys. Yet, amidst these rewarding experiences, I often grapple with a distinct feeling: awareness of the scarcity of time.
You might also struggle with the feeling of not having enough - be it time, money, love or opportunities.
The psychology of this concept reveals that scarcity generates a sense of urgency, influencing our decisions, behaviors, and perceptions. By transitioning from this fear-driven scarcity mindset to one of abundance we can reshape our lives to be more fulfilling, meaningful, and aligned with our values.
Understanding the Power of Scarcity
Social psychologist Robert Cialdini explored scarcity in his seminal work on persuasion. He explained that scarcity generates a sense of urgency, making us feel that if we don’t act now, we might lose something valuable. Businesses employ a range of scarcity tactics to stimulate demand for their goods and services:
Flash sales, holiday specials, daily deals, and early bird discounts all create a sense of urgency.
Airlines and concert promoters visually show time ticking away with countdown timers once a ticket has been selected.
Online retailers create urgency when they notify shoppers there are only a few of the items they are looking at remaining in stock.
Food and beverage companies, like McDonald's and Starbucks, create demand when they offer seasonal products that are only available for a limited time.
Luxury and designer brands often release limited edition items such as sneakers, apparel, watches, and even cars.
While scarcity is often examined from a marketing and sales perspective, the psychological underpinnings of the scarcity principle are intertwined in various facets of human experience.
Time Scarcity: The feeling that we don’t have enough time, or we are running out of time, can make us rush decisions or feel anxious.
Financial Scarcity: The perception of not having “enough” can drive behaviors ranging from overwork to poor spending habits.
Emotional Scarcity: Feeling that love or attention is in short supply can make us act desperately or tolerate situations and relationships that aren’t beneficial.
Opportunity Scarcity: The perception that opportunities are limited can lead us to engage in options that might not be the best fit for us.
I sometimes wonder if many of us are operating in a scarcity mindset most of the time without even realizing it.
What if we could transition from a scarcity mindset to one of abundance?
The key to breaking free from the anxiety-inducing scarcity cycle lies in adopting a new perspective—an abundance mindset. And Lynne Twist, a renowned author and global activist, provides insights to guide us through this transformative shift.
Recognizing Three Toxic Myths
Twist takes the concept of abundance and places it at the center of a fulfilling, meaningful life. She argues that by focusing on what we already have, instead of what we lack, we can experience richness in ways we never thought possible.
In her book “The Soul of Money,” Twist identifies three toxic myths that shape our relationship with money and, by extension, impact our lives and the world around us:
There is never enough: This myth cultivates a mindset of scarcity, fear, and competition. It leads us to believe that we must constantly strive for more because there will never be enough resources to go around. This perception of scarcity affects our behavior, making us more self-centered, anxious, and even unethical as we seek to secure our share of seemingly limited resources.
More is better: This myth perpetuates the idea that accumulation of wealth or possessions leads to greater happiness and fulfillment. It drives consumerism, overconsumption, and a never-ending pursuit of more, often at the expense of our relationships. It also implies that success and value are measured by material wealth, ignoring the importance of non-material forms of wealth like relationships, experiences, and personal growth.
That’s just the way it is: This myth suggests that the economic and social systems in place are fixed and unchangeable, leading to resignation and disempowerment. It fosters a sense of helplessness and acceptance of inequality, poverty, and environmental degradation as inevitable thus preventing us from questioning the status quo and taking action to create positive change in our lives and the world.
Adopting an Abundance Mindset
Switching from a scarcity-driven to an abundance-driven mindset can change the way we make decisions, improve our well-being, and lead to a growth mindset. Twist writes, “We each have the choice in any setting to step back and let go of the mind-set of scarcity. Once we let go of scarcity, we discover the surprising truth of sufficiency. By sufficiency, I don’t mean a quantity of anything. Sufficiency isn’t two steps up from poverty or one step short of abundance. It isn’t a measure of barely enough or more than enough. Sufficiency isn’t an amount at all. It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough.” You are enough.
"Sufficiency is a context we bring forth from within that reminds us that if we look around us and within ourselves, we will find what we need." -- Lynne Twist
Let’s consider four areas of our lives where we can be guided by a sense of sufficiency.
Managing Our Time: The feeling of a scarcity of time can lead to rushed decisions, multitasking, and a focus on short-term tasks at the expense of long-term goals. A sense of ample time can encourage thoughtful planning, prioritization, and a focus on activities that align with our values and goals.
Choosing to Save vs. Spend: The fear of not having enough money in the future may drive impulsive spending, as we seek to gain immediate satisfaction or acquire items before they run out. With a sense of sufficiency, we may feel more secure and make more thoughtful choices, such as saving money or investing in experiences and items that bring long-term value and joy.
Engaging in Social Relationships: A fear of missing out (FOMO) can lead to overcommitting to social events, even at the expense of personal well-being. Feeling secure in our social life can lead to more intentional choices about how and with whom to spend time, fostering deeper and more meaningful relationships.
Navigating Career Opportunities: The perception that professional opportunities are limited can lead us to hastily take on roles or projects that might not align with our values or goals. By recognizing the multitude of opportunities available, we can be more discerning in our choices, ensuring that they align with our values and contribute to our professional growth.
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Adopting an abundance mindset is more than just a personal growth tool; it’s a way of living that enriches not just our lives, but the world around us. And in a world that constantly touts scarcity, choosing to live abundantly empowers us to find fulfillment and satisfaction in what we already possess.