Do you ever get the feeling that, no matter what you do, there is never going to be enough? Not enough money, not enough time, not enough energy to accomplish the things you dream of accomplishing? Or never mind dreams—just enough energy to get through an average day would be appreciated.
This is something I’ve struggled with my entire life. It’s strange because I’ve never actually gone without much of anything. I mean, unless you count going without a latte I wanted or that too-expensive pair of boots or the trip to Italy I’ve always wanted to take.
But the fact that I’ve never really gone without doesn’t stop me from worrying about going without.
Will I be able to pay my mortgage this month? Will I be able to go on that fun trip my friends are planning in a few months? What if my car breaks down and I can’t afford the repairs? What if I run out of time and miss that deadline? What if that client never wants to work with me again? It’s always straight to worst-case-scenario.
Here is what the fear of “not enough” looks like in my life:
- Anxiety around purchases or expenses—especially unexpected or unnecessary ones.
- Worrying about money or about how I will get things done.
- Feeling frenzied during the day, running from one thing to the next.
- Trying to fix things I don’t know how to fix or give gifts I don’t have to give—because I am worried the need won’t get met if I don’t meet it.
- An inability to enjoy the things I do have because I’m focused on what I don’t have.
- Jealous feelings toward friends when they get something I don’t have
Competing and comparing, being really hard on myself for not “measuring up”
For a long time, I just thought this was how everyone felt when it came to money and time and energy. It’s strange how something totally crazy-making can become “normal” when we live with it everyday. It wasn’t until I started to meet people who didn’t share my same anxieties around enough—who seemed deeply content with themselves, with their efforts in a given day, their income, their possessions—that I realized there was a better way.
And strangely, miraculously, these people actually appeared to have more—more time, more energy, more resources, with less effort—than anyone I had ever met.
Needless to say, I was intrigued.
What is a Scarcity Mindset?
Never in a million years would I have told you I had a scarcity mindset. As far as I was concerned, I acknowledged and celebrated abundance in life. A phrase that was repeated in my house growing up, over and over again, was: God provides. And I would have repeated that phrase to you, even as an adult.
But the more I started to learn about a scarcity mindset and what it looked like, the more I realized this was something I was struggling with.
A scarcity mindset, by my definition, is simply:
A persistent feeling of not-enoughness—feelings of inadequacy, fear of going without, a lack of self-confidence—most often stemming from negative thought patterns around time, money and energy.
So having a scarcity mindset has little to do with what you have in your bank account or how much time or energy you have to give in a day and very much to do with how we feel about ourselves and what we believe about what we can offer to this world.
Where Does A Scarcity Mindset Come From?
Our beliefs are most often informed by and built around our experiences and how we interpret those experiences—more so than what we’re verbally taught. So you can be told a hundred times, “God provides!” but if you are constantly struggling financially and don’t have a good story to tell yourself about why you are struggling financially, it’s easy for the unconscious story that forms to sound like this:
God provides—just not for me.
The other thing to remember is that you are immersed in a culture which thrives off convincing you that you are not enough. And when I say “thrives” I mean quite literally, thrives. Companies are literally profiting off of your feelings that you are not pretty enough, not thin enough, not smart enough, not cool enough, not stylish enough, not fill-in-the-blank enough.
According to the authors—led by Debra Trampe, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands—advertised products, unlike unadvertised products, affect both whether and how the viewer thinks of herself afterward. In other words, an image of the high-heeled shoe in a stylish advertisement is likely to trigger a sense of inadequacy. (The New York Times).
We see something like 5,000 ads in a day, and people are literally profiting off of us acquiring a deep belief that we need something more.
No wonder we have a scarcity mindset. No one is immune.
We must constantly be fighting a mindset that tells us there are only so many resources to go around, and that in order to get what you need, you must fight for it, bargain for it, compete for it, and really only the smartest, savviest, hardest-working, luckiest people will “win” at it. Every man or woman for herself.
A scarcity mindset sets us up for unhealthy competition, jealousy, franticness, anxiety, overworking, and confusion about what really matters most.
What is An Abundance Mindset?
There is something I’ve been practicing consistently over the past four years that seems to be helping me with my anxiety surrounding money and time and just generally this idea of enough. It’s a small shift, but it’s made a huge difference for me. I’ve seen tangible shifts in the resources available to me, yes.
But more importantly I’ve experienced a positive shift toward peace and self-assurance, even when I don’t have exactly what I think I want or need.
It’s called an abundance mindset.
An abundance mindset is, very simply, changing the story we tell ourselves surrounding our experiences of enough. It is taking the same desires, circumstances and experiences we’ve always had surrounding money, time and energy and changing the story we tell ourselves about it. Same experiences. Different story.
- When I get an unexpected bill in the mail, for example, I can say to myself, “ugh! Why does this always happen? I work so hard for my money and everyone is always trying to get a piece of it.” Or, I can say to myself, “thank goodness I have the money to pay this bill. I am so provided for.”
- When someone asks me for time I don’t really have to give, I can think, “Everyone always needs something from me. Why can’t I just get an afternoon to myself?” Or I can say, “I wonder what it is about me that has such a hard time saying no. What am I afraid of?”
- When it’s a Saturday morning and I’m dreading getting out of bed because I’m out of energy, I can moan and complain and drag myself out of bed, or I can ask, “what would happen if I just slept for an hour longer? What if my to-do list isn’t as pressing as I think it is?”
Where a scarcity mindset tell us there is not enough time to sleep in for another hour, or that our friend who asked for our time will be so lost without our help, or that everyone is always trying to take our money from us, an abundance mindset simply says: life is complicated. There will always be competing needs and expectations.
But I am enough. I have enough.
What An Abundance Mindset Isn’t.
To be clear, an abundance mindset isn’t some “health and wealth” magic wand that is going to immediately transform you into a millionaire flying to Italy first class in no time. At least not in my experience (although I do believe this can have a tangible impact on your income—it has on mine). An abundance mindset is about receptivity.
So it means I am open to receive whatever life brings my way—including disappointment, confusion, pain, etc, because I know happiness and peace are not dependent on my circumstances.
When I have true feelings of “enough” I can allow to flow into my life what flows into my life and to flow out of my life what flows out of my life. I don’t need to coerce or control people or things around me because I know that everything that happens to me is an opportunity to learn and that I will receive exactly what I need, exactly when I need it.
Everything I need is always available to me—even if it isn’t exactly what I want.
That’s an abundance mindset. And it’s much easier said than done. By that I mean it’s much easier to write about than it is to actually carve out those thought pathways when you’re facing loss, or a fear of loss, or a season of living without.
Getting Over A Scarcity Mindset
Like I said before, transforming a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset is complicated for a litany of reasons—including that we have to change the deeply-ingrained story we’ve been telling ourselves about what it means to have enough, and also because we are fighting an uphill battle against advertising and culture.
One of the most important things we can do, I believe, to carve out these new stories for ourselves, is to intentionally change our thought patterns.
So, for example, over the past four years I’ve been working really intentionally to root out some of the negative thoughts I have around having enough or being enough (thoughts like, “no matter what I do, it’s never enough!”) and to replace those thoughts with the truth about the resources I have available to me in my life.
Here are some thoughts I’ve been working to deeply ingrain:
- Everything that happens to me is an opportunity to learn. This is a reaction against my tendency to say, “why is this happening to me?” When I approach a challenge in my life like a victim, I miss out on the incredible gift it can be to me if I’m willing to receive it for what it is: an opportunity to learn.
- I will receive exactly what I need, exactly when I need it. This replaces the thought, “How will I ever afford that?” or “What if the car breaks down?” I remind myself that I don’t have to have it all figured out today, but that I will have exactly what I need, exactly when I need it.
- There’s more where that came from. I learned this from Marie Forleo, and say it to myself most any time I spend money.
- I now release what I no longer need. This gives me the freedom to get rid of things in my life that aren’t serving me, instead of hoarding them. How often do we keep things for years because we think to ourselves, “someday… I might need this again.” Sometimes it takes releasing something we no longer need to make space for new things in our life.
- I accept all blessings as they flow into my life. I tell myself this when someone offers to buy my coffee or give me a gift. Instead of fighting or arguing or feeling guilty, I receive it. Because it is by receiving I am able to give.
- It’s okay to be happy and enjoy my life. I have spent way too much time in the past feeling guilty for being happy. This statement is a reminder that my happiness does not equal someone else’s unhappiness. Happiness is not a limited resource.
- I can do even difficult things with joy. This is a phrase I use every time I find myself tempted to complain about something I must do. We all have these things. Responsibilities. Obligations. Expectations. When I do these things I remind myself, “I can choose to do this with joy.”
- I am not obligated to give what I don’t have. When I say “no,” I remind myself of this: I am not the source. I don’t have to fix, take care of, impress, improve, or perfect anyone’s life. It is not my job. It is enough for me to just be who I am. I am enough.
Truly, I could go on. But hopefully that gives you an idea of how I’ve used ideas of abundance to change the way I think about myself and what I have to offer to the world.
The Difference it Makes
One of the main differences I’ve seen in my life is just the sheer reduction of anxiety. Anxiety has been a hard-fought battle for me for years—years—and I’ve seen more improvements in the past four years than I have in the ten years before that. I am convinced a huge part of the progress I’ve seen in this area can be attributed to the fact that I can now take a deep breath and say:
I am enough. I have enough. I’m going to be okay.
Another change I’ve seen is an increase in joy.
In the past, my approach to life was sort of like a football player (I’m terrible with sports analogies, but go with me here). I figured I should just put my head down, grit my teeth, take the hits and do whatever I needed to do to get to the other side of the field. These days I’m looking up and wondering: who is the opponent I’m grimacing against?
And what was this “other side” I was talking about? Have I been missing my life?
I love this quote from a book called Simple Abundance:
Today I want you to become aware that you already possess all the inner wisdom, strength, and creativity needed to make your dreams come true. This is hard for most of us to realize because the source of this unlimited personal power is buried so deeply beneath the bills, the car pool, the deadlines, the business trip, and the dirty laundry that we have difficulty accessing it in our daily lives. When we can’t access our inner resources, we come to the flawed conclusion that happiness and fulfillment come only from external events… And so we’ve learned to rely on circumstances outside ourselves for forward or backward momentum as we hurtle through life. But we don’t have to do that any longer. We can learn to be the catalysts for our own change. — Sarah Ban Breathnach
I’m finally waking up to this reality: life doesn’t have to be this painful, horrible, grin-and-bear-it kind of experience. In fact, even though many things in life will be painful, life itself can actually be really beautiful if we are willing to see it that way. It really isn’t nearly as much about our circumstances as we have always imagined.
Our value is not determined by our bank account, our title or position, our rank, our skill set, our marital status, our last name, our education, the amount of designer clothes we own, the number of fancy destinations we’ve visited, or anything else. You are enough. You have enough. You are going to be okay.
I hope, no matter what happens, you will find a way to believe that.
It’s important for me to note, especially when it comes to a conversation about money, that there are very real, practical needs associated with finances and when these immediate needs aren’t met, a conversation about mental abundance is virtually impossible to engage.
For that reason, I’m included both some very practical and also theoretical resources below.
Hope they help.
- Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University helped me get out of debt and get control of my finances several years ago, so that I have been able to more fully enjoy my life and engage conversations about greater abundance.
- This is a beautiful, helpful interview with one of my very favorite bloggers Marie Forleo and her guest Kate Northrup, talking about money mindsets that may be holding us back.
- Kate Northrup’s book, which she discusses in the above interview, is called Money: A Love Story and is a fascinating approach to changing our financial lives through addressing our negative attitudes about abundance.
- When it comes to talking about an abundance mindset and how it can impact our spiritual and physical lives, I love this book Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach.