Having an Abundance Mentality vs. “The Scarcity Mindset”

Insights From Kevin | June 13, 2019 

Scarcity ~ it’s an affliction; each of us suffers from it in some way. It’s a relationship with life that things are scarce. It is pervasive. It seems that everywhere we look we find that there’s not enough of something. We wake up and start our day thinking, “I didn’t get enough sleep, there’s too much work, I don’t have enough time, I’m not smart enough, I don’t have enough money, I’m not thin enough”. By the end of the day when we finally lay our head on our pillow, we say to ourselves, “I didn’t get enough done today”. 

The Buddha said, “The source of all suffering is a lie.” Consider that these pronouncements that we unconsciously whisper to ourselves are the exact kind of lies to which The Buddha is referring. This approach to life (which we all seem to have) is embedded in our thinking and began when we were very young. It seems that we all go through our lives longing for more or better of whatever it is that we feel would make us happy. It’s both subtle and insidious. We constantly compare ourselves to others and we think that their circumstances are “better” than our circumstances and therefore they must have a better life, leaving us wanting more. Our conclusion that more is better is not true ~ not even a little bit. Things and circumstances don’t make people happy. Happiness is a function of accepting what is, accepting what you have, and being grateful for it. That’s not so easy to keep in front of us because in so much of our lives we relate to our circumstances as if they determine the quality of our lives.

Recently I had a chance to reconnect and work with an old friend and former colleague, Lynne Twist. Lynne is an amazing woman. She has spent most of her life working on large scale projects that are aimed at altering and impacting vital situations in the world such as hunger, starvation (as in third world countries), and the environment as a fundraiser for major charities. She has raised over 50 million dollars*. In the process of her work she’s had some incredible insights and discovered some important things about both abundance and scarcity. Lynne has written a book called The Soul of Money ~ Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life. In it, she reveals what she calls the “Lie of Scarcity,” in which she cites 3 toxic myths ~ that “there is not enough”, “more is better”, and that “that’s just the way that it is”.

“There is not enough”

The first myth is “There is not enough” (I’m not enough, it’s not enough, we’re going to run out, someone’s going to get left out so I have to make sure that I have enough). This creates what Lynne calls a “Deficit Mentality”. She illustrates that by making the point that the USA is the richest and most successful country in the world and, at the same time, it has the largest debt of any nation, a debt so large that it’s almost un-confrontable.

“More is better”

The second myth is “More is Better”, which leads to “I’ve got to have more.” So, the solution is to accumulate. Whether it be money, things, experiences, friends, it must be true that the more, the better with the hope that if I get enough, I’ll be satisfied. And to make the point, Lynne raises the fact that one of the fastest growing industries in the US is storage. That’s right ~ we are now building and renting little boxes and homes for all the stuff we’ve accumulated and will, in short, forget that we have. We are insatiable about getting more.  As she was speaking about this, I realized that I had spent $3K to build a storage shed next to my garage so I could house all the stuff that we’re not currently using. I’m not going to lie; it’s filled to the brim and I have no idea what’s in it and I’m absolutely certain I’m not going use any of it. It would be wise of me to empty out the storage unit and give the stuff away to someone who would use it.

“That’s just the way that it is”

The third myth she said is “That’s just the way that it is” (i.e. there’s not enough and more is better). And therefore, since there’s nothing we can do about it, the solution is to keep acquiring and accumulating ~ but never really being satisfied or fulfilled.

Lynne then shared this remarkable thing ~ way back in the mid-70’s she attended an event where Buckminster Fuller (aka Bucky) was speaking. Bucky is recognized as a scientist, inventor, and a world-renowned thinker (he literally invented the electric car in the 1940’s). And at this event Fuller said,

Humanity has recently passed a critical threshold; and that threshold allows humanity to do so much more with so much less. There’s enough for everyone everywhere to have a healthy productive life.

Buckminster Fuller

He said that it would take humanity probably 50 years to come to that realization and to actualize it. I hope to God Bucky was right because 40 some years later it does not look like we have gotten the message. We live in a world rooted in scarcity and at the same time it is possible to live in a world of sufficiency. For that to become reality, humanity would need to make the shift from a “you OR me” world to a “you AND me” world and, let’s face it, that begins with you and me. This will require a kind of courage and boldness, because we would have to see our “enoughness”. This would lead to: 

  • Sufficiency,
  • Wholeness and
  • Infinite capacity.

Lynne went on to say that “sufficiency is precise”. It means that we are met by the universe with exactly what we need, when we need it. It’s not an amount. It’s just what you need. The never-ending chase for more is simply not satisfying because no matter what, we see a lack and will need more. True abundance is enough. She continued by saying “what you appreciate, appreciates.” And what that looks like in practice is 1) gratitude, 2) thankfulness, and 3) thanksgiving.

I make a daily practice of being grateful for what I have. I’m certainly not rich, nor am I poor, but I do have enough, more than enough. And there are plenty of people who do not. I made a commitment that by the end of this year I will have gotten rid of anything that, if not being used, worn, or enjoyed, I would make it available to someone who will make use of it. I was sharing this with a group of people and I told them that I chose to give up alcohol 14 years ago, yet I have a wine refrigerator that contains about 100 bottles of premium red wines. And I don’t drink red wine and my wife only drinks white wine. So, when a guest comes over we open a bottle of what’s now a finely-aged wine. They are almost always very hesitant to allow us to open it until they understand that we have it for the very purpose of sharing it. We’re not saving it.

At a very practical level the next day after meeting with Lynne, I was sharing what Lynne had said with a colleague. As he listened, he was flabbergasted because he could see that the very thing I was talking about was pervasive in his life as well. He shared with me that he has three different storage facilities around the country. One in NYC, one in Rochester, NY, and one in San Francisco. His storage bill for these three facilities is $8,500 a year. And there is nothing in any of those containers that he’s ever going to use again in his lifetime, but good God the thought of throwing it out and getting rid of his junk has up until now been un-confrontable. I asked him why was keeping the stuff. He said he didn’t know what else to do. He’d paid a lot of money for some of it and some of it was his father’s (who is deceased) and he thought he’s just supposed to keep it all. He joked about having someone go and open up the units with a sign saying “HELP YOURSELF!”. I bet him the units would be empty within a day of posting the sign, because people know that people can’t get enough, and more is better. Scarcity ~ it’s an affliction. 

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.

Brene Brown

*About Lynne Twist: 
“For more than 40 years, Lynne Twist has been a recognized global visionary committed to alleviating poverty, ending world hunger and supporting social justice and environmental sustainability. From working with Mother Teresa in Calcutta to the refugee camps in Ethiopia and the threatened rainforests of the Amazon, as well as guiding the philanthropy of some of the world’s wealthiest families, Lynne’s on-the-groundwork has brought her a deep understanding of people’s relationship with money. Her breadth of knowledge and experience has led her to profound insights about the social tapestry of the world and the historical landscape of the times we are living in.”

Kevin Cullen is President of Leadera Consulting Group, specializing in producing breakthrough business results. If you want more on this conversation or the firm, contact us at Leadera Consulting Group.

Kevin Cullen: kcullen@leaderacg.com, cc: acook@leaderacg.com