What is a Scarcity Mindset?
A scarcity mindset is the idea or worldview that opportunities, resources, and successes are uncommon and as such must be guarded. This is the opposite of an abundance mindset, or the idea that opportunities and successes are always becoming available and that there is never a shortage of ways to accomplish your goals.
Both terms originated from the 1989 bestselling book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen Covey. It is generally accepted that a scarcity mindset is a self-limiting belief that holds people back in both their personal and professional lives, while an abundance mindset helps people find personal and professional satisfaction and success.
The Meaning of a Scarcity Mindset
A scarcity mindset stems from the inherent feeling that there will never be enough. This is a toxic understanding of the world and (at the risk of being dramatic) can poison all the thoughts we have and the things we say to ourselves.
People with a scarcity mindset are acutely aware of the aspects of their lives that are unfulfilled. This leads to unproductive and self-defeating thoughts, especially thoughts that dwell on the accomplishments of others. Because someone with a scarcity mindset believes that opportunities are few and far between, the accomplishments of others directly translate to personal failings in themselves.
A person with a scarcity mindset might say to themselves, “Why should I try to accomplish my goals? I will never reach the same levels of success as those who have come before me.” Or they may view their opportunities to advance in the world as “All of the ‘good’ opportunities have been taken advantage of so there’s nothing left for me.”
The truth, of course, is that new opportunities present themselves on a daily basis and that they are waiting for the right person to come along and capitalize on them—this view is commonly known as an abundance mindset.
How to Get Rid of a Scarcity Mentality
It can be tough to be honest with ourselves and identify a scarcity mentality when we fall into those thought patterns. To leave a scarcity mentality behind and develop an abundance mentality, take the following tips into consideration.
Admit That Your Thoughts Have Power
Someone who is deeply entrenched in a scarcity mentality can have trouble identifying why they aren’t getting the results they’re looking for. It is important to step back and look critically at the thoughts we have and the things we tell ourselves.
When you tell yourself that “all of the good opportunities have already been taken advantage of,” is that based on something you know to be true, or is it just a feeling you have? How did those people take advantage of those opportunities in the first place? Are there new ways to enter the market, to capitalize on new ways of doing things, or to leverage the connections you have in your personal/professional network?
The answer to these questions is often yes. Understanding that our thoughts and the words we say to ourselves have an immense power over our actions and our successes is a key first step in getting away from a damaging scarcity mentality and embracing a positive abundance mentality.
Practice Gratitude and Mindfulness
Reminding yourself of the things you are thankful for is a good exercise in general, but it is an especially important tactic to help reveal the underlying fears that prop up a scarcity mentality. In his book Starting a Business QuickStart Guide, author and veteran entrepreneur Ken Colwell, PhD, MBA, asserts that mindfulness is the greatest asset an entrepreneur can have. It is a key component of problem-solving and creativity—an entrepreneur’s bread and butter—and an essential part of living a self-actualized life.
Together, the practices of mindfully living in the moment and regularly practicing gratitude help us change the words we say to ourselves that come from a place of fear and scarcity. Focus on your own accomplishments. See the successes of others as an inspiration rather than a threat. Think of yourself as the protagonist of your own story and the one in the driver’s seat, and cut back on the ways in which you compare yourself to others—all of these will help you transition out of a scarcity mindset and into a positive abundance mindset.
Recognizing the Scarcity Mindset
Knowing when a thought comes from a scarcity mindset is sometimes easier said than done. The chart below outlines some examples of thoughts that represent a scarcity mindset compared to the same thought from an abundance mindset perspective.