The benefits of thinking scarce
Something to avoid.
Bad, unhealthy, and limiting to our potential. Right?
Scarcity vs abundance
The fact is, we’re conditioned to believe in the paramount importance of cultivating an abundance mindset. Ah yes, the magical benefits of the abundance mindset are literally everywhere.
Way back before it was popular, there was this guy who interviewed a bunch of successful people and found out that they all shared an abundance mindset.
More recently, there’s this movement that talks about focusing on abundance so much that it will magically show up in your life.
Then there’s this guy, who believes that many of the greatest problems in the world today will be solved with Abundance.
I get it.
Having more changes the way we see the world. Likewise, changing the way we see the world helps us have more because we’re focused on the stuff that helps us reach our goals.
Nevertheless, talking about abundance is in vogue, and that the mere idea of scarcity has a taken on a very negative connotation. So much so that some psychologists have equated the “scarcity mindset” to a disease (because it has the same cognitive tax on the brain as physical sickness).
True, being extremely poor and fighting to survive puts a lot of stress on our body and mind. But there’s a huge difference between fighting to survive and simply having less money than your neighbor.
It would seem that the distinction is obvious, but somewhere along the way the line has blurred and we’ve arrived at one grand concept of “scarcity = bad”, without stopping to question the circumstances that make it so.
But here’s the thing: scarcity can be a good thing.
Not only does it help us get what we want, but it’s essential for getting what we want.
In the quest for abundance, it’s easy to let the world pass us by under the comforting rationalization that the right time will come. In reality, the “right time” doesn’t exist.
This is a blessing, not a curse. Any moment is the right moment to take action, but it requires being open to feeling scarce. It requires a sense of urgency.
What is scarce?
Being open to scarcity in the right context is an effective strategy for motivating us to take right action towards our goals. As such, there are a few areas in life where we should welcome the feeling of scarcity.
In my own life, I view the following as scarce:
- Time, especially time with friends and family
- Travel is scarce
- Health is scarce
And above all, opportunities are scarce.
I have friends who, many times over, I’ve invited out to events, to bars, to clubs, to gatherings, to festivals, to conferences, but they never came. They always made an excuse (no doubt, the excuse sounded good at the time). Many of these friends now come to me asking when we’re going to do that thing. I hate telling them this, but the opportunity is gone.
No doubt, I’ve missed an absurd number of opportunities in my life.
Then I have friends who, when I tell them about something I’m doing or working on, see the value of it and make the leap. A friend of mine recently quit a cushy job at Disney to start his own business. While he hustled on his biz and worked hard to make ends meet, I casually mentioned that he should come to a conference of internet entrepreneurs. Not thinking much of it, I get an email a week later with his flight itinerary from LAX to BKK — no small trip for someone without a stable source of income.
I can only imagine how this conference will affect the trajectory of his life in incredible ways.
Had he adopted an “abundance mindset”, things certainly could’ve played out differently. There are plenty of other internet business conferences (though maybe none so fun), plenty of conferences in the US. He doesn’t have a ton of money, and it’s a totally different world. But it’s a rare opportunity and he seized it.
Opening our minds to new experiences requires a bit of courage. It also means dropping the self-delusion of perpetual abundance and embracing scarcity a valuable motivational tool.
Having urgency is great! It forces our hand to do the things we otherwise would put off until a later. In a recent essay on Forbes, executive coach Glenn Llopis had this to say about the importance of scarcity-based decision making and leadership:
Adopting a scarcity mentality enables you to better compete and grow, as it forces you to stay focused, see opportunity in everything, take on an entrepreneurial attitude and anticipate the unexpected, just to name a few. More often than not, when you adopt a scarcity mentality, you pay more attention to the details and are always in search for ways to maximize available resources. You are more self-aware of not just yourself, but the needs of your clients and employees – as you begin to better appreciate the role they play in your success and the influence you have on each other’s significance. As such, you not only think about the here and now, you are much more strategic in how you navigate and plot a course for the future.
Next time you hear the word scarcity, remember that it can have real, positive benefits. As Hunter S. Thompson so eloquently tells us, jump at the opportunities that life offers:
Buy the ticket, take the ride. If it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well maybe chalk it off to forced conscious expansion.