When I graduated from college, I was not even sort of ready for a full-time job. I saw “real jobs” as a prison sentence that would end my flexibility and steal my chances to travel. Friends proved me right by getting hired and then promptly saying no to every opportunity while they just worked every day and awaited that first week of vacation six months down the pike. So I latched on to seasonal and temporary employment for a year or so instead. I worked at a resort, drove school buses, pumped gas, sold minnows, substituted at the local high school, and tutored the truant officer’s son who refused to go to school. Between times, I moved around, mostly by bicycle. I always made enough to get by.
One night, while house-sitting in central New Hampshire, I walked to a nearby hangout where I ended up talking with a group of locals. They were curious about me and asked lots of questions, but mostly just complained about their rotten jobs and terrible marriages. When I asked why they didn’t up and leave, they bristled and insisted they had no options.
I was dumbfounded. No one talked about abundance and scarcity back then, but I certainly witnessed the difference that evening. Here was an entire group of what we would now call 20-somethings who believed their die was cast. That they had no options. Feelings of scarcity ruled their lives. Thankfully, I had somehow landed on the other side of the scarcity/abundance spectrum.
A scarcity mentality sees limitations instead of opportunities. Shortages prevail and everything is something to hoard or fight over because there will never be enough. Life is unfair. Change seems impossible.
An abundance mentality is about believing there is always more – more opportunities, more ideas to try, more places to explore, more ways to grow, more things to fall in love with, and more ways to turn a bad situation into a success.
To understand the enormity of the chasm between these two attitudes and how if affects far more than just the individual with a scarcity mentality, consider the following comparisons.
|If you have a scarcity mentality, you will:||If you have an abundance mentality, you will:|
|▪ Hang on to a miserable job because you don’t believe you will ever find another.||▪ Believe there are other jobs as good or better than the one you have.|
|▪ Claim credit for yourself to protect your own best interests.||▪ Share the credit knowing that sharing increases your chances of earning even more.|
|▪ Begrudge others their accomplishments.||▪ Know that the accomplishments of others in no way diminish your own.|
|▪ Deny and cover up your mistakes as if each is a permanent strike against you.||▪ Treat a missed opportunity or failed project as a stepping stone toward greater knowledge, skills, and opportunities.|
|▪ Fear competition because it will reduce your share.||▪ Celebrate competition because it pushes everyone to be better.|
|▪ Assume most deals create a winner and a loser.||▪ Expect every deal to be a win-win deal.|
|▪ Keep information to yourself so it gives you a sense of power, importance, or job security.||▪ Share information and ideas liberally in order to generate ideas and opportunities for everyone, including yourself.|
|▪ Struggle relentlessly to achieve some milestone that proves you’ve arrived.||▪ Understand that no one ever “arrives” and every personal goal, no matter how important, is just another step in your journey.|
|▪ Constantly compare yourself to others and seek ways to prove or convince yourself that you are better.||▪ Avoid comparisons with others because they are irrelevant given differing priorities, ambitions, and talents.|
|▪ Hold on to things you never use, and maybe don’t even really like, because you might need them some day.||▪ See that getting rid of unused stuff is liberating, not impoverishing, and, belief if you need something like it in the future, you will find it somehow.|
|▪ Hoard money instead of making smart investments.||▪ Invest in yourself and staff to achieve powerful growth and better results.|
|▪ Limit plans to safe baby steps.||▪ Think big and take prudent risks.|
So let’s be perfectly clear:
1. Nothing good comes from a scarcity mentality.
2. No one falls completely in one camp or the other.
3. Scarcity and abundance mentalities are options. The choice is there for everyone to make.
4. You can’t choose abundance if you don’t know what it is and don’t see when you are succumbing to scarcity.
5. Helping others recognize and understand the difference will help you avoid scarcity.
6. Shared vigilance and reminders can be mutually beneficial. Get your whole team watching out for scarcity thinking.
7. Some “difficult” employees just need help seeing and avoiding their scarcity thinking.
8. Abundance thinking is the secret to seeing and making the most of opportunities all around you.
I grew up in a family of seven and learned scarcity at meals. This was especially true on Christmas mornings when I watched the once-a-year plate of homemade caramel rolls shrink as it made its way toward me. We all have our stories and circumstances that drag us into scarcity thinking. Some are silly and some deadly serious. It doesn’t matter. Recognize those circumstances and change your reaction. Nothing good ever comes from a scarcity mentality.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com on May 8th, 2016.