I recently came across a single phrase* that got me thinking about my attitude towards much of what I would like more of in my life: material resources (yes, I’m talking about money), relationships (yes, I’m talking about getting married and having children), and even spiritual fulfillment (yes, I’m talking about God).
Having one means that we believe that there will never be enough. Never enough money, never enough companionship, never enough of what God promises us: peace, joy, love. A scarcity mindset causes us to operate out of a place of believing that we are limited to what we have already seen, experienced, or gained. It says “there isn’t any more” so that we make decisions based on desperation or fear.
What is a scarcity mindset?
I think it’s easiest to understand a scarcity mindset in terms of money. If we believe that we are unable to create more income, or that there is a limited amount of money circulating around, we’re going to start feeling anxious and even selfish when it comes to our finances. In simplest terms, we’re going to believe that we have to “take what we can get.”
Many people in third world countries struggle with this mentality because they have grown up with a constant “not enough”- not enough food on the table, not enough jobs, not enough clothing, not enough money. In undeveloped economies that are lacking in creativity and innovation, the truth is that people don’t see many opportunities to make enough money to live on. The result? Discouragement, hopelessness, and even anger. In its most extreme form, a scarcity mindset will cause someone to steal, to take resources from someone else because they believe they cannot produce them on their own.
You might have a scarcity mindset if you find yourself experiencing the following:
- It’s difficult for you to spend or give even small amounts of money to others.
- You don’t like your job, but you’re afraid to leave it because you don’t see other opportunities.
- You’re in a relationship with someone that isn’t right for you, but you’ll “take what you can get.”
- You frequently feel hopelessness or discouragement.
- It’s difficult for you to take risks in any area of your life.
Notice the common patterns? Settling. A lack of courage. Complacency.
How to create & cultivate an abundance mentality
If a scarcity mindset produces these results (which I don’t want), then an “abundance mentality” will, in theory, produce the opposite: more confidence, more resources, more opportunities, more fulfillment.
Okay, sounds great, but is it actually true? Are there limitless opportunities to create wealth, limitless amounts of joy, and limitless friendships and relationships available? That is, is there an abundance of what I dream of, what I desire, and even what I need?
And this is why I believe it.
The bible does not teach us that there is a limited amount of joy, fulfillment, or even money in the world. It teaches us to see abundance in all things. It teaches us to believe in an availability of opportunities and possibilities to see and experience goodness.
The Old Testament is full of passages that help explain that God’s commandments to us are rooted in His desire for us to experience abundance.
The Lord your God will then make you successful in everything you do. He will give you many children and numerous livestock, and he will cause your fields to produce abundant harvests, for the Lord will again delight in being good to you as he was to your ancestors.***
Okay, I don’t want “numerous livestock,” but I do hope that the work I’m doing will yield results and produce wealth. Likewise, I would like to have a family (example here is “many children”). The point is that God’s desire is for us to flourish.
Jesus said that the devil came to steal, kill, and destroy, but that He himself came to give us the abundant life.** We are meant to experience life that is full of good things: friends, family, love, realized dreams, adventures, physical health, and financial stability.
So what do we do when we don’t see the reality of these things? What do we do when we’re struggling to pay our bills, make new friends, carve a career path, or find a spouse? What do we do when we feel like we’re out of possibilities? Like we’ve hit a dead end? That’s where faith comes in.
One of the greatest tensions of the bible- and the greatest miracles- is that it teaches us to believe in the impossible, even when we don’t see it.*** That stretch takes faith, which is “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”****
When we take the risk of believing in the availability or possibility of something we don’t actually see, we are engaging in faith. And the amazing thing about faith is that it produces results. When we believe in the exceptional, rather than the expected, we will experience exceptional circumstances: life that is exceptionally joyful, flourishing, abundant.
*Tim Ferriss’s book, The 4-Hour Workweek, which encourages us to see the possibility of developing means of income that will enable us to support lives that are meaningful, restful, and well, fun.
*** Deuteronomy 30:9
***With God, all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)
**** Hebrews 11:1