Scarcity

I had the recent pleasure of reading Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much—what a fascinating book! I never realized what having a scarcity mentality really means. In the past, I had heard this applied to my thinking and just figured that I was being negative. I now understand that the true meaning and impact of scarcity is much, much deeper than just merely being negative. In fact, it has very consequential and sometimes, deadly repercussions!

We all have experienced scarcity at some point in our lives and probably experience every day, whether scarcity of money, time, food or even love. What most people don’t realize is that the thoughts and emotions around scarcity are often not conscious, but subconscious. And when things move into the subconscious, our reactions are not in our control. We automatically shift into a “tunneling” mode and all other considerations become secondary or tertiary. When we are hungry, truly hungry — as in not sure where our next meal comes from — it is almost impossible to focus on matters beyond the moment, like paying rent or enrolling your child in school. You’re hungry and feeding yourself is job one.

Let’s take a less extreme example, one involving time scarcity, something most people can relate to. You have an assignment which is due in three weeks, allowing you plenty of time to accomplish it. You delay until the deadline looms near, say 2 days away, and now you are focused, very focused, on finishing the project. You forget about lunch plans you made with a friend. End of the world? No, just annoying. In fact, your focus was probably a good thing as it helped you do a better job on the project. But let’s say you’re short on money for rent. You are trying to do your day job and your mind keeps slipping back to the unpaid rent. As much as you try, it’s impossible for you to really focus on your work. Your boss thinks you’re distracted and not paying attention. You have no control over this. Moreover, your bandwidth to take on new problems in greatly diminished, so much so that your IQ has dropped significantly. These are some of the effects of scarcity and they have nothing to do with negative thinking!

I’m not going to spoil the read by listing solutions to the scarcity problems, as there are many. However, I will mention one other fascinating tidbit: Abundance, the opposite of scarcity, leads to its own problems and ultimately, it is the precursor to scarcity—go figure! Read the book, it’s enlightening.

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