Abundance Thinking vs. Scarcity Thinking

Cash from bike

Abundant or Scarce?

My work (day job) has been rough for the past 18 months or so.  The business experienced some growing pains, resulting in several layoffs, a pay freeze and a pay cut.  Originally, I was living with a Scarcity Mentality…”Well, if he makes an additional $500/year, that’s $500 less that I can make”.  I was fearful of not being able to do what I want to do in life.  When most of the upheaval began at work, I decided that I could either be bitter (which I was for a while), or I could take work for what it was (a good job) and design my life to be what I want it to be.  The only way to do so was through Abundance Thinking.

I always reminded myself of when my wife and I were first married.  We made about $15/hour, combined income, and we felt like we were living like a king and queen.  I always wondered how it was possible to feel that good, while not making much money.  Part of it was because we were newly-weds and it’s very easy to practice Abundance Thinking when everything is new and exciting in life, but part of it was simply because life is abundant if you’re willing to watch and listen.

For years, my parents would discuss an ‘abundant mentality’.  As a kid, I never really understood what they meant by an “Abundance Mentality”.  I then read about Abudance Thinking vs. Scarcity Thinking in Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, and still the concept failed to sink into my thick skull.  Finally, after my wife and I decided to really take charge of our finances did the concept of Abundance Thinking finally catch hold.

In Stephen Covey’s book, 7 Habits, he defines the Scarcity Mentality and Abundance Mentality as follows:

“Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality.  They see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there, and if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else.  The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life.  People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit – even with those who help in the production.  They also have a very hard time being genuinely happy for the success of other people.

“The Abundance Mentality, on the other hand, flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security.  It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody.  It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making.  It opens possibilities, options, alternatives and creativity.”

I have found that by practicing Abundance Thinking, my wife and I are more content with our lives and we are actually enjoying life more now while spending significantly less.  Don’t get me wrong, there are still many things we want to do that we are unable to afford currently, but with our new Abundance Mentality, none of our goals feel like pipe dreams any longer.

My wife hates budgets (I find them kind of fun, just difficult to stick to).  In order to make our budget more fun, my wife created a “Frugal Fun Calendar“.  The calendar is full of either free, or very low cost activities/items that we can do/purchase each month.  We didn’t know what to put in the calendar and we actually stressed about not having enough to do in a month.  We settled on about 18 different activities for each month.  We thought it wasn’t going to be enough.


Through our first month of the Frugal Fun Calendar, we learned that we have so many options and so many ways to interact as a family that we actually couldn’t do all that we had planned when we started the month.  On Jan 1, we thought we would be bored, with too many days of nothing to do.  But by Jan 31, we had only completed about 3/4 of what we had planned and we felt the days were just packed.  Only by practicing Abundance Thinking have we been able to enjoy all that is available to us locally.

One interesting mental shift that has occurred is that now, rather than simply spend money on something like we used to do, we actually don’t even want to spend the money anymore.  It just doesn’t seem worth it when we have so much to do without spending money.  I used to be a bookaholic and my wife used to chastise me because my mom is the director of a library (although she has a bad book habit as well…).  I used to buy a book once a month or so.

Since we’ve been practicing Abundance Thinking, I’m finding that the library has a HUGE selection, and (as long as I return the books on time), they’re free.  In addition to the town’s library, we have a HUGE University library system that we can access.

Lastly, Abundance Thinking has actually made us happier.  Rather than fretting about what we can’t buy because we don’t have enough money, we are able to slow down and realize how much we have and that we don’t need to buy those other things.  I admit that it helps that we spent every last penny (and then some) in our past life and purchased some really nice clothes, kitchen equipment, etc.  With proper care, those items will last most of our lives and will generally remain stylish.

If you aren’t actively practicing Abundance Thinking, I encourage you to give it a try.  Set a specific time period, say 4 months.  Go cold turkey and force yourself to maintain the Abundance Thinking lifestyle for those four month.  You may have to kick the multiple-Starbuck-per-day habit and make your own coffee.  You may have to make lunch for yourself before work.  Consider walking or biking to work.

If you’re not happier, go back to your old life style, it’s not difficult, but I would bet you may enjoy the Abundance of life more than you think.

3 Thoughts.

  1. Great post, I wish everyone would have an abundance mentality. There is enough to go around, especially if we regenerate what we have and sell it to those who don’t! We have politicians trying their best to sell us a scarcity mentality, and it is decaying this country, we just need to recognize that with so many great technological inventions we are able to be more abundant.

    • Agreed. It too me a while to realize that the world is full of abundance. So much of what we hear is negativity and related to scarcity (oil, natural gas, water, etc). Life is much better with an abundance mentality (or so I think!)

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