If you are building your career, starting a freelance hustle, or launching a business, there is one phrase that is so toxic, it’s like putting Draino in your Starbucks: “There’s not enough to go around.” A “scarcity mentality” is the mindset that you are competing for clients or users; that there isn’t enough work for everyone; or “there may not be more where that came from.”
It’s an over-protection mechanism. It’s your mind trying to prevent you or your company from experiencing lack… but paradoxically, all it does is create it. “It’s fear,” says Hana Ayoub, a professional development coach who left a 15-year corporate career to build her practice, “the roots of which are different for everyone. But it’s not a useful mentality to have.”
“The fear around money is one of the few fears that are considered socially acceptable or responsible or adult-like,” says Emily Fletcher, the founder of the Manhattan-based meditation studio Ziva Meditation. “If you were still afraid of the bogeyman in your closet, people would think you’re crazy. But with money, people would say, ‘Oh, she’s responsible, she’s planning for the future of her business.”
Fletcher has also taught meditation classes at Google HQ, Coca-Cola HQ, and Harvard Business School. “If you treat money like a limited resource designed for hoarding, you create stagnation in your bank account. The world doesn’t support stagnation; the world supports growth,” she says.
It’s worse than stress.
With a scarcity mentality comes a sense of contraction, and it’s more destructive than just stress. Doing business in a scarcity mindset makes you think small and pessimistically. It puts a major strain on your creativity and sense of expansiveness. It limits what you are able to see as possibilities for your business.
“When you’re in a scarcity mentality, you focus on the tactical,” says Amy Schofield, founder of Chic Bridesmaid, a bridesmaid dress rental service. “Your thoughts become, ‘I have to pay this bill, I have to pay this invoice.’ Doing these things gives you a small sense of achievement, but it doesn’t answer, ‘How do I best deliver on my mission or goals today?’”
Being so “in your own head” about money worries doesn’t just take you out of the real world, it takes you out of the game. “When you’re disconnected, you lose sight of your big picture, of doing something that’s innovative and meaningful to people,” says Schofield.
Change your mindset.
Hana Ayoub recommends confronting the irrational fear of “not having enough.” She says: “Pinpoint the discomfort. Ask yourself: ‘What’s the problem that’s making me think things won’t work out financially?’”
She recommends that entrepreneurs dig even deeper: “Ask, ‘What would happen if I shifted my mindset? What’s the concern?’” She says that scarcity is a “masking mentality” and that when we give ourselves the opportunity to let go of it or to articulate why we’ve been hanging on to it, “we can look at the layer of dialogue that lives right below. It’s usually something you want to move past.”
She goes on to say, “It’s all about the energy you’re putting out there. If people lead with financial insecurity, that’s not necessarily the most attractive attribute to have on display. When people lead with their strengths and they lead with these positive things that inherently attract energy, that will bring about what they ultimately want, like financial stability or growth.”
“It’s important to start around a place of gratitude and celebrating what we already have,” says Emily Fletcher. “Are you reading this on your laptop or iPhone? You are drowning in abundance, but that’s not the story in your mind. Abundance can start with a state of mind. Poverty can also be a state of mind. It’s a choice. We get to choose what we put our attention on.”
Focus on the positive.
When you are able to loosen up your attitudes about income and money, and devote that mental energy to your work, to your product, and to your customer, you’re likely to build a healthier, more magnetic business or professional reputation. In fact, if there is any antidote to the scarcity mentality, it’s approaching a new project or building a business by loosely planning for things to work out and helping others along the way.
Fletcher says that if a person puts their attention on “creation” — brainstorming new ideas, getting projects off the ground, initiating new relationships, and helping others — “you start to experience elegance and serendipity and happiness in your life.”
Schofield says that one way to train yourself out of a scarcity mentality — and get more done — is to connect with other entrepreneurs and offer your help. “You need to look for other people who need something that you can bring to the table. And perhaps there’s something that you can ask of them.” Either way, the act of offering one’s time, help, and expertise fosters a mentality of generosity and, to put it simply, plenty. There’s plenty to go around.
If you are able to channel your mental energy into lending your skills and talents to people who are also innovating and doing interesting things (and could use your help!), worries about “not having enough” seem practically obscene.
Says Ayoub, “I’m a huge believer in leading with generosity. I encourage people to not keep score, and know that it will all come back to you.”
There’s plenty to go around. Meet and collaborate with other motivated professionals at GA.