Henry Ford famously said, ”Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”
People have waxed lyrical for millennia around the notion that how you think directly influences your feelings, actions and behaviours. Buddha once said, “with our thoughts, we create the world.” Lao Tzu held, “When you realise nothing is lacking, the whole world belongs to you”. And Chicken Soup for the Soul author, Jack Canfield wrote, “you only have control over three things in your life, the thoughts you think, the images you visualise, and the actions you take.”
Now there’s a wide range of quantitative research to back up how critical our mindset is to achieving success, boosting everything from sports performance and stress management, to how you learn and even how long you’ll live. It turns out that adopting an ‘abundance’ mindset over a ‘scarcity’ mindset could well be the key to realising your dreams for work and play.
What is an abundance mindset?
Coined by Stephen Covey (best-selling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) in 1989, having an ‘abundance’ mentality means you think there’s plenty of resources out there for everybody to share equally. In other words, if you believe the glass is half full, rather than half empty.
Those who hold a ‘scarcity’ mentality believe there’s only a finite amount of water in the glass, and you can never refill it. If someone takes a large gulp, that means there will be less for everyone else. Forever. In other words, when someone else wins, you lose. Studies show this kind of thought pattern leads to lose-lose scenarios across the board. For example, one Harvard study found that focusing intently on one thing leads to missing other opportunities right in front of your nose.
Scarcity makes you myopic, focusing on present limitations rather future possibilities. Someone with a scarcity mindset engages in short-term, limited thinking—there can never be enough promotions, resources, information, money, time or creativity for everyone to succeed, so you better hoard what you can for yourself now.
Developing an abundance mindset means being open to every possibility, listening without judgement and brainstorming win-win solutions that give everybody more to work with. For those who opt to live life to the full, big thinking is in their DNA. As the famous saying goes, the secret to having it all is believing you already do.
Thinking makes it so.
Whether you see the road ahead as paved with scarcity or filled with abundance at every turn is up to you. You can choose which path you travel. Here’s six ways to make the mind shift from scarcity to abundance today:
1. Count your blessings.
Actively thinking about what you’re grateful for in your daily life has the power to switch your mindset from scarcity to abundance. Research by the world’s leading expert on gratitude, UCal professor of psychology, Robert Emmons, has found that regularly expressing gratitude improves your mental and physical wellbeing, and boosted happiness levels, relationships and productivity for the long term. When you’re grateful, fear disappears, and abundance appears, explains Tony Robbins. And, best of all, you don’t need anything special to start—simply take a little time each day to say what you’re grateful for. It can be as simple as a good night’s sleep.
2. Learn to recognise possibilities.
If you believe something’s impossible for long enough, eventually you train your brain to stop looking for opportunities. Thankfully, you can retrain your inner critic by consciously expanding your awareness. Cultivating an abundance mindset means seeing more—options, choices, and resources. Notice what ideas typically circulate through your head. Whenever you catch a negative train of thought, try to reorient it—how can you counter a scarcity mentality towards abundance?
3. Take the busy out of business.
How often have you responded “Busy!” when someone asks you how you are? But when we do so, we reinforce a scarcity mentality—that there’s just not enough time in the day for us to do everything we want to do. Yes, our world’s limitless demands and distractions make it seem as if life has sped up faster than we can manage. However, the stories we tell ourselves, and each other also shape our reality. The path to abundance means noticing the language we use daily and reframing them more positively.
4. Go for growth.
According to psychologist Carol Dweck, nurturing a growth mindset leads to greater success—whether life, career or relationships. “In a growth mindset, people believe that they can develop their most basic abilities through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment,” Dweck writes. Ultimately, it isn’t about how good you are at something, but how good you want to be. If you believe your talents are fixed in stone, you’ll never see or relish opportunities that challenge you to change and grow.
5. Observe the abundance surrounding you.
We’re all wired to focus on threat—our ancestors used their healthy regard for potential danger to ensure their survival (and therefore ours!). However, with the likelihood of encountering a sabretooth tiger in the boardroom next to nil, it’s time to counteract the tendency to focus on the negative—especially when the research shows us an abundance mindset can improve and prolong our lives! How do you turn a difficult situation around? Look at it again from a holistic perspective. Focus on what’s working and decide how to boost the positive outcomes instead of focusing on the negative.
6. Find your abundance tribe.
We’ve all met individuals who seem perpetually energised, focused on growth and endlessly optimistic. Spend more time with them! The company we keep has a direct effect on our state of mind—if you surround yourself with scarcity-minded people, it’s so much harder to stop thinking that way yourself.
When you’re looking to cultivate more abundant thinking, it’s essential to acknowledge that your mindset continually evolves with your experiences. Remember, no one is perfect—a ‘pure’ abundance mindset doesn’t exist—and thinking otherwise may reduce the benefits you seek by setting you up to fail.
However, with a consistent commitment to expanding your awareness, remaining mindful of when you’re working from a scarcity mindset, and persistently focusing on possibilities rather than limitations, you can transform your life with abundance.
Stay well and always be kind.
Andrew and the TDC Team