The allure of scarcity

2006

New York City last week I ran into a former colleague, Jim Wright, who is still actively embroiled in the corporate battleground of financial services. We chatted briefly – though long enough for him to admit to being fed up and burnt out. No surprise there. As we parted he said "But at least I'm lucky enough to have a job."

I wanted to shoot back "lucky? How so?" But I zipped my lip, smiled and nodded, feeling that the joy of purposeful work must seem too big and too foreign to Jim. He'd rather struggle and wallow in scarcity. Besides, a busy street in New York, between cab rides, wasn't the best time and place to start convincing him otherwise.

Later, the encounter caused me to recall this quote by the Buddhist monk and poet, Thich Nhat Hanh: "People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar."

Now, if that doesn't describe Jim – and maybe lots of other corporate professionals, I don't know what does. No matter how stressed, stifled, or disgusted, they cling to what is safe…or at least to the perception of what is safe.

No matter how stressed, stifled, or disgusted, they cling to what is safe

The string of thinking goes like this: Even though I'm desperately unhappy, it's a paycheck. I might not find another job.

Then, there's sugar-coating: Anyway, we're all floating in the same boat. I guess I'm really not so bad off.

And the clincher: Besides, making a change would be a heck of a lot of work. I don't have the energy for that.

So you stay stuck, wishing for things to stay the same, but get better.

Scarcity thinking has its roots in the economic concept of the supply of goods and resources. When goods are scarce, we want to be sure to get our share; if someone else gets there before me, I might not get my share. Their gain, my loss - because there's not enough to go around.

It's a powerful notion that's been with us forever, but has exploded in our consciousness since 9/11. Scarcity is rooted in fear and lives in the world of ego. It says: "The world is not safe, so I am not safe. I need to have greater and greater control to feel safe – over my health, my finances, my family, my work. If you have more, I have less."

Safe…maybe, but a scarcity mentality effectively embraces struggle, and abandons any opportunity for you to have a compelling identity about yourself, or to express your values or passions.

Abundance, on the other hand, lives in the world of the spirit. It sees a glass half full and says "There is more than enough to go around!"

As Sarah Ban Breathnach says in her book, "Simple Abundance", abundance and scarcity are parallel realities. Each and every day, you have the choice of which one to inhabit.

And you don't have to wait until New Year's Eve to start. Carve out a quiet space for yourself today and dream – for it is your dreams that give birth to change.

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About The Author

Patricia Soldati
Patricia Soldati

Patricia Soldati is a former President & COO of a national finance organization who re-invented her working life in 1998. As a career fulfillment specialist, she helps corporate professionals enhance their working lives – both within the organization – and by leaving it behind.