We know clients with very small or inconsistent incomes who feel financially secure. As one of them put it, “I know, no matter what, I’ll land on my feet.” They aren’t careless or impractical, either. These people have a natural sense of abundance, a deep belief that there is enough to go around.
We also know clients who have a great deal of income and investments and who are fearful every moment of losing them. To the person who lives with a sense of scarcity, there truly is never enough. He or she therefore is much more apt to go for the sure thing, the instant payoff, the action that will pay the bills today, than take the type of risks involved in seeking a higher purpose or meaning in life.
Karla, 35, is a case in point. She is a special education teacher who works with severely learning disabled children. “Every so often I’ll meet someone and they’ll ask me what I do, and when I tell them, they’ll say something like, “Oh, you’re such a special person to work with those children. It must be so rewarding.” I really want to die when they say that. I got my degree in special education simply because that’s where the jobs were, and I knew that I had to have a job the day I graduated college or I’d have no way to survive. To be honest, the job is boring and tedious. To me, there’s nothing meaningful about it at all. I know that there were probably other things I could have done with my life that I might have enjoyed more. But, hey, with a mortgage, a divorce, and a teenager, I was too afraid to go for it.”
A sense of scarcity is like a filter through which we view everything. It’s not necessarily reality. However, it’s a way of protecting ourselves from risk and disappointment. In truth, it often limits us to a life that is somewhere in the middle of happiness and unhappiness. It’s usually steady and stable. “I guess I’d call it vanilla,” Karla says. “It’s not a sundae with all the trimmings, but at least you’re eating ice cream.” One might think Karla is being practical. But thirteen years doing a job she dislikes goes beyond practicality. It’s her enduring sense of scarcity that won’t allow her to see that she does, in fact, have options.
Where do you stand on the scarcity vs abundance continuum?
Answer the following questions either true or false.
1. I often worry that there won’t be enough money even when things are going well
2. In choosing a career, security is a top priority.
3. I often worry about losing what I’ve gained through no fault of my own.
4. I rarely take risks with things that are dearest to me.
5, I have trouble believing, Do what you love and the money will follow.
6. I worry that my children won’t have as many opportunities in their lives as generations before them.
7. I have trouble believing that eventually everything works out.
8. I don’t feel especially connected to anything beyond my day to day activities.
9. When people say, “Don’t worry, it will work out,” I think they’re naive.
10. I have doubts whether there is a high power who has a master plan for me.
11. When I leave a relationship, it’s usually because I’ve met someone else – I’d rather stay than be alone.
12. Making changes in my life, whether it means moving to another home, or switching careers, can be very difficult for me.
Have you answered true more often than false?
It doesn’t mean you’re right or wrong. Just consider that when one sees scarcity all around him, taking the time to pursue such questions as, What would have real meaning for me? What do I really want? is that much more difficult. It seems impractical. But, that doesn’t mean it is. This isn’t an either/or type of endeavor, where you either take wild risks or stay stuck with what you have. There are ways all of us can begin to feel a greater, more freeing sense of abundance in our lives without giving up the tried and true.
Here are some more questions to consider to enhance your sense of meaning, purpose and sense of abundance.
1. When do you feel your life has the most purpose and meaning? When do you feel the deepest joy?
(i.e. With my grandchild; when I play piano; in my garden; when I take a course; when I exercise)
2. How could your gifts and talents fulfill a need in the world?
(i.e my art skill could bring joy to elderly people, my teaching skill could educate children, my optimism could motivate others)
3. What would I like people to say about me after I’m gone?
(i.e. he/she was a good person, creative, loving, talented,enjoyed life to the fullest)
4. In what ways would you act differently if you had only one year to live?
(i.e. Make sure I made a contribution to what I believe in; tell people I love how I feel about them; visit places I’ve always wanted to see)
Mitch Meyerson is the Founder of Guerrilla Marketing Coaching and the author of 8
psychology and marketing books. www.MitchMeyerson.com