Eckhart Tolle offers a bit of magic where thought is concerned. He often suggests that we be the ultimate observer, watching our thoughts as well as our feelings. The secret sauce is to watch without judgment. When doing so, you might be surprised at what you observe creeping through the door: Scarcity Mindset.
How to Identify Scarcity Mindset
Sometimes your behaviors will indicate scarcity mindset. Recently, I met a woman that was an avid journaler. Journaling was a daily practice in her life; one that brought her great joy and served as a foundation for her practices involving gratitude, abundance, and spiritual evolution. She had purchased herself a couple of new journals that were really quite grand in appearance. She loved the way they looked and felt. Yet there they sat. Empty. She continued her daily journaling practice by writing in her composition notebook as she always had. Through discussion, we peeled back the layers of the onion only to discover that she somehow felt that she shouldn't waste such beautiful pages on her day-to-day life. The belief that her daily thoughts and experiences will not be good enough, deep enough, eventful enough to warrant using the beautiful instrument is a marker of scarcity mindset. We want to change our lives, follow our bliss, and live in abundance, and yet we cling to the belief that deep thoughts and beautiful experiences are in limited supply? Moreover, we insist that our day-to-day experience is somehow subpar and not worthy of beauty? How can we attract beauty if we avoid it? How can we attract abundance if we avoid it?
As children, many of us were told that our "good clothes" were reserved for Sundays and special occasions. We were taught to favor our scrubby clothes because it was "okay to ruin them." I must admit that I have spent years working to reverse the messaging of that learned behavior. How many times have you walked to your closet and avoided your favorite sweater, selecting one that you didn't really care for? Selected the least favorite t-shirt from the drawer? Again, this is a marker of scarcity mindset. Perhaps this is why the process of clearing and decluttering is found in so many abundance practices. If we clear away that which we do not love, we create an environment for ourselves that only really contains that which we do love. If we aren't defaulting to the old habits of using items that are somehow of lesser quality or desirability than the ones we really want, there are fewer traps set to lure us into scarcity mindset yet again. Is it truly better to have possession of your favorite sweater forever because you never actually wear it? What happens if you wear it and it eventually wears out? Would you ever truly regret the numerous times you put it on and felt terrific? We want to follow our bliss and live in abundance and yet we avoid wearing sweaters that make us look and feel amazing?
Sometimes your words will indicate scarcity mindset. Do you use phrases like "I'm broke" to describe the present moment? This is problematic on a number of levels. First, that's all relative, and you probably really aren't. Moreover, the implication is that there is something wrong with you or the state of your experience. Again, that's probably not true. Also, using the phrase "I'm broke" doesn't exactly inspire positive emotions. When using the phrase "I'm broke," what do you really mean? Is it a nonconfrontational way of not making plans with someone? Perhaps it's really that you value saving money more than the other option in question. It's entirely more empowering to decline an invitation in some other way. If it's a lunch invitation, "I usually pack my lunch if you'd care to join me tomorrow" feels significantly better than "I'm broke." Perhaps sprinkle in a little gratitude practice along the way "Thanks, but I seriously made an amazing salad." Other phrases such as "I can't afford it" or I don't have enough ____" are oftentimes markers of scarcity mindset. Really, the list almost endless.
So, what can you do?
The first step is to catch the thought. We must notice ourselves repeating these thoughts before we can make any changes. Next, once you realize the tape keeps playing that same sound clip, stop the tape. Stop that thought dead in its tracks. Then try to replace it with a thought that feels better (and is probably closer to the truth). If scarcity mindset is presenting itself through the manner in which you interact with your possessions, perhaps it's worth running an experiment. How would you feel if you wore your favorite sweater rather than the one that's a bit beaten-up? Use the nice journal on a random Tuesday. Eat on the China one day just because you love it. Remember, you're not wasting things if you're using them and they make you feel really good. If you want to take things a bit further, you might even consider ways to declutter your space or certain categories of your possessions. Perhaps removing things you don't love will help you to realize that you deserve to surround yourself with things you do love and that you deserve to use them.
If you've had success overcoming scarcity mindset, I'd love to hear some of your strategies below!