The Disturbing Reality of a Scarcity Mindset

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“Setbacks are discouraging, but you should always try to channel that feeling into positive action.” – Richard Branson

I don’t know where or why it came upon me so suddenly, but for the past couple of weeks I’ve been hit hard with a scarcity mindset. Scarcity is an incredibly toxic mindset to have. In my particular case, it’s the feeling that bad things happen to good people. Kind of a “nice guys finish last” approach to everything.

I usually focus on abundance. Whatever you or I want, we can have. I believe it and I live it.

And yet …

Scarcity is running rampant in my mind lately.

I feel like this blog isn’t growing as quickly as it should. (Even thought it’s growing phenomenally well.) I feel like HTLA isn’t selling enough. (Even though it’s selling quite well.) I feel like my Polish language is getting worse. (Maybe it is?) I feel like my guitar playing is weak and uninspired. And so on … I won’t continue with the depressing details!

Sometimes I feel like I can blame it on the weather. Shitty weather (i.e. the weather here for 90% of the past 2 weeks) utterly ruins me. It’s one of the only elements of life I have not been able to defeat with a mind-over-matter attitude.

Not Alone

I know I’m not the only person to have feelings of scarcity at some point or another.

Chris Guillebeau has written about it in Expanding The Pie. That was written in February of 2009 and I remember reading it back then and thinking “man, it must be normal for successful people to feel this way sometimes.”

I identify with so much of what Chris writes in that article.

And yet …

That doesn’t help break through the feelings of scarcity.

In most ways, life is better than it has ever been.

Money?

This scarcity really has no basis.

a) There’s nothing I want to buy. And if there was, and it fit with my goals, I’d buy it.

b) Everything I want to do, I do. (OK, I can’t afford a trip to space right now, but I’ll make that happen somehow. ;) )

Health?

Maybe it’s the fact that I somehow caught a cold for the first time in forever recently and that has me questioning my diet. Truthfully, I know I’m just supporting the local veg restaurants a little too much as opposed to eating my regular awesome diet. I also know that there is no such thing as a perfect immune system and the fact that I haven’t been ill in such a long time should be a consolation.

And yet …

It’s still hanging over me. (And I just realized the statement about making the trip to space happen somehow is a straight up abundance mindset. Hmmm …)

Relationships?

“I don’t want to be lonely, I just want to be alone.” – Daniel Johns

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that relationships like the ones you make when you only stay in a place for a few months (give or take) are fleeting. What’s the point of investing a lot of time in a relationship (platonic or romantic) if there’s an almost certain end point?

If you know me you know I love spending time alone, so sometimes I’ll cut myself off from people for no real reason. I actually need to spend a lot of time alone. (I even own the domain HowToBeAlone.com!) Being social is fun, but it’s incredibly exhausting for me. I haven’t found a balance. It’s usually all or nothing, which I know is no good.

Annoyances

Things have been annoying me more lately. Maybe that’s related to the scarcity mindset? Stupid petty things like people walking in the middle of the sidewalk (instead of off to one side) and not allowing any room to pass on my bike. Or seeing an overweight person devouring a burger while walking down the street. (A regular occurrence now that Poland is getting more Westernized and waistlines are exxxxxxxpppaaaannndddiiiinnngggggg.) People are free to walk on a walkway and eat unhealthy fatty foods however and wherever they want. Why should I care? I usually don’t. What’s different lately?

An Abundance of Ideas and Scarcity of Action

Sometimes it might seem like I’m some kind of superhuman. And part of that might be on purpose. :) But I’m no different than you. I struggle with things. Maybe not the same things, but I have problems just like anybody else.

Lately I’ve been having more ideas than ever, both business and “other” (as in, awesome stuff I want to do), but I don’t take action on them. The reason is simple. Focus. There are very few people (looking at you Pat Flynn, you bad ass; Pat’s blog: Smart Passive Income) who can successfully devote time to multiple projects concurrently.

The fact that I have all of these ideas and no outlet for them might be breeding this scarcity mindset. I’m devoting all my focus to writing lately and I love it. So no complaints about that. But what happens to everything else? It sits in a Google Document called Awesome Ideas and nothing ever comes of them. Maybe purging all of those ideas is the answer?

As we all know, ideas don’t mean a damn thing. Action is almost everything. So what would it matter if I deleted all those “great” ideas? I don’t know what would happen, but I can’t bring myself to do it.

Get Pissed

I recently did an interview with Henri Juntilla for his self improvement blog (you have to subscribe to his e-mail list to get it … although not sure when he’s releasing it) and he asked me about getting things done and making shit happen. Actually, I don’t remember the exact question. The answer was (paraphrased): “When something doesn’t work out I get pissed at myself and work at it until I figure it out.” Henri and I both agreed on that “getting pissed at ourselves” point and I wonder how many other people use that same strategy.

Maybe the problem is I haven’t gotten pissed about this yet.

How To Deal With Scarcity?

Most people will probably say focus on others. And I agree. I think a lot of it does boil down to focusing more on others instead of myself. Exactly how, I’m not entirely sure. I give a lot to entrepreneur’s through Kiva. I help people like crazy via e-mail and I love doing that, especially when the Five Sentences E-mail Rule is followed. ;) I even help people on Skype when I’m on and somebody contacts me.

Does that help? Lately, it only helps temporarily.

And since this is no different than what I usually do, I don’t think it’s supposed to help.

Maybe I have to go above and beyond? Maybe, but I’m not sure what that even means.

Awesome E-mails

As you may know, I have a Gmail Label called “Awesome E-mails.” If you’ve sent me an e-mail praising me or this site your e-mail gets tagged as awesome. I posted on Twitter last week that I’ve been getting a lot more of these e-mails than usual.

To me, this proves that what I’m doing here is working out exactly how I originally planned.

Why hasn’t this erased the scarcity mindset?

Why Post This?

I had no plans of posting anything about this. This article doesn’t have any apparent lessons, does it? Or does it? I’m posting it because I do my best to be open here and this is what’s happening right now. I know it won’t last, but I’m in the thick of it. I didn’t expect it to last as long as it has and I’m not sure if I should just let it pass or somehow actively destroy it.

I don’t have all the answers and I don’t currently have a good answer for this.

Comments Turned Off

I’ve shut off comments on this post. I definitely appreciate all the help, but lots of comments were mistaking depression for a scarcity mindset. While they can be related, they are two separate beasts here. I also appreciate all the kind words, but I wasn’t fishing for compliments. ;)

Reading this over now I see how this mistake could easily be made and it’s my fault for not being clear in my writing here.

Thank you so much for your support! You rock!

Photo Credit

{ 49 comments }

David Cain

Hey Karol. The one thing I’ve learned from being in funks like that is that sometimes they just have to run their course. Maybe you don’t need to do anything to get rid of it, or even learn anything from it, just wait for the tides to change.

Karol

Thanks David! Yeah, I know they have to run their course, but dammit, this one’s taking a while. :)

Ivan Krachanov (Unlabeled)

Hey Karol!

For me the answer to the scarcity mindset is the stuff you talk about in your post “Do You Know Where The Power Lies?”. I try to focus on the feeling that all I need to deal with difficult situations and reach my dreams is already within me and this faith in myself makes the scarcity mindset disappear.

Hope this helps :)

Karol

Thanks Ivan! That’s the thing. I know this and yet the scarcity hasn’t gone away. It’s a weird bird. :)

Marilia

I tottaly relate to feeling sick, like having a cold, and going through a down mood. The weather too is big in making me feel the way I feel.

When I´m down, I try to put my phase into perspective. I know it won´t last long, actually, I can count changes with the moon changes. We can grow out of a bad state quite fast, I simply rely on this and wait for the change.

Karol

Thanks Marilia. I’ve been doing exactly that, but wrote this because the feeling has been running rampant longer than usual.

?ukasz

Recently I read somewhere that after climbing the mountain you have to pass valley to get to the next one.

I’ve been having some troubles recently because of which I can only sleep do 4-5 hours at the time and that’s way to little for me. I was really struggling with that being frustrated and angry at anything and everybody. But I finally gave in and accepted my current condition. After that I’m calmer and everything looks bit better. No, my problems didn’t disapeared, but handling them become bit easier.

Karol

Thanks ?ukasz! I like it: sometimes we have to give in and accept it. That is a great article idea actually. :)

Anthea

Hi Karol,

I hope you feel better soon! Health and good weather will probably help a lot with managing your mindset, or at least with narrowing down the sources of the scarcity mindset that’s currently plaguing you.

What about a trip to someplace sunny and warm?

My usual way of dealing with scarcity mindset is to pick one thing that’s bothering me, identify one thing I can do to improve it even a little, and do that until either I’m tired out or I feel a bit better. Sometimes I’ll rearrange furniture, or alphabetize my bookshelves. Sometimes I go online looking for information like new exercises to do, or ridiculously extraordinary blogs. ;-) Sometimes I’ll set a goal and take even one tiny step towards it.

For me, being able to *change* something, even a tiny thing, or a tangentially related thing, is often enough to help give my mood a kick. (That’s been the source of most of my haircuts, actually. I used to have hair down to my bottom; after a few years of different cuts, last October I clipped it to 1/2 inch.)

Good luck! I’m rooting for you. :-D

-Anthea

Karol

Thanks Anthea,

A trip somewhere warm isn’t what I want, and it’s only a temporary fix. I’m on a mission to learn to speak Polish better and going somewhere else doesn’t fit with that goal.

I like your working on one little thing idea. Thanks!

Glenn

Hey Karol,

Have you tried some exercise?

Don’t want to plug my own simplistic views but here are some ideas, one of which might strike a chord:
http://www.olddognewlife.com/2009/01/11/northwesterners-guide-to-staying-up/%#more-62

Karol

Thanks Glenn,

Because it has been raining so much my exercise has been lacking. Not getting to ride my bike every day is part of the problem. :)

Tim

I agree with Glenn, I try to go out and exercise when I’m in the dumps. Its usually the toughest time to motivate myself to go for a run but sweating it out for an hour or more clears my head. I’m definitely one of the Sun’s biggest fans.

There are also indoor sports volleyball, basketball, and racquetball. All Super fun.

Karol

Hey Tim,

Thanks! I think a lot of people are confusing depression with scarcity. I guess in my writing above I didn’t make it clear. Scarcity is a different beast and believe-you-me I know depression. :) That said, I do believe exercise helps life in general!

Cheers,
Karol

Sonicsuns

These things tend to cause themselves. The scarcity mindset brings about a scarcity mindset. And when we feel sad, we can feel sad about feeling sad, etc.. Try to break the cycle; remind yourself that your doldrums as of late in no one necessitate your having of further doldrums. Don’t feel bad about feeling bad.

Karol

Whoa, “don’t feel bad about feeling bad.” Phenomenal! Thanks Sonicsuns!

Srinivas Rao

Hey Karol,

It’s funny because I totally can relate to this and my post today was about abundance and the fact the that there is “always another wave coming.” But, like you I’ve experience some of this lately. For me it’s been particularly in the area of relationships. It’s like everything in my life is perfect and this would be like icing on the cake to have some companionship. On the flip side of that I realize the importance of developing myself fully and not being dependent on any external factors for happiness. I ended up in two previous relationships with two really needy and co-dependent people. But I think it’s possibly because that’s exactly what I attracted. So, I’m kind of with you on finding a balance. On a brighter note rather than sound a thousand emails on Okcupid, I tweeted to them and told them I want their help to organize a mixer in LA. Why not use what I know (social media) to fix this problem :).

Karol

Thanks Srini. I feel like most of this scarcity is relationship related as well. Like I mentioned, I’ve been feeling a bit “what’s the point?” about them lately. Even though I very well know that there is a point and they’re beneficial, even if they’re very short-lived.

Sarah St John

I wonder if we need to go through these down periods in order to keep moving forward? When the image becomes blurred on a camera, you reach up and adjust the focus to get the clarity you want. Maybe that’s true in life as well. If things were always going great, we might get lazy and stop trying so hard. So, when you lose focus, hopefully the result is that you do get pissed and reset the focus and make even greater strides toward the things you want to accomplish. It could also be a cleansing that gets rid of stagnant ideas that are no longer serving a purpose and to make room for new ideas. The trick is to figure out what you need to do or change to adjust your focus.

Karol

Good question Sarah. I don’t know if we need to go through these periods, but I do think they’re fairly normal.

That said, I don’t think focus is the problem. I’m focused as usual! And that’s what makes this all so very odd. :)

Casey Friday

Hey Karol,

It’s crazy to me that you posted this today, because I went through the *exact* same thing for the past two days. All of my efforts felt futile, and I even felt like I didn’t deserve to give or receive love from people I *do* love. My girlfriend did something seemingly insignificant that totally flipped my world upside down, and I was so inspired by it that I blogged about it.

“What’s the point of investing a lot of time in a relationship (platonic or romantic) if there’s an almost certain end point?”

When I moved into the apartment I currently live in, I asked my girlfriend why I should even invest in “making it look homey”, when we’re just going to leave on a RTW trip in less than a year anyway. She said something along the lines of, “It’s better to enjoy the moment now, than to make up reasons to live a less-than-optimal life.”

I challenge you to go for it, even if it seems pointless. Life will surprise you when you least expect it.

Karol

Thanks for sharing Casey. Your girlfriend is a smart woman. :)

Chris Guillebeau

Hey dude, thanks for the props. I continually struggle with this issue too, not just a while back when I wrote that. I try to keep the balance of things over on the abundance side, but it’s a constant battle.

I do think the external focus helps, and the awesome emails, but sometimes it’s just a phase that has to pass.

Anyway, I’ll look forward to seeing you on that space ride one day! Just think of all the miles we’ll get…

Karol

That’s fascinating Chris. Especially considering how much your profile has grown since that article. Thanks for sharing. And I sure hope they offer miles on that flight! :)

Katie

Hi Karol! Thanks for sharing this post with us!

On a mission to experience new perspectives and horizons, I’ve recently turned my life upside down and the re-adjustment phase is slower going than I calculated…and thus, I am also currently succumbing to those thoughts of doubt and scarcity. It really helps to know that there are other awesome people out there going through the same thing. Sometimes these types of stories are even more motivational than the tales of sunny days.

Thanks for being awesome! -Katie

Karol

Thanks Katie. Good to know sharing this helped in some small way. :)

Brittany

Sometimes being in a funk or a mood of scarcity is necessary. Just a little break from trying to keep up with the fast pace of life! I find that the bigger the funk I’m in, the bigger I bounce back later.

“I don’t want to be lonely, I just want to be alone.” This quote really struck me. I’m the same way, being around people is exhausting. But what I do to balance it out is just tell my friends and family how I am. I let them know that I need my rejuvenation time, and once they understand, it’s really easy not to feel pressured into being with people. And when I’m not pressured, I tend to want to be with people more! It’s a silly little cycle, but it works. :)

Take care, Karol. You’ll be out of that mindset soon enough. You may just need a brain break!

Karol

Thanks Brittany, this is interesting: “I find that the bigger the funk I’m in, the bigger I bounce back later.” I haven’t been in a big funk for a very long time. And I wouldn’t even consider this a big funk. Just a funk that won’t go away! :)

As for that quote: it’s why Daniel Johns is a genius. :)

Darlene Reger

Is it good or is it bad?
Some viruses may increase immunity to worse things; the path to cancer and what prevents its recurrence is largely unknown.
Is it a blue funk or hibernation/cocooning?
The bear emerges from the cave in spring with a new cub and a ferrocious appetite.
Yen/yang. Restore. Learn.
Easy for me to say.

Karol

Hi Darlene,

I will be honest and say that I am 100% confused by your comment. ;)

Karol

Darlene Reger

There is reasearch indicating that cancer patients who had infections for which they took antibiotics, had slightly lower recurrance rates of the cancer. (I read that in a magazine that cancer “survivors” get free – I am a cancer “survivor”.)
So who knows – does a cold or its treatment carry immune benefits we don’t know about? (For instance, my childhood chicken pox gives me higher resistance to some other viruses. A flu outbreak during my childhood may have given me higher resistance to bird flu.) Are you now more immune to something else as a result of the cold you’ve had? Was it a gift in disguise? Yin/yang.

Is the time feeling down just a chance to recharge? Is seeing scarcity in the world a chance to address it, and/or to help those who are less fortunate? Or a necessary stick to the carrot for ourselves? Or just a chance for me to goof off here instead of addressing my own problems? ;)

Gee, I’m feeling a little better, don’t know about you. I was in a bllue funk myself.
Besides, haven’t had lunch yet, I’m hungry as a bear. And feel like birthing a new reality for me. Thanks. Cheers.

Karol

Oh, I understand now Darlene. :) Thanks for clearing it up! I’d love to read research about how illnesses may boost immunity to something else. That is fascinating.

Clint

I take a more indirect approach when I feel that way. Rather than focus on what is making me feel frustrated, discouraged, or generally shitty, I look for new ideas that energize me.

I’m not necessarily looking for actionable ideas, just something that makes my jaw drop or introduce a new perspective.

I’ll often browse a library or book store until I stumble upon a book that captures my attention.

Karol

Thanks Clint. I like your approach.

Jes

It’s telling you something. Listen. Not hard, but constantly keep an “ear” cocked for the message that’s trying to come through.

Karol

Thanks Jes.

Elizabeth

Hello. :) I’m still new-ish to your blog and don’t know you well, but I wonder if maybe you’re underestimating how much your illness/the rain/not biking has affected you?

And I’m wondering about the dissonance between staying in a place because you are very focused on learning the language to talk to people, but then feeling “what’s the point” about the relationships that talking creates?

I’m also wondering if assuming those relationships will end because of a travel date is assuming too much? I’m sure you have relationships with people all over the world that continue via modern technology? And other relationships with people in Poland that ended last week because they just don’t take the same bus route anymore or whatever, not because you left?

Maybe my wonderings will help yours? Love the blog.

Karol

You’re dead on Elizabeth. About everything! haha I probably am assuming too much.

Thank you so much.

Elizabeth

You’re welcome. :)

Karen

I am in the middle of what could be considered a “scarcity” reality as opposed to a “scarcity” mindset.
I have been the sole support of my family for eight years after my three children and I were abandoned by my former husband. I was laid off from my job last year and am not receiving unemployment at present. This means that I am struggling to keep utilities on, have not had a working car or any other means of transportation, (other than my own two feet), no medical insurance and have literally almost no food.

I am starting my own business and am close to closing a deal for my first order. This will help greatly. In the meantime, it has been a challenge to figure out how to get to meetings and get necessary supplies in order to do the work for this order.

I have been asked how I am getting through this. The answer is threefold: 1) I am very physically active. I get outside. 2) I know that I will make it. 3) I recognize that I only have to get through the present moment. I can’t worry about what the next two weeks will be like.
And if I may be so bold as to say so: The same holds true for you.
Thank you for sharing not only your positive “have it together” moments, but also those times when you feel challenged.

Karol

Thank you Karen. Not worrying about the next two weeks (or whatever random point in the future) is a great outlook. The problem with scarcity is it’s “in the moment.” It’s not about the future or past necessarily. It’s about right now. In this case, I almost feel like thinking to the future (it’s bright!) might actually help. hmmmm

Lach

Hey Karol. We all go through these phases from time to time. Sounds like you’re on a roll! How you feel is a direct reflection of your focus in the moment. Stop looking around yourself for evidence of your greatness and instead focus on the best feeling thought you can find. It might be a seemingly trivial, unlikely or surprising thought, but focus on it anyway; and feel better. People put far too much emphasis on action and fixing things. The world is littered with examples of people who work themselves into the ground and have nothing to show for it. I used to be in that club. The real power is in lining up your emotional and mental energy. Focus on others? Only if it feels good. Fill your own cup up first. Should be easy for you, Mr. Mind Control ;) I can’t tell you how awesome you are and how much I think your blog totally rocks.

Karol

Thanks Lach. I knew when I posted this that someone would bring up Mind Control Method. ;) MCM is about achieving goals and thoughts of scarcity aren’t stopping them from happening. But I didn’t even realize that I need to address Scarcity and Abundance in the final product until now. Thanks again Lach!

Geen

I just so grateful that you wrote this post. I’ve been struggling with scarcity mentality these few days. It just helps to know that I’m not alone, and that it will pass.

Karol

Awesome Geen. Thank you. :)

Angela

Hey Karol

Weather is just weather. I know, I lived in Cape Town where the wind blows most of the time. Still, it’s just weather. Being sick means your body or your spirit or some part of you needs a break that you’re not giving it. Allow yourself the freedom to veg. Watch a movie, sit in a coffee shop without your laptop, read something fun and easy that you wouldn’t normally. Just chill. As for the funk, when you go whitewater rafting and fall out (which you do), the guides tell you to flip on your back and wait to be spat out. No sense fighting it. Same applies here.

Anyway…I hope you feel better. I know how much it sucks to feel like that, but know ‘this too shall pass’.

Ang :-)

Karol

Thanks Ang!

Lindsey

For me, it’s is the lows that make the highs seem even better. Isn’t it great that even at your low, you really aren’t THAT low in the grand scheme of things? Yet when you ride that roller coaster back up, it feels even higher than before.

That’s how I think of it anyways. Love your blog. If it helps to hear it, everything I read here, I feel like I think the same shit, and it totally resonates with me.

Karol

Thanks Lindsey! I think maybe my wording was too strong, because most comments/e-mails seem to think I’m in some deep depression. But I’m glad you picked up on the fact that it’s not really that low. :)

Scarcity and depression, although they can be related, are two different beasts.

Since posting this article I’ve made at least one good decision from an abundance mindset. It did take me realizing that I was approaching the situation from a scarcity mindset to actually do that, but it’s a solid step. :)

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