Have You Heard Of The Scarcity Mindset? Here’s What It Is

Jade Carpenter on spotting and changing a scarcity mindset.


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How do you feel when your friend achieves a goal you’ve wanted to achieve? Or when a colleague gets a raise in work?

If your answer sounds something along the lines of “Well, that’s great for them but now it’ll be so hard for me to get that”, you may have a scarcity mindset.

The term was originally coined by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and describes the feeling of the world lacking resources. Stephen explains, “People with a scarcity mentality tend to see everything in terms of win-lose. There is only so much; and if someone else has it, that means there will be less for me.”

This can refer to time, money, love, job opportunities, houses, the list goes on. It’s the feeling of there never being enough to go around, and it takes its toll!

When one googles the scarcity mindset, something that pops up time and time again is the pie analogy. Stephen explained the mindset by saying that people with this mindset view life as a pie, and when someone takes a slice, there’s less pie for everyone else.

While some people would see the pie as getting bigger, ensuring there’s enough to go around. These people are known to have an abundance mindset, another term coined by Stephen Covey in his book. This is the preferred mindset, meaning other people’s success doesn’t take away from yours.

On the podcast The Mindset Mile, host Aisha Zaza explains that the scarcity mindset can come from life experiences, situations that have left you feeling like you had no control and that you need to protect what you do have right now, because it could be gone soon.

The podcast discusses how leaning into these thoughts can bring feelings of fear, sadness and anger and can force us to “Focus on what we don’t have and what we could lose”, rather than being grateful for what’s ours and seeing endless opportunities.

We are constantly being reminded that our thoughts reflect our life and what we focus on is what we see more of. So naturally, focusing on the scarcity of things is only going to highlight negatives in your life.

According to Aisha, people with scarcity mindsets, “Relinquish their control to make change in their life because they are at the glass ceiling and trying to make a change will most likely not end in success.”

Any of this sound familiar? Giving up before you’ve even tried? It’s something everyone has felt at one stage and it can feel impossible to see anything other than this when you’re consumed by self-pity.

“The signs of someone having a scarcity mindset are very clear…They feel that by someone else winning means they are losing…They pull others down to stay on top…They don’t help others because they want to stay ‘ahead’,” explains Denise Kenny Byrne, Life and Wellness Coach and Co-Founder of The Head Plan.

“As with all personal development, self-awareness is key. We can’t change our thinking unless we truly get to know how we think. I encourage you to view the traits of scarcity thinking versus

abundance mindset. Take the time and get honest with yourself as to what side of the line you land on,” she continues.

Denise urges everyone to challenge these negative thoughts and turn it into something positive.

For example, envy can become inspiration. Denise explains, “Social media is a breeding ground for a scarcity mindset to kick in. It can happen when you’re mid-scroll and envy strikes. You see someone living their best life and suddenly feel less than about your own.

“Nine times out of ten [when] you scroll past without liking a post, that has triggered this thinking. You have two choices: Hold onto this low vibe feeling of jealousy, envy, scarcity, lack and fear, or explore it with inspiration. What is it that this person has that is bringing this feeling out in me? Do they have something I want? Thank them for the lesson and use it as an opportunity to be inspired, if they can have it, you can have it too. Remember, the pie isn’t shrinking.”

Scarcity can be extremely common in careers. The competitive nature of some jobs leaves people feeling like they need to be selfish to get to the top. If someone else gets that promotion, it feels like a loss on your account, rather than a celebration for them. Of course, you’re going to be disappointed if things don’t go your way, but staying down and focusing on the fact you didn’t get it is only going to hold you back from looking at what’s next. It can be easy to turn it into a blame game, blaming the world and the lack of opportunities, but Denise says to remember that, “Rejection isn’t a sign that there’s a finite supply: It’s a sign that something better is coming.”

Gratitude is a huge aspect of combatting a scarcity mindset. People who are only focusing on what they don’t or can’t have, aren’t choosing to be grateful for what is in their life.

“Where a scarcity mindset is concerned, you might like to counteract negative thoughts based in lack, scarcity and fear, with grateful thoughts. The next time you catch yourself thinking a lack thought, come up with five things – any five things – to be grateful for on the spot,” says Denise.

As with many mind matters, your lifestyle and whom you choose to be around can have a significant impact. During her podcast, Aisha Zaza touches on the importance of evaluating your closest five people when trying to adapt a new mindset. “If the top five people you hang out with are not cheering you on, pushing you to be better, holding you accountable and celebrating your milestones, then it’s 100% in your best interest to build a new top five,” she explains. If you’re surrounded by a bunch of energy drainers and complainers, you’re not going to have much fun, are you?

Of course, a scarcity mindset is predominantly negative, but there can be positive outcomes from when it creeps in. Denise explains, “It doesn’t have to be a bad thing, it’s a human thing! It’s a really good thing to explore and lean into in a positive way. When I recognise this behaviour in myself (and I do occasionally) I turn it around, I look for the lesson. What is it that is making me feel this way? What is it this person has that I want? Why has this triggered me? It’s never anything to do with the actual person. It’s to do with you. It is usually a repressed desire that we may have been reminded of.”

The difference here is that you’re using the moment of scarcity to locate a goal, and then it’s time to make that goal a plan. Making active moves toward something that fills you with excitement and believing that there’s more you can achieve is a really positive thing. You’re not telling yourself it’s impossible because someone else has it you’re allowing yourself to go after it too. As you should!

Don’t take yourself out of the running before you’ve even tried. The ship has not sailed, give yourself a chance, you’ll be surprised what you can achieve with a little switch in your mindset.


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