Mindset is the single most important factor in stabilizing our challenges. I intentionally use the word "stabilize" because the truth is that life will continue to surprise us and knock us down. Unless we live in a bubble, unless we choose a life of complete safety, we are at risk for turmoil.

I write often about the positive mindsets we need to push through difficulty: Intention, choosing to be a victor instead of a victim, and embracing life like a marathoner.

Given the transformative power our thoughts have on our psyches and therefore our outcomes, I'll explain how one mindset, scarcity, will undermine your focus and sabotage your success, and how to silence it.

We all bump up against a lack of resources in our lives: time, money, knowledge, help, or any other resource we may need to accomplish a task or to make progress. When this happens, we often unconsciously move into a scarcity mindset.

This mindset forces us to focus on what we are lacking, rather than on what we have. Those with a scarcity mindset believe that there's a limited amount of everything, and they fear they won't get their share.

It forces us to take a myopic approach to life, in which we focus on what is right in front of us rather than on possibility and growth.

Scarcity mindset compels us to cling to what may not be good for us because of the fear of loss or change.

Scarcity also diminishes our ability to make decisions. Like a magnet, it pulls us away from focusing on activities that can fuel our growth.

Deloitte developed a five-phase vicious cycle of scarcity thinking that kicks in when we experience an unmet, urgent need:

  1. Top-down, strategic thinking is involuntarily interrupted by a bottom-up response ("What is happening? What do I need to react to?").
  2. Attention and energy is focused on meeting the unmet need, at the expense of other important concerns ("Everything else can wait. I need to fix this now").
  3. Constant trade-off decisions deplete self-control ("I'm at the mercy of situations I did not plan for and do not want").
  4. Decision fatigue and lack of cognitive vigilance emerge ("I am exhausted, and I cannot think straight to make good decisions").
  5. Myopic decision-making and borrowing from the future result ("I have to fix what is right in front of me. Everything else can wait").

This cycle is what happens to your brain when scarcity takes over.

Overcoming scarcity

So how do we eliminate the scarcity mindset? The answer is not to rid ourselves of the situation that may trigger the mindset. That is unrealistic. Rather, we must build buffers into our day that allow us to calmly assess our situations, and place them in the right context of the bigger picture.

What we focus on grows. If we divert all of our attention to the one circumstance that negatively triggers us, the rest of the positive areas in our life will suffer.

Here are five things we can do daily to shift from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset:

1. Practice gratitude every day. Especially on my most stressful days, I live from a place of gratitude and remind myself that my "problems" are minimal compared with the problems of so many across the globe.

2. Shut down the external negativity. What messages are you allowing into your world? The constant barrage of negative political information, racial tensions, terror attacks, escalated violence, etc., naturally evoke feelings of fear and lack of control. I rarely watch TV. I listen to uplifting podcasts. I've disengaged from social media platforms. We can all control our external influences, which have tremendous psychological and emotional consequences.

3. Share with others. Few activities in life deliver a sense of purpose and fulfillment like sharing with others. We all have much to give--our time, knowledge, experience, inspiration, or other resources we may not need but others desperately do.

4. Incorporate mental breaks and time buffers into your day. Moving through the day, without time to pause and recharge, creates a mental state of chaos and exhaustion. People will always want more from us. We must be our own advocates and protect our energy.

5. Remember that everything is impermanent--the good and the bad. Nothing lasts forever. It may drag on, but ultimately all situations resolve themselves. You are not defined by any one scenario in your life. You are the totality of all that you have been, all that you have achieved. Balance your focus and energy in a way that allows you engage in the good of your life, rather than only focusing on the negative.

You have the power to reject scarcity and choose abundance. Good luck!

Published on: Oct 10, 2016