Never enough? The scarcity trap.
I need more time, I need enough sleep, I need more money… Sound familiar?
Then you’re the likely victim of the scarcity trap. You’re not alone, it affects us all – although we don’t always know it. It’s an irrational, instinctive thought process that feeds our subconscious and tells us we never have enough.
Global activist Lynne Twist calls scarcity ‘the great lie’ in her book The Soul of Money and being bound by a mindset of scarcity means we’re already losing before we’ve begun. We’re starting the day in a deficit, we’re presuming we don’t have enough hours in the day before putting a schedule together, we’re setting ourselves up to fail – without looking at the facts.
Brené Brown has a chapter dedicated to scarcity in Daring Greatly and as she puts it:
“Never ______ enough. It only takes a few seconds before people fill in the blanks with their own tapes.”
However you fill the blank, we are endlessly assessing what we are ‘missing’ rather than starting from a point of gratitude. This slowly and subtly changes our posture, we try and hold onto things more tightly, generosity decreases, contentment erodes and gratitude diminishes.
The curse of pursuing perfection
To paint an idyllic picture of family or work life means we’re never fulfilled, we’re constantly in a burdened by a sense of lacking something. As Brown puts it:
“…we are often comparing our lives, our marriages, our families, and our communities to unattainable, media-driven versions of perfection, or we’re holding up our reality against our own fictional account of how great someone else has it.”
Interestingly, Brown talks about the scourge of scarcity bubbling up from collective trauma. That worrying about scarcity is a version of post-traumatic stress disorder where instead of collectively healing we get angry and turn on each other.
It’s something as leaders we need to be aware of as we emerge from the Covid pandemic. How do we make sure the scarcity trap doesn’t affect our teams?
Changing the narrative
To counter notions of scarcity and perfectionism we need to encourage a culture of gratitude and vulnerability.
Admitting we’re not perfect takes an admission of vulnerability. Cultivating this in our teams leads to more open conversations, more opportunities to collaborate and a kinder, more supportive environment.
Showing gratitude – to ourselves and others – means we’re starting from a position of positivity, of asserting that we are ‘enough’ and we have ‘enough’. That we might face challenges, that we might fail, but that’s ok.
The joy of perspective
If you think back to life pre-Covid, the freedoms we took for granted we now yearn for, the quality time we dismissed we now prioritise & the noisy office instead of a burden, now an opportunity to connect. Even in our restriction, have you focusses on the freedoms you did have or did you allow discontentment and scarcity to drive your narrative?
We can all practise gratitude for the small things… For keeping your business steady in the toughest of times. For fresh bread at lunch. Or even just a sunny day. Reframing your narrative will ultimately cultivate greater amounts of gratitude and joy. And those are wonderful.