How To Release Scarcity & Adopt An Abundance Mindset, For Real
It's not uncommon to hear that mindset is everything—but what does that really mean?
Well, while positive thinking is by no means a cure-all for all of life's hardships, research shows that it can help people find more joy1 and derive meaning from their lives. By this logic, adopting an abundance mindset can translate to a more abundant life in some ways.
Here's your guide to cultivating more abundance without sugarcoating the hard stuff.
What is an abundance mindset?
According to Stephen Covey, who popularized the idea in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, mindsets are often centered around either scarcity or abundance. To have an abundance mindset is to believe there are enough resources to go around. The scarcity mindset, on the other hand, is defined by feelings of competition and lack. If you're operating from a place of scarcity, you might believe that someone else achieving something means you've somehow lost something.
As neuroscientist and author of The Source Tara Swart, M.D., Ph.D., explains to mbg, "An abundance mindset means taking a risk. An abundance mindset is positive, optimistic—you believe there are enough resources out there for everyone." Scarcity, she adds, is the opposite.
"There's a balance, or you could even say a struggle, in our brains between abundance and scarcity all the time," she notes. Here are a few common ways it might play out.
Examples of scarcity vs. abundance:
- At work: If you were thinking of making an investment in your personal business, a scarcity mindset might convince you it's not worth the risk. An abundance mindset would ensure you'll get your ROI. The scarcity mindset never makes that leap, while the abundance mindset moves their business forward.
- In love: If it seems everyone in your group of friends has a significant other except you, it may feel like you'll never find love, or there aren't enough good people out there for you to date. That's a scarcity mindset. Someone with an abundance mindset would be happy for their friends and know the love meant for them will come to them when the time is right.
- In general: Generally speaking, scarcity comes from a subconscious and primal fear for our own safety and well-being. Things like "I need more ___" or "I can't take that risk." Abundance, on the other hand, is embodying gratitude and openness, such that you can feel content and fulfilled and are receptive to the opportunities around you.
The challenges of adopting this mindset.
As Swart explains, an abundance mindset doesn't come easy for anyone, so you shouldn't feel discouraged if you struggle to see the bright side of things—especially during darker moments. Nor should you feel like negative life circumstances are somehow your fault; the inevitable result of you not thinking positively enough.
"Because of the evolutionary wiring throughout the ages for the survival of the species it's natural for the scarcity mindset to prevail," she explains, adding, "We're 2.5 times as likely to want to not lose anything as we are to want to gain something."
8 practices to shift your mind to abundance.
Again, it's not that an abundance mindset can solve all your problems. It can, however, make those problems feel more approachable or manageable when practiced over time. Here are Swart's tips for beginning the journey from a place of scarcity to one of abundance:
Notice and reframe scarcity-based thoughts.
"You have to cultivate the practice of being in an abundance mindset because the natural thing is always to think more in terms of scarcity," Swart says. So, every time you notice yourself having a scarcity-based thought, "you have to try to replace it with an abundant thought until it becomes more natural for you."
If your thoughts are a bit chaotic in your head, writing them down can help you recognize which ones are coming from a place of scarcity and which are coming from a place of abundance. In this way, journaling daily can illuminate where you might be self-sabotaging, Swart says.
Reframing thoughts is a part of mindfulness, so Swart notes a regular mindfulness practice is also beneficial if you're looking to cultivate more abundance. "It helps to improve attention, reduce distraction, and improve focus," she notes.
Simply getting in the habit of slowing down, noticing things more deeply, and appreciating little things can help you to keep better track of your negative versus positive thoughts.
Create your own positive affirmation.
As you begin to take note of your thoughts, you may notice there's a recurring negative or scarcity-based thought. "As part of your mindfulness practice, if you use a word or phrase that you repeat—it could be 'abundance,' 'positivity,' 'enough,' 'optimism'—those sort of words cultivate abundance," Swart says.
Identify your barriers.
"There are lots of barriers to us feeling abundant," Swart explains. They might include unsupportive friends, financial fears, or low self-esteem. "Making a list of all the reasons you might not achieve what you want to—although it might seem like a quite negative thing to do—makes them become less subconscious and more conscious. They won't take you by surprise," she adds.
Celebrate your wins.
Abundance is closely related to gratitude. "We feel good about expressing gratitude because it's mindful, and a part of spiritual practice, but we're less comfortable bragging about what we've achieved," she notes. So, she recommends making a list of your accomplishments as a way to force the brain to recognize the abundance in your life. "It makes you think, I did that, so what else can I do?"
If you write down every golden moment of your career that you've had, for example, you're much more likely to think that raise or promotion can happen. And of course, once you think something is possible, Swart adds, you start acting like it.
Avoid unnecessary distractions as best you can.
Achieving an abundance mindset takes a clear and present mind. But in a world of distraction and hardship, staying focused can be a challenge. "Being busy and distracted and multitasking—they're the enemy of abundant thinking," Swart says. When your brain is already using up a lot of resources, it's not going to give them up to think abundantly. Whenever you're faced with an opportunity to simplify your life, take it.
While it may not be easy, and will surely require a degree of patience and grace, working to shift from a mindset of scarcity to one of abundance is so worth it.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.