Do you recognize the 10 signs of a scarcity mindset?

Scarcity Mindset
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Are you being held back from your goals by your mindset?

Do you feel there’s never enough of something, be it time, money, energy, opportunity, or love?  Perhaps you think that it’s impossible to attain something you want to have or achieve? Maybe you think that life is happening to you and is out of your control? Interestingly, what these thoughts all have in common is that they may be due to your having a scarcity mindset. Having this mindset in business can hold you back from achieving or even having goals. Today we’re going to talk about not only the difference between scarcity and abundance mindset but how you can start to work on moving your own thoughts from scarcity to abundance.

I came to enjoy talking about it, thinking about it, and understanding it because of Steven Covey his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Besides Steven Covey, there are a ton of books, articles, and podcast episodes out there that talk about a scarcity mindset. If you are interested in learning more, go searching! But in this article, I am going to keep us oriented on the business side of things.

What is a Scarcity Mindset?

The main premise of a scarcity mindset is that you think that life is a zero-sum game. You believe that if person A wins, then person B loses. That there is simply not enough to go around. That resources must be used up so that they cannot be taken away later. That the quick and perhaps more fun choice in the short term is selected over the long-term future and the bigger picture plan. It can create sadness, jealousy, and constantly feeling less than.

In contrast, an abundance mindset focuses on that there is plenty out there and enough space for everybody. It focuses on the long term. On understanding that just because some other person got a big client that you too can get a big client, somebody’s success does not mean that you will be a failure.


Now, like with everything, life is not black and white. Interestingly, it is argued in economics that scarcity can actually create things like time pressures, pressing needs, and it can really help us understand our priorities with dealing with goals. It can also contribute to a meaningful life if we consider ourselves finite. For example, a typical midlife crisis occurs when people start freaking out that they are running out of time and have yet to achieve what they want to in life. All of this is not necessarily a bad thing. Thinking that your time is limited can be of benefit to you as it can help you cherish more of the mundane aspects of your life and appreciate the beauty in the small moments.

Scarcity can also help us understand opportunity costs and tradeoffs. Think about the whole David Bach, $5 a day theory. He preaches something like, if you invested what you spent on coffee each day, you would be able to retire rich. So yes, there are ways that scarcity can be helpful to you. It’s not all bad as there are always multiple sides to every story. But I’m going to focus on how having a scarcity mindset in your business may be actually hurting you and how to start to reframe to an abundant mindset with your business.

How do you know if you have a scarcity mindset? I’m going to run down a list of 10 examples. You may be only experiencing a few of these. You may be experiencing none of these. You may be experiencing all of these. The idea is to understand what a scarcity mindset means and to watch for when we are experiencing a scarcity mindset so we can shift ourselves out of it.

One: Scarcity is about avoiding risk and abundance is finding opportunities.

That may seem obvious but when you have a business, sometimes you tend to play safe. You may do the things you already know how to do. You may continue to seek out the same type of clients you have always had. You may do the work you have always done. You may not necessarily look for an opportunity because you don’t know how to do something, or you’ve never done it before or it’s scary. Really this all comes down to the scarcity versus abundance mindset. And you probably know that when you own a business, the more you are open to finding opportunities, the more that opportunity will arrive at your door.

It’s like with luck. So much has been written and talked about in regard to how much of their success is a result of hard work versus being lucky. When asked in interviews, usually people will say that their business success is 50/50. But there are many quotes that say something along the lines of if you put yourself in the path of luck, luck will find you.

It’s similar to risk. If you put yourself in the path of opportunity by taking risks, more opportunities will find you. Nobody is going to show up at your door and tell you that they want to buy all of your things or put you on the news unless you have put your hand up and said, “Hey, I have an awesome thing to share on the news. I have some value to give. Here I am.”

Two: Scarcity is thinking that everyone is your client or customer.

Every person who understands marketing cringes if you say things like that. The abundance mindset is to focus on your niche and have the very specific person that you want to work within mind when you communicate with your people and your potential audience.

Three: Scarcity is thinking that other people are your competitors.

The abundance would be that other people are referral sources and when I say other people, I mean people who do the same work that you do. If you are a tennis coach, the scarcity thought would be that other tennis coaches are competitors instead of other tennis coaches are referrals. This gets back to that focusing down on a niche.

With my previous business as a jewelry designer, I designed for a specific niche of women. I made very colorful jewelry for women to wear to work. If somebody met me and asked if I designed engagement rings, I was not able to make the jewelry for them, but I would immediately recommend the jewelers who I loved who could.

Four: Scarcity is building a website to bring in prospects.

Websites can be a great tool for attracting the right clients. The abundance mindset is to use your website to filter out bad prospects. A great example of this is that a few years ago, a friend referred a potential client to me. That person went to my website and then wrote to me and said, I don’t think I’m the person who works with you. I’m not tiny. And I replied that she was absolutely correct. After reading what help she was looking for and about her company, I was able to refer her to somebody else who was perfect for her. There are enough people for all of us. I want to work with those with who I can truly help and align. In this instance, my website did all the work for me and I sent a great referral to my “competitor”.

Five: Scarcity is feeling like there will never be enough.

Enough clients, enough money, enough anything. An abundance mindset will think that there will always be more. There is always more to learn, more people to meet, more work to do, and more money to earn. It’s up to you to have the mindset of what is enough. Of not fearing that nothing is enough and that more, more, more is not the answer.

Six: Scarcity is about hoarding.

Hoarding contacts, knowledge, resources, or time. There are of course instances where this does not apply, we’re talking about the big picture here. I understand that if you own a service-based business, as I do, you get paid for your time. You of course will charge well for your time when you have a client. But there are in my own business, many instances where I gladly will volunteer or give my time or my knowledge away. I have a whole podcast episode on why you should give your best stuff away for free.

Regarding contacts, you want to make sure that if you are going to refer somebody, that you get permission from the person first. You don’t want to make your contacts feel uncomfortable or put them in bad situations. The idea is to be generous with others, be generous with your contacts, with your knowledge, with your resources, with your time.

Seven: Scarcity is being someone who controls and dictates.

The seventh example of a scarcity mindset would be being somebody who controls and dictates those around you. The abundance version of that is to have openness and trust. If you are working with a team of people, you are allowing them to have ownership over the tasks they’re doing. You’re not standing over them watching them, making sure they’re doing things how you would do them. In the beginning, when you are showing them what needs to be done, of course, you’re going to guide them. You’re also going to make sure that they understand the culture and the brand of your business. Then you’re going to trust that they can try it and even if they mess up, that’s okay. Most things can be easily fixed and come back from.

Another example of this is thinking that you have all the answers and that there is nothing left to learn. This one hit hard for me. I’m a know it all. I enjoy knowing everything and I have since I was a little kid. However, the beauty of abundance is being willing to learn from others and that if you love knowing things that there is always more to learn. The abundant mindset in this situation is very much having the lifetime learner mentality and that’s a fun way to live!

If you’re sitting there going, but I am an expert on something. I know a lot of things. Does that mean I have a scarcity mindset? Absolutely not. What that means is that as long as you are seeking to continuously learn, you have an abundance mindset. The scarcity side of that would be if you were thinking that there is nothing more for you to learn and no one knows more than you.  

Eight: Scarcity is thinking everyone is copying you.

The next example is about resenting the competition and always worrying that people are copying you. I was in the maker world for almost two decades. In that world, I learned that there is a time and a place to stand up and accuse someone of copying you.  I learned to welcome the competition. That’s the abundant mindset. As a creator, you have to accept that it’s pointless to copyright and trademark your designs. Because if anybody changes at least 20% of a design, or a song or an image, that it’s allowed, even if it’s copyrighted or trademarked. You also have to accept that a lot of people come up with the same idea at the same time. In art, there are no new ideas, only recycled ones. In the maker world, we all quickly learned that it’s best to keep going with your awesomeness and make your new thing. Don’t worry if people are copying you.

We all are coexisting in one big universe and contributing in our own special ways. We may have the same thoughts as other people put out the same content. It’s crazy how often you will look at when books were published and see that like six books on the same subject were all published within months of each other. The authors were all writing them years ahead of when they hit the market. A lot of thoughts happen at the same time, so welcome the competition. You want to welcome everybody’s perspective on things.

Nine: Scarcity is being pessimistic, fearful, and entitled.

The ninth example of a scarcity mindset is being pessimistic about the future versus optimistic about the future. This includes being entitled and fearful. I’m not sure anybody would say that they were entitled or fearful, but you can often see that in other people versus their being thankful and optimistic.

Ten: Scarcity is not helping others succeed.

The last example of a scarcity mindset is to not help others and of being afraid of being replaced. You may believe that times are tough. Being afraid to change. Abundance would be striving to grow. Helping others achieve greatness. Believing that the best is yet to come. Embracing change and taking on whatever comes at you.


How do you change your mindset?

Now you better understand what it means to have a scarcity mindset and what it means to have an abundance mindset, how do you switch?

1. Surround yourself with abundance-minded people.

That is everything from your friends all the way up to who you are networking with. Get an accountability partner or join a mastermind group. Even if you are a solopreneur, you can surround yourself with abundance-minded people. If you are hanging around with a very scarcity-minded group of friends, it will leak into your business. Give that one some thought.

2. Look for ways to create win-win situations.

Look for situations where both people are leaving the situation feeling accomplished and better about the relationship. So that is anything from co-hosting an event or group with somebody, to working on a project or doing a release together.

3. Practise gratitude daily.

Either in the morning or the evening or a little split of both. I like the two minutes in the morning, three in the evening. Write down what you are grateful for that day, three to five things reflect about your day. You will start looking for the things you’re grateful for.

4. Look for the possibilities.

Train your brain to look for the possibilities. That gratitude practice can help you with that.

5. Offer words of appreciation.

Tell people how much you value their contribution. Always be telling people that they’re awesome when you think they are.

“Thank you for being in my life.”

“Your work is great. I’m so impressed by everything you’re doing. It really motivates me to be better.”

I’m a big fan of complimenting strangers on their outfits or how they’re, they put a little extra effort into how they’re looking or their attitude. I like to call them out on it and saying, “Hey, you look fantastic today.”

6. Remind yourself that there is more than enough.

Let’s keep repeating that. There is plenty for everyone.

7. Give.

Give your time, give your knowledge, give your money. A great tip by John Maxwell is that if you feel like you don’t have enough of a certain thing, give that thing away. If you’re feeling like money is scarce. Give some money away. If you’re feeling like you don’t have enough time to get things done. Go, volunteer. Give away that time. It’s often said in regard to meditation practices that if you say that you don’t have time to meditate for 20 minutes, you should meditate for two hours.

8. Focus on the successes.

Focus on what is going well. Focus on your wins. On what makes you smile, what makes you laugh and the work you love.

9. Reduce your media consumption.

We all know we feel a little better when we back off of social media for the day, but also go easy on the news if it stresses you out.

10. Look for the positive in every loss.

Just like we want to focus on the successes and what is going well. Also, look at when it’s not and focus on the positive in those situations. What did you learn? What do you now know not to do next time? What good came out of that failure?

11. Stop comparing yourself to others.

That has to do with your friends down the street, your siblings to your business competition. To especially those who are at Z while you are at A. Do not open a small brick and mortar mom and pop shop and then keep comparing yourself to target. That will do no good for you.

12. Organize your home and life.

Look at where the chaos is in your home. Once you look, you’ll see it…perhaps in your closet? Where, in your life…maybe if you keep feeling like you don’t have time, if you organize your schedule, you will see that there is abundance somewhere in there?


As with everything in life worth having. developing an abundance mindset takes time and it takes practice. I love reminding people that it just takes a little bit of effort each day. If you want to start a gratitude practice of five minutes a day, that’s a very little amount of time! I bet you spend more than that on Instagram; you can slowly start to shift.

Maybe you’re already wonderfully attuned to a mental state of abundance. It’s still always good to make sure that you’re staying there and to work on ourselves and to make sure that we are reminding ourselves what the importance of it is, especially in our businesses.

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