The persistent thought that something important is missing from my life can drive me into the pits of depression. This experience of scarcity means my current life feels incomplete, and I yearn for a day when I can be happy. This lack of gratitude means most of the good in my life gets ignored.
“Sufficiency isn’t an amount at all. It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough.”
Lynne Twist (The Soul of Money)
It’s easy to get swept up with the belief that the key to happiness is to own more stuff. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I can sometimes look at somebody driving a fancy car, or living in a bigger house, and it makes me feel like a complete failure. At these times, I don’t appreciate anything in my life, I only notice what’s missing.
The Curse of Scarcity Mentality
This focus on all that is missing from my life is sometimes referred to as ‘scarcity mentality’. It might not be a disease of the modern age, but it certainly seems far more prevalent than ever. We have been brainwashed into believing our lives are lacking. We can blame this entitlement culture on human nature, but the decades of being bombarded by advertisements certainly hasn’t helped.
The message we are hearing hundreds of times every day is that if we buy X, it is going to make us feel better. It is just accepted that there is something wrong with us, and it needs to be fixed by purchasing some product or service. The problem is that most of the time the only thing wrong with us is the ups and downs of normal life – we are trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.
I’m not a big believer in conspiracies, but I can understand how people might suspect that scarcity mentality is man-made disease created by advertisers. It’s so wonderfully ingenious. We have been programmed to believe that we need to own more stuff in order to be happy, yet we are never going to feel satisfied no matter how much we buy. There is always going to be stuff we don’t own (even if we are Warren Buffet), so the scarcity mentality creates a hunger than can never be satisfied – pure genius.
The real curse of scarcity mentality is it sucks so much joy out of every moment. It means my life goes by in a blur. There is always plenty of great stuff going on, but I’m too busy planning and scheming to notice this. As John Lennon once said, ‘life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans’.
The Blessing of Gratitude
The cure for scarcity mentality is gratitude. When I take the time to appreciate all the good things in my life, I start to feel content and fulfilled. The truth is I don’t need anything else in order to feel happy right now. There is so much juicy goodness in my life that it can make me feel a bit giddy with gratitude – I can feel like a little boy in toy shop. Of course, my natural inclination is not to feel like a kid in a toy shop, so I have to work at being grateful.
How to Feel Grateful and Avoid a Disappointing Life
• Focus on the things you have and not the things you do not have
• Ask yourself this – if you can’t be happy now, what makes you think you are going to find happiness later?
• Avoid treating the ups and downs of life like a disease that needs to be treated by buying more stuff
• Understand that sufficiency is not about how much you own but how you appreciate what you have
• Make time every day to count your blessings – a gratitude list is great for this