There is never enough time to do what we want. There is never enough money to feel free to live as we desire. No matter what, when there is never enough of something we want, we perceive ourselves to be a victim of scarcity. Always viewing yourself, or your lifestyle, through the lens of scarcity results in your feeling unfulfilled. When we are unfulfilled, poverty becomes a permanent state of mind.
Our perceptions of abundance or scarcity began in our childhood. If we were raised in a family where care was insufficient, we learned to believe the world lacked enough caring to adequately meet our needs. Regardless of how loving or caring our parents intended to be, there were times we felt as if there was not "enough to go around." Not enough attention, not enough food, not enough safety or protection, not enough playfulness, not enough love, not enough ____. You fill in the blank.
If we’ve concluded that there is never enough for us, we begin to gauge our expectations according to what we believe we can’t have. We stop asking for the care, love, food, protection, etc. based upon the assumption that it’s simply not available. We don’t ask because we think it just isn’t there.
As children, the dilemma of scarcity becomes: If there is not enough to go around, I must choose who gets what amount of what there is. If there is so little food, who gets to have it? When everything is scarce, who decides how to ration whatever is there?
In his book, Legacy Of The Heart, Wayne Muller writes: "When love is scarce, it feels impossible for everyone…to be cared for. If I take it myself, I will feel mean and selfish, hurting everyone else. On the other hand, if I give the love to you, I may not feel cared for. Thus we give birth to the scarcity contract: I will care for you if you promise to care for me. We pass a thimbleful of care back and forth forever, never being filled, rarely feeling loved."
Muller goes on to say that with a scarcity mentality, "care is never something shared…there is not enough for that. Love is either given or taken. And we all keep score."
When we grow up with a scarcity mentality, it influences almost every aspect of our adult lives. Muller writes, "Our feelings of scarcity…influence the way we approach major decisions in our lives. Confronted with important choices, we fear the wrong turn will bring disaster, cutting us off even further from any possibility of care and abundance. Every new choice invites the possibility of getting even less than we have now, so we must be very careful to make the right decision."
Perhaps one answer to the belief of scarcity is to adjust our perception of the size of what we need. Do we really need more time? Do we really need more money? How much time and money is enough? A Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast, writes that abundance "is not measured by what flows in, but by what flows over. The smaller we make the vessel of our need…the sooner we get the overflow we need for delight."
Is the "vessel of our need" half full or half empty? It depends on our perception. Henry Thoreau wrote: "I make myself rich by making my wants few." Shift your perception of childhood scarcity and you begin to pay attention to whatever you have at the moment and perceive it as enough.
Again Muller writes, "Love and abundance arise when we pay attention to what we have already been given with freshness and curiosity. When we are always looking at the places where love never came, we tend to feel an overwhelming scarcity. But when we open our eyes to the fertile garden of the present moment, we may feel the earth itself hold us in her love…."
May whatever you have at the moment make you rich. May whatever need you have be small.