When life gets tumultuous (like during a pandemic), it's easy to lean into a scarcity mindset where you feel like there's not enough time, money, resources, jobs, and energy to go around. This way of thinking, however, can be problematic because how we perceive things impacts how we experience life. By shifting from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset, we can begin to change our quality of life. Ahead, mindset experts explain the difference between an abundance and scarcity mindset, how an abundance mindset can improve your life, and five ways to begin cultivating an abundance mindset.
"An abundance mindset operates on the foundational belief that there is an infinite amount of something available to you, despite any other circumstances," says Chrissy Papetti, a self-mastery mentor, success coach, and speaker. "With this mindset, you genuinely believe and trust that there are endless opportunities, time, resources, money, and love that are possible to have. Therefore, others' gain doesn't equate to your loss."
A scarcity mindset, on the other hand, believes the opposite to be true. "Scarcity mindset is the belief that life is drawn from a finite pool of resources," says Judy Ho, Ph. D., a licensed and triple board-certified clinical and forensic neuropsychologist. "If someone else has more blessings, opportunities, etc., it means there is less for you. People with a scarcity mindset believe that they have to hold on to whatever they have now because it might not come around later."
Focusing on scarcity and lack can trigger feelings of fear, envy, jealousy, and hopelessness, which may lead you to believe that you can't change your life experience, says Ho. Papetti adds that living in this fear-induced anxiety, stress, and discomfort can result in missed opportunities and lead to dissatisfaction and compromised well-being.
Conversely, when you embody an abundance mindset by believing there is an unlimited amount of everything available to you, your mind and body feel safe, even if something is taken away or not yet received. "You become more resilient, and your body learns that the anxiety and stress isn't needed because there is no threat to losing anything when there's always more ways to gain what you want or need," says Papetti. "The only thing that's certain in life is uncertainty, so embodying an abundance mindset that trusts you'll be safe in the uncertainty is the secret to living a life of greater gratitude, ease, and satisfaction."
Furthermore, Ho adds that an abundance mindset also helps keep us focused on our big-picture goals and motivates us to produce positive opportunities for ourselves. "[This] leads to you reaching your goals, which in turn builds more self-confidence and more behaviors that create even more positive outcomes for yourself," says Ho. "Essentially, it's an upward spiral of positive outcomes." Yes, please!
5 ways to cultivate an abundance mindset
1. Examine and rewrite your beliefs
A scarcity mindset typically stems from deeply rooted beliefs about yourself and how life works. So shifting from a scarcity to an abundance mindset begins with becoming aware of your beliefs. "When you notice scarcity-related thoughts in your mind or feel fear and anxiety in your body, make a note in your journal or phone about what you're believing to be true in that moment and if that's empowering or disempowering you," says Papetti. "After you practice this enough, you will begin to sense the difference of your beliefs in the moment and can choose differently."
2. Shift from expectation to detachment
When we really want something such as money, a relationship, or hitting a career milestone, there is a tendency to get attached to the outcome and develop a sense of expectation. Then, if things don't work out the way you envisioned, as often happens because life is unpredictable, Papetti says that attachment can then lead to feelings of scarcity. The solution? Practice detachment.
"The key to an abundance mindset is becoming detached from any expectations of how, when, and what will happen in the future," says Papetti. "If you set your intentions for what you authentically want and then detach from the details of how it'll come to be, you're infinitely more resilient in navigating what unfolds in your life and, therefore, equipped to find solutions while trusting that it'll work out for you."
3. Connect the dots backward
Cultivating an abundance mindset requires a deep sense of trust that there is always more than enough for everyone and then some. However, if you're not used to flexing your trust muscle, it can be challenging to do. One easy way to strengthen your trust muscle is by connecting the dots backward and finding proof of abundance in your past life experiences.
"It's likely that you had many situations that didn't work out as expected, and yet the outcomes led to lessons learned, new directions, more desirable results, or a blessing in disguise that you couldn't have foreseen from the start,” says Papetti. "Reminding yourself that you were safe (and likely thrived!) when you didn't get what you wanted, when or how you wanted it, makes it easier to see change as a redirection toward something better rather than a loss of something that's scarce."
4. Read inspirational stories
To further stack up the proof of abundance, Ho recommends reading inspirational stories of other people who have overcome adverse circumstances and begin to model their thought patterns and behaviors. "Humans really do benefit so much from social modeling," says Ho. "When we see others succeed, the neural pathways in our own brains react, and we learn through this observation. So even if you are not in a place right now to believe in yourself to that extent, reading stories of others who do this and asking yourself to remember one thing that they did, which you can also do, is key to translating this into your own life." This is called social modeling, and to maximize its effectiveness, Ho recommends drawing similarities between you and the people in these stories to cement the belief that if it's possible for them, it's possible for you too.
5. Celebrate your own and others' success
"Becoming envious of others will take away your own opportunities for growth," says Ho. "Envy is a very limiting emotion and causes us to think about why someone else doesn't deserve the good things that happen to them." To combat this, Ho suggests celebrating other people's successes by congratulating them on achieving their goal and also the effort it took to get there. And, of course, celebrate your wins too. Ho emphasizes the importance of not just celebrating hitting the goal but also toasting yourself every time you take an action step towards it. Celebrating the mini-wins helps cultivate an abundance mindset and ingrains the notion that efforts are worthy of being rewarded just as much as the outcome.