Not enough time.
Not enough money.
Not enough workers.
Not enough energy to keep dealing with there not being enough.
Does this sound familiar? It’s very easy to sink into a frame of mind where all you see is what you DON’T have. After all, society is very eager to show us what we “need” and convince us that even if we have that special thing that will make our lives complete, more of it would be even better.
And so we continually feel like there is never enough.
While it can be difficult to unsee life from this viewpoint, changing our perspective is worth the effort because how we think about things shapes how we experience them. (And that’s not just some fuzzy woo woo silliness. The latest research in neuroscience backs this up.)
The first thing we need to do is recognize that perspective as a scarcity mentality. In her book, The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life, Lynne Twist defines the scarcity mindset:
“Independent of any actual amount of resources, it is an unexamined and false system of assumptions, opinions, and beliefs from which we view the world as a place where we are in constant danger of having our needs unmet.”
Twist’s wisdom on this subject is based on her vast experience in fundraising and leading global initiatives to end hunger, preserve the rainforest, and improve the economic and political conditions of women - experiences that had her working side by side with some of the poorest people on earth. Despite abundant resources, she contends, this mindset dominates our culture, motivates our behavior, and fuels our worries.
In contrast, she recommends adopting the perspective of sufficiency. She explains,
“By sufficiency, I don’t mean a quantity of anything. Sufficiency isn’t two steps up from poverty or one step short of abundance. It isn’t a measure of barely enough or more than enough. 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.”
One way to begin shifting from a scarcity mindset to a sufficiency mindset is what Twist refers to as a practice of appreciation. It begins with a simple shift of attention. By focusing on what you don’t have, you will experience lack. There will never be enough and genuine happiness will be elusive.
But focusing on existing resources creates a context “that reminds us that if we look around us and within ourselves, we will find what we need. There is always enough.”
This shift can happen in your personal life and also in the workplace.
Businesses operate from a sufficiency mindset when their commitment to their employees breeds pride and excellence in their work. Companies can engage in Appreciative Inquiry, a model for organizational change developed by Daniel L. Cooperrider and Diana Whitney. Appreciative Inquiry operates with the assumption that “organizations, as centers of human relatedness, are ‘alive’ with infinite constructive capacity” and involves “systematic discovery of what gives ‘life’ to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms”.
Because the scarcity mindset permeates society, shifting our thought paradigms to a sufficiency mindset will take continual practice. As with most things, it starts with intention and awareness.
Here are some bite sized practices to help you keep the idea of sufficiency top of mind:
Remember, “What you appreciate appreciates”. Pay deliberate attention to what you already have.
Repeat to yourself over and over, “I have all the _____ I need”. (time, money, energy, etc.)
Learn to look for what’s going well. When frustrated with a situation, challenge yourself to name 10 positive things about the circumstance.
With these simple practices, you can learn to find peace in knowing that you already have everything you need.
Image credit: Kerem Karaarslan