The Mentality of Fear and Scarcity

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Back when I was a community organizer in the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s, we talked a lot about mindset. We called it “mentality” because “mindset” wasn’t a buzzword back then, but it’s the same thing. One of my mentors would ask me, “Are you operating out of a mentality of fear and scarcity? Or one of hope and abundance?” It’s a concept that has stuck with me ever since. I find myself thinking about it a lot these days.

Humans don’t like uncertainty. We don’t like the “not knowing” part of life. Waiting for test results of any kind, from cancer screenings to a geometry test in high school, can set people on edge. We want to KNOW… what’s going to happen next? When will it happen? “As long as I know what to expect, I’m fine.”

This COVID-19 pandemic we are all living through right now is like no other kind of uncertainty we’ve ever experienced. There simply are not enough answers about anything to keep people on all sides moving forward in a productive way. And that’s got me thinking about the mentality of fear and scarcity.

When you live in the mentality of fear and scarcity, you close in. Protect. Hoard. Act secretively. Behave aggressively towards others. Feel suspicious of others as your starting point. Believe the worst, first. There is never “enough”—information, material things, prospects or leads, clients, sales, money, you name it. This way of thinking and seeing the world makes us fearful. It causes us to believe that in order for us to have fill-in-the-blank, someone else must go without it. It does not leave room at the table for other people that are not in our immediate tribe; for other ways of thinking; for differences. This mentality, when I spot it in individuals, makes me sad for them and sometimes angry at them for not being able to see more. When I see it in large segments of society as I do now, it terrifies me.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” –Viktor Frankl, Austrian neurologist and Holocaust survivor.

Your.

Response.

Is.

Your.

Choice.

Read that again.

We don’t have to choose the mentality of fear and scarcity. Even in these times of the most uncertainty most of us will likely ever live through, we can still choose to embrace a different mindset or mentality. You are 100% in charge of your mindset. Always.

The mentality of hope and abundance is the opposite of the mentality of fear and scarcity. With hope and abundance mindset, you reach out and open up. See opportunity. Respect a wide variety of ideas without being threatened by them. Live in optimism. Look for the good. Believe the best, first. You know that there’s more than enough for everyone and believe that if we work together, we’re stronger.

So what’s your mindset or mentality like these days? How is all this uncertainty affecting you? Is it causing you to lean in and band together? Or reinforcing your belief that anyone that is “other” is inherently stupid, bad or wrong? Make no mistake, I see it on all sides of the discussions in the public space right now. This is not unique to one political or religious or ethnic group or another. It’s everywhere. Because we are ALL living with an unprecedented amount of uncertainty.

But for crying out loud, pull it together, people. Choose a mindset that allows you to ENGAGE with one another. HEAR one another. SUPPORT one another, even when you don’t agree or see things the same way. Never has it been harder to do, and never has it been more critical.

Be safe out there.

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