I am reading “The Soul of Money” by Lynne Twist. The lessons in this book regarding our relationship to money are giving me insights into other areas of life – so much so that I wonder if a large portion of what creates human unhappiness really centers around the idea of scarcity. I’ll be discussing this concept in this and some of my upcoming blogposts.
Twist describes three different myths related to the idea of scarcity. She begins with:
There is not enough.
This statement is a simple and accurate explanation of what scarcity is. Merriam-Webster dictionary also defines scarcity as “deficient in quantity or number compared with the demand.”
The trouble begins when we start to believe that scarcity is a natural and real part of our daily existence. Additionally, we must question the origins of scarcity – when are our own “demands” creating scarcity in the first place?
For our discussion, I will put aside examples of scarcity that suggest a true threat to survival. Almost everything else is fair game for consideration. So, let’s start with a common example: how much we choose to work.
When we take an action, such as choosing to work, we have made a decision. In any decision we make, it is reasonable to expect that we should be happy with our reasons for making that decision. One of the reasons that we choose to work is our need to earn money. Money is required to purchase basic necessities – food, water, shelter, basic clothing – because for most of us, acquiring or cultivating these items independently or within a closed community is not practical.
Then, for most of us, wanting to live a socially engaged, creative, more interesting, or an improved life requires money. Money also affords us other enhancements, such as phones, the internet, recreational items, larger homes, organic food, higher education, and opportunities for travel. The list can be endless.
This is not leading to a judgment of anyone, myself included, who may desire more than the most basic necessities of life. I have learned to respect that each person has the ability to want what they want, and that this is okay.
However, I do want to encourage you to question why you want what you want, and why you are working as much as you do in order to secure these things for yourself. Then relate it back to this question of scarcity, and check: Are you worried that you won’t be good enough, or that you or your family will suffer, or that life won’t be good enough without all the things you desire? Consider each item, big or small.
Many people not working hard and long just for the joy or the challenge involved. They are doing it to make something moreof their life – thinking that it isn’t enough as is. Many times, people are blind to this cause, this driver of their suffering.
When scarcity mentality is the cause of overworking, and an individual is blind to that cause, there can be a negative result. Self-imposed demands to produce more, create more, and earn more, can lead to persistent dissatisfaction because the individual is never really fulfilling their real need. Why? Because the ultimate need they are trying to fulfill is to fix the feeling of deficiency. But solving for deficiency by acquiring more is not the solution – our human mind, carrying the belief that “there is not enough” will always get in the way, and make us feel like something is missing. Moreover, the act of overworking creates other deficiencies in our lives – lack of time for ourselves, lack of time with our kids and families, and so on. In a way, this proves the original belief of there not being enough, creating a cycle.
The solution then is to find the remedy not in what we do, but in how we think. We must overcome our belief that “there is not enough.” When we do this, we are well-guided in our decisions in how we choose to spend our time, including in how we choose to work. This is part of the key to finding the true “balance” (fulfillment) that we are all seeking. When we work in a way that fulfills our internal purpose in life (not too much and not too little) and are guided by the joy of the pursuit rather than the hope of happiness in our future acquisitions, we are given exactly what we need through our work, including time and space for the other things that restore us.
Explore what would happen if you believed that you did have enough – money, time, energy, love, etc. What would your world look like through that lens? What would you continue to include in your life? Where would you devote your time? What would you give up forever?