When Enough Never Is: Combating the Scarcity Mind-Set

Image of a hand holding a glass globe with reflections of a sunset inside it.“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.” —Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Do you put stock in the phrase “not enough”? Do you question whether you are smart, sexy, accomplished, patient, bold, kind, generous, or talented enough? Do you wonder if you have enough?

Is “enough” difficult to define in the first place? You might simply be stuck in a scarcity mind-set.

When you are grounded in thoughts of abundance, you believe there is enough to go around, that someone else’s having doesn’t imply your deprivation or being without. This thought process can apply to success, wealth, relationships, happiness, fulfillment, etc.

The scarcity mind-set can be the factor that keeps us limited. When we hold a belief closely, we look for evidence to support it. In scarcity mode, we see the glass as half empty and search for all the ways in which we feel slighted, ill-equipped, or shortchanged. This prevents us from developing awareness around opportunity. Thinking there is “none to be had” will squash our motivation and impetus to move forward.

The scarcity mind-set can belie a lack of commitment. When we make excuses for ourselves, we often do so by calling out the things we are lacking, and implying those resources or tools are beyond our reach. We say things like, “There isn’t enough time in the day” or “I wish I had the money.” We have much to gain by challenging these beliefs and by becoming abundantly clear about what our priorities are.

If something is extremely important to you, you can often find the time in your day to devote to it. You may have to say “no” to other things that fall lower on your priority list. For example, if you are determined to exercise, you may need to sacrifice some sleep and get up 30 minutes earlier than you normally would to fit in a workout. You could get creative and figure out a way to squeeze in some exercise while multitasking, such as being on a business call or strategizing with your team while you walk around your office complex. When we manage our time effectively, we find the time to do the things we deem important. If you assume time is scarce, take a closer look at your schedule and evaluate whether you can carve that time out.

The scarcity mind-set perpetuates itself. It leaves us feeling stuck, less than, deprived, and powerless. Consider whether there just might be “enough” of what you seek to go around.

Each of us has a relationship with money. Some of us have a sense of ease and comfort, and others associate money with struggle. Some will put themselves in a state of deprivation without legitimately investigating whether they can afford the thing they want or need. There might be other options, like spending less on things you don’t really need (reallocating your funds) or seeing what is buried in your closets or attic that might be of value to others (funds you didn’t know you had).

To visualize the scarcity mind-set, I picture someone with fists closed tightly in an effort to hold on to what little they perceive they have. The trouble is when our hands are closed, they aren’t open to receiving. We can use this as a cue. If we find ourselves holding on to something too tightly, it may indicate we are no longer open to acquiring more of it.

To combat the scarcity mind-set, we can do three things:

  • Practice gratitude. Develop an awareness around all you do. Consider whether it might just be “enough.” That positivity invites more reasons to be grateful.
  • Let go of blame. When we blame, we indicate our power is in others’ hands. If we are willing to take as much responsibility as we can for ourselves and what we have, we are more likely to find avenues to creating the kinds of wealth we seek, and we let go of the excuses that hinder our progress.
  • Remain open to possibilities. Our beliefs have incredible power and can become self-fulfilling prophecies. Don’t get stuck in believing you aren’t, or you’ll never have, enough.

The scarcity mind-set perpetuates itself. It leaves us feeling stuck, less than, deprived, and powerless. Consider whether there just might be “enough” of what you seek to go around.

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Laurie Leinwand, MA, LPC, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Chelsea

    April 24th, 2017 at 9:41 AM

    I think that there are a lot of us who struggle with this.
    It is almost as if the more we have the more we tend to want
    and then once you get to that point you truly start to believe that there can never be enough.
    It is much better if we could remember to appreciate all of the things that we DO have instead of focusing so much on what we don’t.

  • dottie

    April 24th, 2017 at 1:57 PM

    Yes it is important to remember to be thankful for all that you have, but when you have grown up amidst scarcity of food like I did, it never feels like I can have enough because I am always thinking a head,,, what if the stores close down? Or the farms fail? Or what if what if what if??? I always have these most dreadful thoughts which causes me to buy way more than I need or could ever use because of that fear of not having anything that I still cling to. No matter how far removed I become from it is is still a difficult feeling to shake.

  • Cierra

    April 25th, 2017 at 3:03 PM

    My doubts are not about things but rather am I what I need to be to be a success? When I measure myself against all of the other people that I work with it is like I fall far short of what they have. I want to end those insecure feelings that I have because I feel like they are very much holding me back from being accomplished and a success.

    But getting to that point where I can release some of that negativity becomes more and more difficult the longer that I have lived with it.

  • timothy

    April 27th, 2017 at 10:30 AM

    If you are happy with your partner, you have food clothing and shelter, then what is there to be ungrateful for?

  • Sharon

    April 30th, 2017 at 7:45 AM

    I would love some input on how to teach my children that they have all the things in life that they could possibly need, if not always the things that they want.
    It is hard to teach this when it seems that every other kid out there gets it all at the snap of their fingers and it is understandable why kids are left wondering why they can’t have all of these things too.

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