The term “abundance mindset” first made waves over 30 years ago in Stephen Covey’s famous book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Is this concept still relevant today, especially in this uncertain and challenging environment? I believe the answer is a resounding YES. Abundance thinking can transform the way you navigate challenges and create success, both on a professional and personal front.
This week, my message focuses on the power of an abundance mindset. What are some ways to bring more abundance into your thinking and into your life?
According to Covey, people with an abundance mindset “believe there are enough resources and successes to share with others”. The focus is on growth and progress, igniting excitement, energy and creativity. You feel inspired to find and seize new opportunities. Abundance thinking also supports collaboration, since it makes you more willing to share ideas, decision-making and credit.
While abundance thinking enables you to act from a place of gratitude and expansiveness, scarcity thinking can trap you in fear and inadequacy.
You keep focusing on what you don’t have and what you could lose. People with a scarcity mindset view the success of others as a threat, leading to jealousy, anger and blame.
Mark Pettit sums up the difference neatly in his piece for Thrive Global:
Someone with an abundance mindset believes there is an abundance of everything in life, whether that be more time, more money, better relationships, more resources and more opportunities. In contrast, someone with a scarcity mindset lives comes from a zero sum mentality and is fearful that there is a depletion of time, money, energy and resources available.
Leading with abundance
Mindset has a huge influence on leadership, especially during times of upheaval. In his Inc. article, Kyle Goguen elaborates:
A leader’s response to change often reflects what mindset they have adopted. Leaders who are confident and adaptable lead with abundance, while scarcity-minded leaders often start tallying all they lack in resources, time and money, anticipating the inevitable “failure” that is to come.
Leaders who operate from a place of fear believe nothing is ever enough and tend to chase easy wins, while those with an abundance approach reframe challenges as opportunities, seek creative solutions, and aim to expand the overall pie.
A leader’s mindset can also be seen in the group culture they cultivate. Do team members capture new opportunities, share ideas, and solve problems innovatively? Or do they adopt a limited approach when dealing with obstacles and display hyper-competitive behaviours towards each other?
An abundance mindset may sometimes come across as naïve and unrealistic, especially for leaders. But as Professor Jonathan Westover explains in his Forbes piece, the opposite is actually true:
Those with a true abundance mindset are clear-eyed about the realities of the world around them. However, unlike their scarcity-minded counterparts, abundance-minded individuals and leaders lean into the messiness, ambiguity and nuance of the challenges they face. They recognize the opportunity to learn and grow from their struggles, and they focus on creating new opportunities, rather than worrying about the current limitations they face.
Shifting from scarcity to abundance
The COVID pandemic created a widespread scarcity mindset. Shortages and uncertainties sparked a slew of fears around healthcare, resources and even something as basic as groceries. “More for you” seemed to mean “less for me”.
In times of economic volatility, a scarcity mindset does offer some benefit – but only when steered by an abundance-minded leader. In her Forbes paper, neuroscientist Dr. Tara Swart elaborates:
When we’re governed by scarcity or lack, we conserve resources, spot problems before they become insurmountable and reality-check risky or reckless decision making. Clearly, there’s a place for that in business, but overall it tends to be counterproductive without an optimistic outlook to provide bigger-picture direction. This is because the brain is geared twice as heavily towards avoiding loss than it is towards gaining reward.
Given this very recent history, transitioning to an abundance mindset will not be easy, but it has the capacity to be transformative – at the workplace, as well as in your personal life.
Here are 7 recommendations to help you foster abundance thinking.
1. Infuse your days with gratitude.
Expanding internal gratitude is key to building a sense of abundance. Start by listing down all the positives in your life – this will serve as a physical reminder you can refer to when envy or doubt strikes.
You could also begin keeping a gratitude journal. This doesn’t need to be lengthy or detailed: just jot down three things you’re grateful for every morning or last thing at night. A final suggestion for proactive gratitude: before heading into a meeting, take a few moments to think about all the things you appreciate about the person you’re going to meet.
2. Build a circle of abundance.
Consider your friends, colleagues and acquaintances from an abundance/scarcity perspective. Maximise your time with those who are committed to growth and find joy in your achievements. Try to minimise interactions with those who are constantly blaming others and can’t seem to find it in their hearts to be happy when you succeed. Surrounding yourself with an abundance-minded community will elevate your own thinking. In tough times, they will be able to encourage and cheer you on, instead of feeding your fears.
3. Update your vision and goals.
To create a life of abundance, you need to create forward momentum in the right direction. Visualising the future is a key enabler: it sparks motivation and fuels action. The next step is to set specific goals. This creates mental clarity, helping to eliminate a lot of complexity and uncertainty.
Given the tectonic shifts over the last two years, now is an excellent time to revisit your personal vision. Many of us have experienced massive internal changes – from altered priorities and values, to revised definitions of “success”. In light of these changes, what does “an abundant life” mean to you? Answering this question will allow you to transition from firefighting mode to growth mode. Next, set clear, time-bound goals for yourself to facilitate continuous progress. Acknowledge and celebrate your wins along the way.
4. Learn new things.
Abundance thinking is characterised by learning and growth. Have you realised that the term “expand your horizons” conjures a sense of limitless possibility? Engaging with fresh ideas and knowledge energises your thinking.
Follow your curiosity about things that excite and intrigue you. You can do this in a formal way by signing up for classes or courses. Or you can do it in a self-guided way by exploring subjects through books and videos, conversations with like-minded people, and visits to relevant places (these could include museums, art galleries, nature reserves and sports complexes). Scheduling a few hours each weekend can help you create a learning habit and incorporate the joy of discovery into your everyday life.
5. Weed out energy drainers.
Take a close look at your work and personal routines to identify activities that drain energy, dampen enthusiasm, and provoke unhealthy comparisons with other people. This could range from attending daily meetings where you have little to contribute to endlessly scrolling social media.
Think about whether these tasks can be eliminated, outsourced or collated into a single time block. For example, could you stop attending irrelevant meetings or delegate them to someone who would actually benefit from the discussion? Can you plan the entire week’s meals on Sunday – perhaps even make it a fun solo/family activity? Can you replace social media with a more beneficial activity – listening to music, chatting with a colleague, etc.?
6. Make time for what you love.
Along with cutting out low-joy chores, it’s also vital to create space for high-joy activities. Begin by forgetting what you are “supposed” to like and identify your true passions. What fills you with excitement and energy? What makes the hours fly by? What leaves you feel deeply fulfilled? These activities bring the biggest returns from an abundance perspective – they deserve to be at the very top of your leisure agenda.
7. Practice radical acceptance.
In her article on abundance, Jenny Garrett offers excellent advice around the idea of accepting our circumstances:
Radical acceptance simply means that you are acknowledging reality instead of fighting it by saying things like “It should or shouldn’t be this way,” “That’s not fair!” or “Why me?!”
Acceptance also doesn’t mean throwing our hands up in the air or waving a white flag. It’s the opposite, once we accept reality, we can consider if we’d like to change it. We can say: “OK, this exists. This is happening or happened. How do I want to handle it?”
An abundance mindset reveals silver linings and surfaces new opportunities. It spurs us on towards meaningful growth and success, while at the same time inviting us to find happiness in the achievements of those around us. With abundance thinking, we can focus on creating multipliers – instead of getting bogged down by fears and doubts.
What will you do today to increase abundance in your life?