Why do we sometimes assume that what we need are scarce?
Inside the Minds
Some people think mostly about concrete things like cars, houses, computer gadgets, guns, bikes, cellphones and celebrities; some think mostly about abstract ideas such as love and hate, honesty, peace, communication, relationships, heart and soul, beliefs, eras, symbols, and personalities.
What’s the difference? Abstract ideas represent matters that cannot be observed but only imagined. Concrete things represent matters that can be observed so we don’t need to imagine.
This is not to say that concrete people can’t think about abstract ideas and abstract people can’t think about concrete things. We can do both. It’s just that we don’t give them equal emphasis in our minds. Some people predominantly think more about concrete things while others (like me) are mostly attracted to abstract ideas.
Outside, In the Real World
How about in the physical world outside our minds? Can we really distinguish the abstract from the concrete? Concrete things are subject to mathematical laws and can be counted, divided and joined. They can be measured. But how about abstract matters? Can we measure love or integrity or joy or peace?
Imagine two children competing for one apple. They have only limited options: either only one of them will have the whole apple; or they have to share two halves of the apple—each one has his half; or none of them will get the apple.
People always compete for concrete things. They want to have the biggest houses, the fastest cars, the most powerful computers, the best cameras. Ninety percent of the families of a certain country maybe competing for the amount of money equivalent to the 10% available in their country. On the other hand, the 10% of the population who are sharing the 90% of all available resources in their country are also competing with one another.
But what if the children are competing for the love of their mother? What if the students are competing for “the number one” in class? What if some ladies are competing for “the crown” of being the most beautiful woman in their place?
Isn’t it that love, talent, intelligence, and beauty are among the abstract things in life? If a country has scarcity of water or crops or trees that bear fruits, that’s natural. But if there is scarcity of love and respect in a particular place, I don’t think that’s natural. That is the choice of the people living in that place to make love scarce, or to make peace nonexistent.
What‘s the difference again? Concrete things maybe plenty or scarce. Things that are scarce sometimes push us to compete. On the other hand, I don’t think abstract ideas like talents, peace or communication can be naturally scarce—they are always plenty. So it is better to cooperate than compete—to collaborate than to rival.
When we treat beauty, intelligence, love, cooperation, leadership, and other abstract concepts as concrete matters, and always compete as if these matters are scarce, then perhaps we have scarcity mentality.
Sometimes, competing is natural, specially when we do it for fun (like in sports and recreation); sometimes we compete to survive. Yet most daily activities require cooperation not competition. So when we extend the attitude of “always competing” in our daily normal life at home or in the office…and apply it with abstract matters, then maybe we are exaggerating. When we compete about who’s the most talented, or the most beautiful, or even the most intelligent…when we become too accustomed to “always compete,” we better ask ourselves why. Perhaps we are having scarcity mentality…and it’s leading us into getting irrationally greedy.