Scarcity Mentality

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.

Dangerous Effect

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.

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…Mentality is

The Real Problem Lies Behind

Although we mostly agree about the effects of poverty, we have different opinions about its causes. These different views result to different reactions.

Many blame the governments for formulating policies that favor the rich. Some blame the rich for being too greedy and for having some sort of “conspiracy” that keeps the poor to remain poor. Others blame themselves for not having what It takes to elevate themselves from poverty. There are those who blame the wars. Still others blame God, while at the same time question his ability to control the world and sometimes challenge even his existence…all these because of poverty.

In The Surface

Poverty, according to Wikipedia, is

…the lack of human needs…because of the inability to afford them.”

I don’t disagree with the description above. Yet I want to argue that that is only the description of the surface. There is another cause that is seldom discussed or even mentioned by many people or organizations who focus on eliminating poverty. Their lack of our material needs is only the effect or the result of our way of thinking.

Mentality is the problem.

No matter how much money we give to the poor, most of them will always return to being poor because their mindset will drag them back to poverty. In contrast, no matter how much bankruptcy wealthy people experience, they will always recover from that bankruptcy. Their own mentality will lead them back to wealth and being rich, between the powerful and the weak.

I repeat: poverty is not our society’s problem. Instead, it is the effect of a chronic problem. Poverty is the surface. Our real problem is in the background: its the differences in the mentality between the poor and rich.

Behind the Surface

I like the wikipedia’s next description,

Poverty is additionally seen as a state of mind and a lifestyle- more than just a lack of materials. It is a state of deprivation and insecurity. Even those who can get above poverty are always close to falling back into its clutches.

Indeed, poverty mentality drags people, families, and sometimes entire communities to be poor. A person born in a poor family are influenced by his parents’ mentality. Well, that’s only true in the beginning. Initially, it’s his being poor that brought him to poverty mentality. Yet as he grows to adulthood and learns more about life, about himself, about others, and about the world he lives in, he learns to adjust his “mentality” or way of thinking to adapt to his reality.

John C. Maxwell teaches us the Winning Attitude and how to Think for a Change—a set of mentality embraced by successful people. Napoleon Hill describes a “formula” in his book, Think and Grow Rich. Another author, Brian Tracy, teaches us how our mind works in terms of reaching our dreams in his audiobook, The Psychology of Achievement. Robert Kiyosaki exposes in great details the great difference between the mindset of the poor and the “state of mind” of the rich. In his 3 books, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Cashflow Quadrant, and Guide to Investing, he repeatedly describes using different representations, the great gap between the mindset of the poor and the mindset of the rich.

I have also watched the movie The Secret. I have read other books like The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr. Joseph Murphy, and the famous Emotional Intelligence of Dr. Daniel Goleman.

No matter how these authors call it and describe it, and no matter how diverse they are in providing representations of this, the idea will always bring us to my initial premise: the problem lies not on the outside physical circumstances that bring us a chronic condition, instead the problem lies inside our brain…in our mind.

If we consider that this is true, that poverty mentality is one great cause of poverty then why don’t we work together to teach ourselves and others on how to make positive changes in our way of thinking?

Albert Einstein said,

The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.

Technology and Society

How does technology affect other areas of our life?

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Is the visible world around us all there is?” My favorite author Philip Yancey circles around this question in his book Rumors of Another World. I like that thought-provoking book. It explores the possibility of another world that coexists in our physical world. It challenges me to continually pay attention to the bigger picture we call life. It makes me always aware of many other unseen and unexplored realms that are in constant contact with every aspect of our life that are equally important.

Technology for easier life

It is a common acknowledgement that tools are purposely designed to make people’s tasks easier. Since technology is considered as a tool, it follows that technology is developed to make our lives easier. Well, I don’t argue against that. We are surrounded by tools everywhere…and that significantly makes our many tasks easier. I no longer need to roam around the city streets to look for tools. Inside my small room I have electric fan, exhaust fan, lockers, bookshelf, single and double beds, chair, floor and ceiling, walls, pens and papers, and everything else that I can touch, measure, and count—they are all designed to make my life in this planet easier. Even this very computer that I am using in writing this article makes my tasks more efficient and less tiring. In general terms, all of those things that I use inside my room are all tools—they are products of technology—designed to make lives easier and more efficient. I totally agree.

However, I am in constant quest as to why we want easier life instead of stronger one, instead of more significant, more meaningful one. Why? That part I honestly don’t understand. Is our physical world around us—the world that has already been conquered by artists and scientists—all there is? Is that all we have? If not, why focus too much in its mastery? Sadly enough, our society, with all its old and modern technology obviously suggests that that’s all there is—nothing more.

Society and its intricately woven parts

Stephen Covey’s books 7 Habits, The 8Th Habit, and Principle-Centered Leadership tremendously altered the way I see myself, other people and the society as a whole. As frequently as I reflect about my life, I am constantly reminded of my four dimensions as a person: my body, heart, mind, and spirit. No matter how much I concentrate on one dimension, if I stubbornly neglect the others, I won’t be a whole person, I won’t be complete.

The four dimensions are not exclusive for people. Organizations are like people in a way that every organization has its own unique personality, that is, organizations have body, heart, mind, and spirit as well. Societies are not exempted either. They are just bigger and more complicated. Societies, like people and organizations also have physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects. It’s just that they are more complex, maybe due to its size compared to a single person. It doesn’t matter whether one is a person or an organization or a society there is always a lingering pattern: they all have body, heart, mind and spirit.

What is the connection? When we say that technology makes our life easier, do we mean life as described through the four dimensions? Or are we simply succumbed only to the dimension that is seen, measured, and those that we can control—the physical dimension?

Technology is a tool. It is neutral. Meaning, we can use technology to make life easier; but we can also use it to make life miserable. It’s up to us. Tools are designed to be used in certain ways. There are always Do’s and Don’ts. Users should always be informed or sometimes trained on how to use a tool. Otherwise he may defeat the very purpose of the tool he’s using. Worse yet, he may hurt himself in the process. And even worse is if the consequence is delayed for years before he realizes that the way he’s been using the tool that he’s been using is all wrong . . . and then it’s too late to rectify.

What’s the point? The point is . . . technology is neither good nor bad. If it helps our physical life easier, that’s good. But if technology negatively affects the other dimensions—especially the emotional and spiritual dimensions—of our life, even though it tremendously helps our physical and mental life, then it’s counterproductive. It’s not just useless, it becomes destructive. No matter how much help technology offers us, if it pulls us away from being cooperative, ethical, conscientious, industrious, and GOD-fearing, no matter how much easier life may become, if it pulls us away from being integrated, from being whole, then it is not being helpful at all. We are being deceived by our own assumptions.

Look at what Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution did to the relationship between science and religion. How about Sigmund Freud’s theory about human psychology? What has science brought us in terms of peace, love, integrity, authenticity, respect, and ethics? Technology is okay—as long as it doesn’t destroy the other dimensions of our lives. World Wide Web is good as an information tool. But how does it affect the younger ones? How about other technologies like guns, nuclear weapons, nano technology? Technology is supposed to be neutral. But now many are not. They destroy our paradigms, alter our beliefs, refocus our values, and the saddest part, they paralyze our conscience. Do I still need to prove this claim?

How about in education? Many schools are excellent when it comes to academics but totally poor when it comes to humility and character. They are absolutely illiterate when it comes to bringing knowledge to their emotions. Remember, education is also a tool. If it helps us improve our mental dimension and yet destroy our emotional and spiritual side, what good does it do?

In Principle-Centered Leadership, Stephen Covey mentions Gandhi’s teaching about seven things that destroy us:

  • wealth without work
  • pleasure without conscience
  • knowledge without character
  • commerce without morality
  • science without humanity
  • worship without sacrifice
  • politics without principles

Howard Gardner, in his year 2008 book The 5 Minds for the Future, discusses the limits of science and technology. He says that,

“ … science can never constitute a sufficient education. Science can never tell you what to do in class or at work. Why? What you do as a teacher or manager has to be determined by your value system—and neither science nor technology has a built-in value system.”

Although he advocates about the importance of having a disciplined mind, synthesizing and creating minds, he did not undermine other parts. In fact he includes respectful mind and the ethical mind. Doctor Gardner strikes balance.

Response

A silent revolution is needed. A subtle but intense campaign is necessary. Leadership reproduction is a must. Why leadership? Because our societies have already been overmanaged. People have already conquered science. We are now full of knowledge and are continuously acquiring more. We have plenty of pleasure. Commerce is in place, and many have wealth (although most are in poverty). In the list of seven dangerous things mentioned above, we already have pleasure, knowledge, commerce, science, and politics. What we lack however are conscience, character, morality, humanity, sacrifice, and principles—all of which are products of good leadership.

I think we should not take for granted that the technology we are about to bring to the society may destroy other areas of our life. In that case, no matter how much help technology provides to our physical tasks, if it destroys our inward self, our other dimensions, then it becomes ‘counterproductive,’ ‘counterefficient’, and ‘countereffective.’

The physical world that has already been mastered by people through science and technology is not all there is. There is more. Our society has heart, mind, and conscience as well. We can continue to make some research for more advanced technology, but we must do so without sacrificing our conscience, our character . . . without neglecting humanity, ethics, and principles. In other words, we need to strike balance. And I am convinced that leaders are the ones we can count on in providing that needed balance.