Provision #406: Avoid Scarcity Thinking

Laser Provision

It’s tempting to succumb to scarcity thinking. When we view time, money, energy, or love as limited commodities we trade and protect them carefully. But what if we viewed them as essential experiences to be enjoyed and shared with reckless abandon? What if coming from a place of abundance proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy that would make life better for one and all? Read on if you are hungry for more.

LifeTrek Provision


Before concluding the first half of our series on spiritual wellness, focusing on the things we need to avoid, I want to review two more areas of concern: scarcity and selfishness. Both have their positive aspects but, overall, they more often lead us away from rather than toward spiritual wellness.

Scarcity thinking is, of course, the way of the world. Who has enough time, money, energy, or love? If we see them as limited commodities to be exchanged or traded, then it won’t be long before they become endangered species needing to be sheltered, protected, and hoarded. Our scarcity thinking becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as we struggle with “deficit-spending” in the areas that make life worth living.

— Time Scarcity. Time poverty has been described as the plague of the Information Age. It may be even more common and debilitating than economic poverty.  Ironically enough, the technology that was intended to help us do things faster and better is the very technology that has created an unparalleled sense of urgency, stress, multitasking, distraction, and deprivation.

No wonder people view time as a scarce commodity that needs to be earned, protected, and hoarded! There’s only so much time in a day • right? It depends upon how we think about time. To think about time chronologically generates scarcity thinking. 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, and 60 seconds in a minute. Time is money, and the clock is ticking. So we better do as much as possible, as fast as possible, before time runs out.

But what if we thought about time experientially? Forget the hours, minutes, and seconds. Focus on having a great experience with the time you have now. Notice what’s happening in the present moment. Think in terms of opportunity rather than data points. Replace your sense of time poverty with an awareness of and appreciation for the positive current value of time.

When that happens, we get lost in time as though it were a great movie. Nothing else matters; not yesterday, today, or tomorrow. There is no shortage of time because there is no cognitive overload. We are doing just one thing and doing it well. That’s one thing I love about running; when I put on my running clothes and head out the door or stand on the starting line, nothing else matters. I have all the time in the world to run.

— Money Scarcity. Economic poverty has been a plague in every age. No one ever seems to have enough money to take advantage of the all opportunities and to meet all the expectations of their station in life. Many do not even have enough money for basic necessities. Ironically enough, wealth does not necessarily eliminate cash flow problems and money scarcity. Being asset rich and cash poor is an all too frequent lament. The consumer economy has an insatiable appetite for more.

No wonder people view money as a scarce commodity that needs to be earned, protected, and hoarded! There never seems to be enough money • right? This too depends upon how we think about money. The richest people on earth may make the annual Forbes’ list based upon their net worth, but if we think of money solely in economic terms we will again generate scarcity thinking. They have more, we have less. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. So we better fight for everything we can get.

But what if we thought about money experientially? Forget the dollars, euros, and yens. Focus on having a great experience with the money you have now. Think about how you can be content in the present moment. Articulate your own definition of having enough. Replace your sense of economic poverty with an awareness of and appreciation for the positive current value of money.

When that happens, money is no longer the issue. We feel rich, with any balance sheet, because we approach what we have as a precious gift. This leads not only to gratitude but generosity. There is no shortage of money because there is no consumer overload. We don’t need to continually get more in order to spend more. We can rather do more, both for ourselves and for others, with the resources at our disposal.

— Energy Scarcity. Energy poverty stems directly from shortages of time and money. Feeling stressed and broke, with no time and no money, is a surefire formula for fatigue and exhaustion. So, too, is feeling bored and indulgent, with too much time and money. Either way, ironically enough, we suffer the same effects: a diminishment of our passion, possibilities, and performance. It’s as though we find ourselves constantly driving on Empty with rising prices at the pump.

No wonder people view energy as a scarce commodity that needs to be earned, protected, and hoarded! We go from one energy crisis to the next • right? Once again, it depends upon how we think about energy. If we only understand the entropy side of the equation, then every situation will look liked a closed-loop system with a limited supply of energy. When it’s gone, it’s gone, becomes the mantra of the age.

But what if we thought about energy experientially? Forget the analogy to fossil fuels. Focus, instead, on the experience of athletes who not only recover from the expenditure of energy but end up stronger than before. Think about how you could alternate periods of exertion and with periods of rest in order to replace your sense of energy poverty with an awareness of and appreciation for the positive current value of energy.

When that happens, we relate to the ebb and flow of energy in totally different ways. This morning I went out for my final long run before the Boston marathon. I ran more than 15 miles at a steady 8-minute per mile (5-minute per kilometer) pace. It was a great run. Afterwards, I sat in a whirlpool and took a nap. Now, my legs feel tired. Does that concern me? No! I know the difference between muscles on the mend and muscles in trouble. And these are definitely on the mend.

So too when it comes to the management of all energy, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social. There is no shortage of energy because we know how energy works. We are not in a closed-loop system. We are in systems that recover and restore their energy through rest and renewal • a fact that frees us to give every moment our very best.

— Love Scarcity. Relationship poverty is the final indignity suffered by too many people. Although the human population is at an all-time high and growing, with more than 6 billion people alive on the planet today, we also suffer from all-time high rates of isolation, loneliness, addiction, neglect, and abuse. We increasingly don’t eat, play, or talk together as families, know our neighbors’ names, or hang out with friends in real-world encounters.

No wonder people view love as a scarce commodity that needs to be earned, protected, and hoarded! The planet is teeming with people to whom we feel little or no connection and against whom we often compete. To talk of love is to ignore the hard, cold realities of life • right? Well it depends upon how we think about love. If love is the private possession of lovers, then they can ill afford to give love away or to take it outside the home.

But what if we thought about love experientially? Forget the old adage that “good guys finish last” not to mention the understanding of work as doing things we probably would not be doing unless someone were paying us money. Focus on seeing the people in your life as gifts who can assist you to not only do great things but to have a wonderful learning experience along the way. Think in terms of colleagues rather than competitors. Replace your sense of relationship poverty with an awareness of and appreciation for the positive current value of love.

When that happens, the world goes around both more slowly and more smoothly. That’s not because love is blind, but because love engages us with others in service of the common good.  It lubricates the day with value. There is no shortage of love unless we cut ourselves off from the stream. Those 6 billion people are 6 billion opportunities for love. And we would do well to distinguish ourselves as people who shamelessly and selflessly promote the growth of others.

So avoid scarcity thinking. There is no scarcity of time, money, energy, or love. These are the things the world is made of. We can find them in abundance, everywhere we look. Life is full of opportunities, resources, rhythms, and relationships from which we can draw strength and live. David Whyte has captured the essence of this abundance so ably in five lines of poetry called, “Loaves and Fishes.”

This is not the age of information.
This is not the age of information.
Forget the news and the radio and the blurred screen.
This is the time of loaves and fishes.
People are hungry, and one good word is bread for a thousand.

Do you hear that “one good word”? Then go forth and live accordingly. Do it for you. Do it for others. Do it for all.

Coaching Inquiries: When you look around, do you more often see scarcity or abundance? Do you build people up or tear people down with your approach to life? How could time, money, energy, and love become your allies rather than your enemies? Who could assist you to make the shifts you want to make?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..


Erika and Bob did a great job hitting a nerve in my LifeTrek with last week’s Pathway and Provision. His installment about instinct opening possibilities, versus cold calculated intellect, really fit right into Erika’s idea that focusing too much on logical and possible outcomes can squelch our true desires. I know that I have passions somewhere down in my gut, but my Self 1 has been so dominant in filtering those passions into what is safe and do-able. I have desires…I just dismiss them as impractical. I sometimes, and even now, am not really sure what they are because I don’t let them live.


I do so enjoy your weekly LifeTrek Provision. I always find something that gives me pause and allows me the time to reflect on my life and be thankful. A few years ago, in fact November 25, 2001, you started a Provision series’ entitled “Be Brave” (with BRAVE serving as an acronym). I have most of what the letters stand for but cannot find the complete explanation for the entire acronym. Is there any way I could get another copy of this? I would be most appreciative. Thank you. (Ed. Note: The acronym stood for being Bold, Responsible, Active, Versatile, and Endurable. It went with another acronym for Being NICE • Neighborly, Interested, Connected, and Etiquette. You can view this, and every past Provision, in our on-line archive. Click)


What does “Carpe manem!” mean? (Ed. Note: OK, you caught me. I used this Latin expression in July of 2001, in Provision #212, Respect the Morning Click. I used it to mean “Seize the morning!” but I should have spelled it “Carpe mane!” Mea culpa! I have corrected the spelling in the archive.)



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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