Updated: May 10, 2021
The Scarcity Mindset vs. the Growth Mindset
You can and will be successful! There are many opportunities and solutions to the questions and challenges in your life! You have tremendous knowledge and intuition which will benefit you greatly! Not only will your effort lead to success in your own life, they will also help others be successful too.
This is the type of thinking found in the Growth Mindset, and it will literally make you smarter and more successful.
Over the last couple of months, my career, my motivation, and my ability to achieve have seemed to be on an upward trajectory that I’ve felt like I haven’t really experienced for the previous couple of years. And from this side, it’s very clear and easy to see that the reason is that I’ve adopted a Growth Mindset.
Like in the 2011 Bradley Cooper movie, Limitless, where there was a pill that massively increased mental acuity, I’ve literally felt like my brain can solve problems that would have stumped me just one year ago. (By the way, Limitless was a great movie, and ever since I watched it, I’ve imagined it would be simply awesome to have a pill that unlocked more brain.
The Growth Mindset is also known as the Expansive Mindset or the Abundance Mindset. And it literally and physiologically opens up your mind and makes you a more valuable contributor to wherever you set your focus. power, without the lethal side effects of course)
But to understand the Growth Mindset, it’s helpful to understand it’s opposite: The Scarcity Mindset.
What is the Scarcity Mindset, and why is it so debilitating?
For the last few months, I’ve been reading about how damaging the Scarcity Mindset can be, not only to your internal morale, but your actual capability to perform—your ability to think and find solutions. Looking back it's easy to recognize those times in my life and in my career. And since I’ve seen a change in my mindset, I feel like my brain is able to perform at a much higher level.
In the famous Minnesota Starvation Experiments in 1944, where 36 men voluntarily starved themselves so that researchers could learn about the mental and physiological effects of starvation, they observed, as one might expect, that prolonged hunger and starvation resulted in significant decreases in strength, stamina, heart rate and sex drive. What was more interesting was that the hunger made the men obsessed with food. Their minds were overly fixated on food. They would talk about food, dream about food, and fantasize about food. Food became the only thing they could think about or focus on. This phenomenon is commonly labeled as tunnel vision, which Dictionary.com defines as:
tunnel vision (n): drastically narrowed field of vision, as in looking through a tube, an extremely narrow or prejudiced outlook; narrow-mindedness, also described as a lack of peripheral vision.
Eldar Shafir, a Princeton psychologist, summarized the phenomenon as this: “When a person lacks something important — food, time, money, or even friendship — the scarcity can overwhelm the brain in a way that leads to counterproductive, often damaging decisions. Like a computer running multiple programs, our mental processors begin to slow down.”
The Scarcity Mindset generally is the result of feeling the lack of something important, like lack of recognition from a boss, lack of visible advancement in our careers, feeling like our fate is dependent on one person’s judgment, lack of financial freedom, or sometimes just feeling like we’re unable to achieve the things we want in life. And sometimes, the scarcity mindset can develop within us due to only a psychological feeling that we’re lacking something or that we’re not good enough, even if our feelings are not accurately portraying reality. Just feeling bad can throw us into the scarcity mindset.
And the bad news is that, because of the way this mindset negatively affects our mental performance, it can be easy to start sliding into a downward spiral that makes things so much worse. In my research, I’ve found that most people describe the symptoms of the scarcity mindset to be a pattern of thinking—inwardly focused on taking vs. giving or sharing.
Symptoms of the Scarcity Mindset often include the following thought processes:
Scarcity Mindset Thinking
There is a limited supply of opportunities, and they are shrinking every day as others grab them and play them out
It’s a zero sum game—I win only when my opponents lose
Too many people want to hold me back
There are seemingly endless obstacles blocking my path to success
I must protect my ideas—sharing is risky
I must be cautious not to try things that could fail: I don’t need another failure on my record
It seems like every potential path forward has some sort of problem
Change for the sake of change is counterproductive
Success is all about appearances vs. substance: I need to look good to get what I want
People don’t want to listen to my ideas
Other people have too much power over my career and my ultimate success
Contrast that thinking with the growth mindset.
Growth Mindset Thinking
Opportunities are everywhere
The possibilities are infinite
There is more than enough to go around
There is room for everyone to succeed
Innovation is multiplicative
Every experience is a learning opportunity that makes you stronger
Change leads to learning and progress
Collaboration leads to win-win
Your power to accomplish is unlimited
Everything will eventually work out in your favor
The success of others is connected to your own individual success
The Growth Mindset makes you smarter, literally. It improves your ability to think expansively and find solutions. The Scarcity Mindset, by contrast, limits our ability to think and imagine solutions. It is very destructive to our own success. That’s why it’s so important to be able to recognize the Scarcity Mindset and take action to stop it.
You can make changes for the better in your own life
If you recognize the symptoms of the Scarcity Mindset in your own thinking, here are some ways you can start to transform your own thinking.
Start with a belief that success is possible; this will motivate you to look for pathways to succeed instead of giving up because a problem seems too difficult.
Shift to a belief that opportunities are everywhere, and there are multiple solutions to every problem.
Make it a priority to learn from every experience.
Set aside time every day to learn. Read. Listen to audiobooks. Watch educational YouTube videos. Just learning and getting smarter will change your outlook.
Remind yourself that you can always shift what isn’t working.
Move from a philosophy of competition to one of collaboration; collaboration leads to solutions that can make everyone more successful.
Become aware of the thought patterns that sabotage you and reprogram those beliefs.
Listen to your intuition; your limbic brain is usually correct.
Don’t let fear drive your decisions; If you ever feel that fear is affecting your decision-making, go back to the abundance mindset; Step outside yourself; Think about how to help others.
Earnestly seek to help others succeed in their own goals and desires
Be open to different ideas and opinions from other people. Try to learn from them.
Be resilient. Look at setbacks as temporary learning opportunities that will ultimately cause you to succeed.
Most of all, NEVER let another person destroy your belief in yourself. NOBODY has justifiable authority to do that. You are always right to believe in yourself. If you ever find that others don’t believe in you, it’s because they are trapped in their own scarcity mindset, and you should never let them draw you in to that negativity.
It’s ok to compete to challenge yourself, but it’s not productive to try to bring others down. Don’t allow yourself to think in terms of a scarcity mindset. The world doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Think in terms of mutually beneficial exchanges.
Awareness Allows Us to Change Our Own Mindset
It’s almost sad that it’s taken me a couple of decades in my career to understand the importance of the Growth vs. Scarcity Mindsets. But now that I understand how important it is and how to recognize it, I feel like I’m prepared to stay vigilant against the negative effects of the Scarcity mindset.
Furthermore, because of the impact it has already made in my life, I feel obligated to share what I’ve learned with as many other people as possible, so they can learn and transform their own lives. But that’s only part 1. Part 2 is trying to make sure I’m never part of a leadership team that promotes scarcity thinking either directly or indirectly in the culture that is allowed to prevail at a company.
Leaders have a moral duty to protect their people from the scarcity mindset
As I look back on my career, it’s easy to see how I let bosses and others in leadership or authority positions influence my thinking. At the end of the day, I must take responsibility for my own success or failure, and I will never blame my success or failure on another person. After all, every experience of my life has brought me to where I am today, and that includes my recent learning about the power of the Growth Mindset.
That said, there are clear actions that leaders can take to either promote a Growth Mindset or a Scarcity Mindset. If you want to be a good leader, you do things to promote the growth mindset among your people, including the following:
Show faith in your people. Tell them they can succeed wildly at whatever they want.
Tell them that nobody has all the answers, but we can always learn and get smarter.
Foster a culture of continuous learning.
Never act like you’re the smartest guy in the room. Even that sentiment is a sign you’re not in active learning mode. Always show a willingness to learn.
Encourage your people that failure is a gift to help us learn—not an opportunity to tell someone they’re not good enough.
Build trust by opening up and being vulnerable—Don’t keep secrets.
Give people time and cover to step back and think—this will lead to better decisions and it will demonstrate that the perceived “scarcity” is not real.
Unfortunately, this combination of leadership traits is rare. If you are lucky enough to get a boss or supervisor that recognizes the importance of the above actions, let that person know you appreciate him or her. I've been lucky enough to have people like this in my life a handful of times in my career, and it made a tremendous difference in what I was able to accomplish and contribute to the company.
I am pained by the amount of people who enter the corporate world, only to be held back by leaders who promote the scarcity mentality. I am 100% convinced that companies would have so much more successful employees that are both more productive and happier if they could find a way to foster the Growth Mindset and eradicate the Scarcity Mindset.
From personal experience, I will tell you the benefits I’ve experienced from getting out of the Scarcity Mindset and entering the Growth Mindset:
I feel invigorated and excited about the future and what I might be able to accomplish
My ideas are more expansive. I literally feel inspired with new ideas every day.
I am not overwhelmed by big or seemingly insurmountable problems. I feel like solutions will eventually come.
I love sharing ideas with others.
I love helping and encouraging other people to succeed.
I am very motivated, and my work is very productive.
I feel like I’ve been able to put together some excellent thoughts and ideas for my own business.
My periods of discouragement flip very quickly into periods of creative thinking.
To sum up, I’ve been delivering significant value to my business and I’ve loved the process along the way.
I’m convinced this is a very important topic, and I wish I had implemented it earlier in my life. That said, the fact that it has taken me so long to understand has made it even more meaningful because I have over two decades of corporate experience to compare the two opposing mentalities.
Further Reading and Resources
If you are interested in learning more about the Growth Mindset and avoiding the Scarcity Mindset, you can find loads of stuff just by Googling a few topics:
Scarcity Mindset, Expansive Mindset, Abundance Mindset, Growth Mindset, Tunnel Vision.
I’ve also recently read some very influential books, which I would highly recommend:
· Start with Why by Simon Sinek
· The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
· The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz
· The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch
How ever you take it from here, remember to make learning a priority. Read and listen to whatever interests you or captures your curiosity. And most of all, take every experience, good or bad, for what it is: an opportunity to learn and get better because of it.
About the Author: Jeff Robinson brings the perspective of two-decades working with companies across industries to help them improve their pricing practices and results. He has designed, marketed, and implemented pricing solutions used by hundreds of companies, whose combined revenues total more than one trillion dollars. Having earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, combined with an MBA in marketing and finance, he has brought new perspectives to the world of pricing, often challenging prevailing notions or widely accepted strategies. Combining his formal education with over 20 years’ experience, he has recently authored the up-coming book, Price for Growth, A Step-by-Step Approach to Massively Impact the Value of Your Company by Leveraging Focused Pricing Strategies, expected to be release in 2021. Today, he is leading the development of a new company, Revolution Pricing, focused on helping companies create and select appropriate pricing strategies for maximizing the value of their own companies.
About Revolution Pricing: Revolution Pricing is a company founded to help companies create and select appropriate pricing strategies for maximizing the value of their company value by focusing on the right metrics, building goodwill with their customers, and reducing the risk of future profits. Unlike most companies that offer pricing solutions, Revolution Pricing focuses on longer term benefits largely driven by metric other than near-term profit dollars. We believe the path to success requires education and understanding prior to implementing “optimization” tools to insure any such tools accomplish the right desired objectives. For more information, visit RevolutionPricing.com