How we can talk about creating abundance when it seems we live in a world of scarce resources? Aren’t these in conflict? Isn’t an abundance mindset just an exercise in self-delusion?
Certain resources on earth are in limited supply and are being depleted quickly. Perhaps the #1 example of this is oil. Oil is being pumped out of the ground faster than it can be replenished by the earth.
It takes energy to pump the oil out of the ground, and not all of the oil can be retrieved in an energy efficient manner. It doesn’t make sense to spend 100 units of energy in order to extract only 90 units.
The easy-to-get oil is already scarce, and companies are going after the harder-to-get oil at much greater risk and expense. It’s easier to pump oil out of the ground than it is to build offshore oil rigs and pump it up through the ocean floor. There would be no rational justification for engaging in costly offshore oil drilling if land-based oil supplies were abundant. The very existence of offshore oil drilling is a clear signal that oil is becoming scarcer. Even oil rich nations like Saudi Arabia are engaged in offshore drilling, which is a tacit acknowledgement that they’re running out of oil.
It’s only a matter of time before this resource runs out. As it becomes increasingly scarce, shortages will occur, and oil prices will surge. Industries that depend heavily on oil will have to cut back. Aren’t we already seeing this happen?
At present there’s no resource that can substitute for oil’s versatility or its integration into modern society. Oil is used to run farming equipment and transport food. It’s used in plastics — your home is probably filled with petroleum-based products. Even the tires on your car are made with oil, about 7 gallons per tire. It’s not a resource that can be easily replaced. As oil runs out, some lifestyle changes are inevitable.
There’s no need to deny that certain resources are scarce. Scarce resources are part of the story of earth.
If life is a dream, then what sense does it make for there to be scarce resources? Can’t you just think your way into limitless abundance?
Limits and constraints make for interesting story. If there are no constraints, there’s no story. Life in a constraint-free world would be incredibly boring.
Abundance isn’t the same thing as limitlessness. If you lived in a truly limitless world, would you feel a sense of abundance? More likely you’d suffer from gluttony, boredom, and laziness. It would be a disappointing and uninspiring dream to endure.
This may appear unintuitive at first glance, but abundance requires scarcity.
Abundance and scarcity are equally valuable teachers. They both teach us gratitude, but in different ways.
When there’s a constant presence in your life, you’ll tend to take it for granted. You’ll come to expect that it will always be there. But when you have to do without for a while, it gives you the opportunity to appreciate what you have even more.
It’s the shifting between phases of abundance and scarcity that teaches us what we value most.
I take time every day to appreciate the good things in my life, partly because I’ve had the experience of not having them. I know these experiences are temporary.
I’m grateful for the freedom I enjoy because at one point I was in an 8’x10′ jail cell, feeling what it felt like not to have that freedom.
I’m grateful for the money that flows through my life because I was broke for many years, went bankrupt, and got kicked out of my apartment because I couldn’t pay the rent.
I’m grateful for the friends I have because I know what it’s like to feel alone and friendless.
I’m grateful for the health I enjoy because I know what it’s like to be sick.
When I use the Internet, I feel grateful for how amazing it is and how it lets me connect with people all over the world. I remember what it was like when I didn’t have access to this amazing wonder.
In two days I’m traveling to Canada to visit my Rachelle. We haven’t seen each other in a month and a half. Being apart for so long makes it hard to take each other for granted. It helps us appreciate each other much more. I’m very grateful that she’s in my life.
However, when there’s a glut of abundance, I’m more likely to take things for granted. That’s when scarcity may become the more valuable teacher.
When I’ve spent a few weeks with Rachelle, for instance, I may not feel as appreciative of her on Day 20 as I did on Day 1. But after saying goodbye to her at the airport and then experiencing a few days alone, I become more acutely aware of just how much I appreciate her, and I look forward to seeing her again.
It’s the contrast between abundance and scarcity that helps raise our awareness of what we value most.
The abundance mindset isn’t about acquiring and securing more stuff. It’s about appreciating life fully and feeling grateful for what life is teaching you.
Gratitude for the Story
Can you actually feel grateful for the scarcity you experience because it’s teaching you new truths about yourself?
When I was deep in debt, knowing I was going to have to declare bankruptcy, I felt I had nothing more to lose financially, so I decided to stop feeding so much of my power to that part of my life. I’d been telling myself I couldn’t have a good life if my financial life was broken. So I gave myself permission to feel good about the other parts of my life and not let the lack of money drag me down so much. After all, it was just a number. Why was I giving it so much power over me?
I started paying attention to what I did have, and I learned to appreciate it more deeply. I appreciated the food I was able to eat. I appreciated that I somehow still had a roof over my head. I appreciated the weather. I appreciated the ocean, the beach, and the sunrise.
I appreciate that I could breathe. I appreciated running and meditation. I appreciated my relationships. I appreciated my health.
It was in late 1998 and early 1999 that I began to do that. And 1998 was the last year I felt to be a scarce one (and perhaps the first half of 1999). After that I always seemed to have plenty. Even the money situation turned around within a year. That was my first financially positive year after 6 years as an entrepreneur. I experienced 12 more good years in a row after that.
I’m glad these events were part of my story. If I had achieved lots of good things earlier in life, I don’t think I’d appreciate them as much as I do now. Despite having a lot of good stuff in my life these days, I don’t take it for granted. The sweet stuff is sweeter because I know what bitter tastes like.
The Story of Loss
Everything you have in this world is temporary. One way or another, it will vanish from your life. If it’s physical in nature, it’s impermanent.
Earth’s resources will eventually be used up. Your human body will be used up as well. Even the Sun will eventually burn out. And it’s expected that the known universe itself will eventually end.
Loss is part of the story of life. When we lose something precious to us, we deepen our understanding of its value.
Humanity is burning through some of the earth’s scarce resources. That, by itself, is not a problem. The real problem is that we don’t properly appreciate those resources. It’s okay to pump oil out of the ground and use it. The earth doesn’t mind. But are we truly appreciating what the earth is giving to us?
Do you realize that all of the “stuff” in your life is a gift of the earth? If it’s physical in nature, it was probably made from something that was pulled out of the ground. Human creativity played its part of course, but do you realize that the raw materials of the items in your home came from the earth? You’re literally wearing pieces of the earth on your body.
Now realize that all of this is temporary. You’ll either lose it before you die or when you die.
The great story of loss is that everything in this physical reality will eventually be taken from you. Do you accept this, or do you resist it?
According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Clinginess shows up in the first 4 stages, but when we get to acceptance, we finally let go and make peace with reality.
I think there are stages beyond acceptance, however, and gratitude is certainly one of them. When we can see the important role that loss plays in life, we can learn to appreciate loss itself. It’s an important part of our story. Loss helps us grow.
Without loss we’d be too likely to take the good parts of our lives for granted. They’d eventually become hollow and meaningless to us. When we lose them, however, we become intensely aware of the value we once experienced.
As we move into an abundance mindset, we recognize that the true value we experience can always be recreated. Real value isn’t scarce. We may lose a loved one, but we can experience love again.
Scarcity teaches us what true abundance means. Scarcity helps us understand what we value and what we don’t.
You may not value oil specifically, but by appreciating what oil has done, you may come to appreciate technology, and by appreciating technology, you may come to appreciate human empowerment, sharing knowledge, making new discoveries, and connecting with people.
Abundance doesn’t require unlimited physical resources. Having limitless oil or some suitable replacement won’t help us feel more abundant. It will simply lead us to take more things for granted, and we’ll under-appreciate what we have.
Abundance isn’t about having more, more, more. It’s about learning what we truly value and realizing that we can in fact create that value if we so desire.
In some ways this dream world is much smarter than our limited individual personalities. It brings us what we truly desire, even if that conflicts with what we explicitly ask for. The universe is completely and 100% on your side. You can try to make an enemy of it, but it never abandons you. It simply outsmarts you by doing an end run around your stubbornness.
To create an abundance mindset, you may need to shed a lot of false desires. You may need to stop feeding your power to what you don’t want. And you may need to start appreciating all the goodness that’s right in front of you, but you’ve been too blind to pause and appreciate it.
If you think that scarcity in the world is a bad thing, take another look. You’re seeing scarcity because you need to see it in order to grow. You need to see war in order to appreciate peace. You need to see unfairness to appreciate fairness. You need to see disease to appreciate health. If you didn’t need to learn these lessons, you wouldn’t keep summoning scarcity as your teacher.
Don’t close your eyes to the scarcity you perceive. Let it sink in fully. Feel the sense of lack. And when you’ve learned the lesson you need to learn from it, withdraw your power from it, and use it to create the abundance you desire.
Aligning yourself with abundance is the same thing as aligning yourself with happiness.
There are many false roadsigns to happiness in this world. Most of them lead to dead ends.
Material wealth is one example. If you think that having “more” will lead to happiness, go ahead and try it. You may learn this lesson by gaining more and still feeling unhappy, or you may learn it by failing to reach the level of more that you desire. Eventually you’ll become so frustrated that you decide to explore a different path.
I put some energy into improving my finances, but I didn’t feel happier or more abundant when I achieved those goals. What gave me the greatest feeling of happiness was taking time to appreciate the good things in my life. The interesting part is that this had nothing to do with the things. It had everything to do with how I was using my power.
I learned that it makes no difference what my finances are doing. They can go up or down, and it doesn’t affect my happiness. I always have the ability to feel grateful. Sometimes I feel more grateful when I have less vs. when I have more.
One of the reasons I placed my work into the public domain and no longer copyright it is that I realized that owning a lot of intellectual property doesn’t make me any happier than when I owned none. When I tried feeling grateful for it, I realized it wasn’t the ownership that mattered to me. Nor was it the body of work that I created in the past. I discovered the deeper truth that I’m grateful for the opportunity to express myself creatively. I’m grateful for the ability to connect with people around the world. I’m grateful for the chance to learn and grow.
I don’t need to make more money or acquire more prestige or gain more web traffic in order to be happier. I can be happy simply expressing my creativity. Certain tools like a computer and the Internet help me do that, and I’m grateful for them as well, but if they were all stripped from me, I could still express my creativity with sticks and stones. Even if I ended up paralyzed, I could build new creations within my mind, and I could still feel grateful for the ability to do that.
However, I’ve noticed that the more I remember these lessons, the less often scarcity shows up in my life as a personal teacher. I’m getting better at making choices with respect to happiness as opposed to making choice on the basis of more. I pass up obvious avenues for advancement in my business if I don’t think they’ll increase my happiness, even if they might increase my income. From an entrepreneurial perspective, it may appear that I run my business strangely, but I run it happily.
Discarding False Paths
The existence of scarcity in the world helps us identify and discard the false paths that won’t give us a true sense of abundance.
I believe that a true abundance mindset isn’t about how much stuff you can acquire. I think it’s about realizing how little you need to create happiness. Could you lose all your stuff and still feel grateful? Can you still use your power to create the experience of caring, generosity, and happiness even in the presence of lack?
I also think that life stops hammering us with certain lessons once we learn them. My money problems didn’t go away because I became aggressive about making more money. They stopped arising when I let go of my fear of not having money and when I stopped empowering the belief that I couldn’t have a good life without money.
What helped me most was thinking about what my life would be like if I actually became homeless. I could live on the beach and sleep under the stars each night. I could work on my social skills. I could learn to get better at drawing. I’d have lots of freedom. I could learn new languages from bilingual homeless people. I could go to libraries and read. I could meditate and go running each day. I could write a book about the experience. I could even do volunteer work to help people. I soon realized that even if I had no money at all, I could still live a pretty cool life. It was within my power to do so.
Once I realized that my money situation absolutely did not have the power to sentence me to a miserable life and that in fact, I could still lead an interesting and fulfilling life no matter what, my whole being lightened up. It seemed as if reality said to me, “Ok, great… it took years, but you finally got that lesson. Now let’s move on to these other lessons over here.” There was no more need for major scarcity to keep arising for me in this particular area since I learned what I needed to learn.
An expanded version of this lesson that I’ve been learning recently is that I don’t need non-physical property either. I don’t need to own anything at all to be happy. I think I’m going to enjoy writing without the burden of ownership. The creative part is what I enjoy most. I don’t need to own what I create.
Some people desire to create more sustainability in the world, which is partly about shifting away from non-renewable resources and towards renewable resources.
I don’t presently consider myself a proponent of the sustainability movement though. I think there are more beneficial growth lessons to be learned from cycles of excess and scarcity than there are from long-term sustainability.
If my own life had been more balanced, I doubt I’d have learned as much as I did. I think it would be boring and depressing to live as many animals in nature do, so I wouldn’t use that as my model of environmental harmony. I think there are good reasons humans create such huge imbalances — and why we have the capacity to continue doing so. These imbalances provide us with amazing growth lessons, teaching how to expand our power and our wisdom simultaneously.
Some would say that today our power has gotten ahead of our wisdom. I tend to agree. This, however, motivates us to increase our wisdom. When our wisdom pulls ahead, there will be a stronger drive to increase our power.
On a deeper level, I see this as the balance between Truth, Love, and Power. These are the primary ways in which we experience growth, and all three have the capacity to expand.
When Truth gets too far ahead, then we have theories we cannot test and grand ideas we cannot implement. This motivates us to come together and collaborate (Love) in order to achieve new breakthroughs (Power).
When Love gets too far ahead, we connect to such a degree that we begin to lose our individual will and drive. We stagnate and do the same things day after day. You may see this kind of imbalance arising in your life if you spend tons of time socializing online. Eventually you begin to feel empty inside, like you’re just spinning your wheels. This negative feeling can’t be resolved by throwing more socialization at it. To correct this imbalance, you need to incorporate more learning (Truth) and creative projects (Power) into your life.
When Power gets too far ahead, we abuse ourselves. We get good at creating what we don’t want, so we create a lot of it. This motivates us to pay more attention to our relationships (Love) and to listen to our true desires (Truth).
If we truly appreciate a natural resource, we’ll be motivated to find ways to use it efficiently to create good value for ourselves. If we don’t appreciate a certain resource, we may push it to the point of extinction and then deal with its absence afterwards.
How many of the now extinct species did we appreciate? Do you miss them, or are you okay living without them?
Is oil a resource that you truly appreciate, or is it one you’d be okay living without? Do you feel grateful for all that oil has added to your life? Do you hate it and want to see it go away? How does the unfolding story of earth reflect your feelings in this area? How does it give you new insights into what you value most?
For me the lesson of oil has to do with prioritizing my values. Using oil has consequences, some of which I perceive as negative and some as positive. Which of those consequences am I willing to accept? Which am I not willing to accept? And what does this tell me about my values? I learn a lot about myself by witnessing the story of oil unfolding in my reality. It’s a wonderful teacher.
Lessons From Your Story
The story of earth is taking us through some interesting lessons these days. When faced with these lessons, we have a choice. We can choose to resist them, in which case we’ll feed more power to them and see them expand. Or we can choose to learn these lessons now, which gives us a chance to move on to new lessons.
If you don’t appreciate something in your life, then why is it there? It’s there because you keep feeding your power to it. You keep noticing it and paying attention to it. If you didn’t do that, then for all practical purposes, it would be invisible to you.
The reason you’re creating this drama is so that you can have a growth experience. It is there to teach you something important, such as what you truly value. You’ll keep creating this drama in different forms until you’re able to learn the lesson behind the drama. That lesson will ultimately take you to a deeper level of Truth.
If you try to shortcut these lessons, your solutions will never last. The deeper part of your being — the part that wants to grow — will simply keep manifesting the lessons as new dramas in your reality. You create with your whole being, not just with your thoughts or feelings.
Some people are currently experiencing interesting and dramatic lessons with respect to unemployment. Many didn’t appreciate the jobs they once had and which are now gone. Now they are job-free, and some don’t appreciate that either. They may finally get a new job, and they may dislike that too. They’ll continue to live out such cycles until they realize that the common element in all this scarcity isn’t the presence or lack of a job. It’s their ongoing lack of appreciation.
If you were looking to employ people, and someone came to you for an interview, and you sensed they didn’t appreciate their previous employer, and they didn’t appreciate what they learned from unemployment, and they probably weren’t going to appreciate the job you could give them, would you hire them? If you were going to hire someone, wouldn’t you choose someone that would truly appreciate what you can offer? Wouldn’t you favor someone with a record of appreciating their previous work history as well? Would you rather work with an appreciative person or with an unappreciative one? What would you want if you were the employer?
What kind of employer would hire an unappreciative employee? Perhaps an employer who’s desperate, ignorant, or self-punishing would do so. Is that the kind of person you’d want as your boss? Are you likely to enjoy that job?
My career life turned around when I learned to appreciate the value of work itself. I realized that the value I get from work isn’t about how much I get paid or who hires me. It’s about the opportunity to express myself creatively. Once I realized that, I always enjoyed my work. I feel grateful that I get to create something that didn’t exist before. I also realized that being creative is more important to me than a steady paycheck. I’m glad that life brought me experiences to teach me this lesson, even though they were difficult to learn.
Can we enjoy abundance in a world of scarce resources? Of course we can. Scarcity is one of our best teachers. It steers us away from false paths and teaches us what real abundance means to us. We don’t need more money or success or iStuff to be happy. We can choose to feel grateful for what we value most, and through that feeling of gratitude, we can empower its expansion.